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By Edo van Belkom
(Excerpted from the book WRITING EROTICA, by Edo van Belkom,
Self-Counsel Press)

So, who wants to be a pornographer?

Oh, excuse me... I mean, purveyor of erotic literature?

I sure didn't. At least not at first.

I began my writing career as a newspaper reporter, but my ultimate goal was to write short stories like those of science fiction and fantasy author Ray Bradbury. Reading his stellar collection The October Country had me in awe, not only of the man's talent, but of what sort of an effect great writing could have on an individual.

I was turned on to writing fiction (short stories in particular) and knew it was what I wanted to do with my life -- erotica, however, was still the furthest thing from my mind.

And so I began writing stories during my time off from the newspaper. At first I tried to write stories like Ray Bradbury, full of a naive sort of wonder and purple prose that lacked the vision and poetry of Ray Bradbury. But it was a start. Once I had a few stories written, then came time to find a place to get them published. Like all writers, I wanted to share my work with anyone and everyone, even if that work wasn't exactly ready to be shared. So, rejection followed rejection, but I didn't let that get me down.

You see, I had been one of those people who managed to get by in high school by just doing the minimum amount of work. My grades were okay, I never fell behind (and I never surged ahead either) and everyone seemed happy with my progress. In university, it was much the same thing, only once I got there I worked diligently for the university newspaper, Excalibur, York University's Community Newspaper, as a sports editor. I did that because it was more interesting than my classes, and when I wrote something it appeared in print almost immediately. When I got out of university and got a job as a sports reporter at a small daily newspaper, I was once again back to doing an okay job. I was never really considered for advancement or promotion, but I was never in danger of being canned either.

So while I was working as a reporter, I was writing fiction on the side. And although I was being rejected all the time (here comes the point to this tangent) I stuck with it because I quickly realized that writing fiction was a lot more difficult than anything I'd ever tried up until that time. Fiction writing was the first real thing that I had to work really hard at in my life and I was determined to stick with it because I wanted to succeed at it more than anything else and I would do whatever it took to make it happen.

So while I was writing stories in imitation of Ray Bradbury, I was also looking to expand my horizons. Maybe I could try other kinds of stories and see how they worked out? So I bought a copy of the Writer's Digest Books annual Novel and Short Story Writers Market and studied the listings. (For me it was like one of those picture books or reference books about something that really interests you and you can look through a hundred times and never get tired of it). I remember a listing for a Corvette magazine that published fiction as long as a Corvette was featured in the story. I tried to come up with a Corvette story for months, but never did. There were also listings for a juggling magazine and a Gambling magazine and I tried very hard to come up with a story that might fit their requirements but I always came up empty.

In the book, in addition to all the mainstream magazines, there were also listings for men's magazines such as Hustler, Cheri, Oui and Cavalier. Each one had their own specific guidelines, but none of their requirements sparked an idea in my mind. Then I read the listing for Gent magazine, which basically required that their fiction should prominently feature a woman with large breasts. Well, that seemed simple enough, so I began thinking about possible story ideas.

And I happen to come up with one.

I originally called the story "Woman as Art" and it was about an artist who is given a lump of magical clay from a fellow artist whose wife seems to be a whole lot curvier than she'd been just a few weeks before. It turns out the clay could be used to alter a person's body shape. And so the artist sculpts a figure out of the clay (with large breasts, of course) and then makes it work by placing a few of his wife's hairs in the figure's head -- sort of like a voodoo doll. Voila, his wife is a busty babe and he's having the sex of his wildest dreams. Finally, the story ends with the artist realizing he has a bit of the clay left over, which he can use to make a figure of himself that is significantly better endowed than the original.

It seems like a silly premise now, and embarrassingly like some primal male fantasy, but it was the best I could do at the time. (Remember I was trying to write fantasy like Bradbury, so maybe this story was the inevitable mixing of those two genres.)

And I did work hard on the story, making sure characterization, plot and everything else I had learned writing the other stories, was written into this effort. Then, since I had written it for Gent, that's where I sent it.

And damned if they didn't accept it. I was stunned.

"Woman as Art" was the 14th story I had written, the second to sell, and the first story of mine to be published, seeing print in the July 1990 issue of Gent under the title "Artistic License." I was also paid $175 US for the story, which absolutely amazed me because I had started writing, not to make money, but to tell stories. Getting paid for the story came as a pleasant surprise. But perhaps more importantly was the fact that I had written the story for a specific market, sent it to that market, and it had sold on the first try. Success like that had to be followed up, so the 15th story I wrote was, "The Zero Gee Spot" and that sold to Gent as well.

Meanwhile, I had placed a few other stories (as opposed to sold, because most of my fantasy stories at the time were being accepted at small pays-in-copies magazines) and was slowly getting better at my craft. But although my "straight" stories were getting a better reception, I was still being rejected a lot. To compensate those rejections, I continued to write and sell erotic stories for men's magazines.

One unexpected benefit to this was that my third sale to Gent, "Night Vision" qualified me for active status in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Active status is the "Pro" level of membership and is earned through the sale of a science fiction or fantasy novel, or the sale of three short stories to a professional market. The markets are usually such magazines as Asimov's, Analog or The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but Gent was just as professional, paying better and with a larger circulation than these other genre magazines so I was in -- much to the chagrin of the other members of my writers group at the time, all of whom looked upon active status within SFWA as some faraway and virtually unattainable milestone.

The more erotic stories I wrote, the more I sold and in no time my sales count was up past 30. But in addition to having an impressive number of sales, there was something else going on with the erotic stories I was writing.

They were teaching me how to craft a story.

One misconception about erotic fiction is that it is somehow easier, or takes less ability to write than other types of fiction. I say that it takes just as much craft, and perhaps even more. In addition to all of the usual things, you have to establish character quickly, explain the plot economically, and your story has to move along at a good clip. You also have to write to a certain length to ensure that your story is usable by the magazine you're sending it to. (SF writer James Alan Gardner once looked at my chapbook collection Virtual Girls and marveled at how each story was exactly ten pages long. "It requires a talent," he said of writing a specific kind of story to a specific length each and every time. I was also once asked by horror writer Brian Hopkins if I had a computer program that turned out perfectly plotted 3,000 word horror stories with twist endings. I took it as a compliment of course, because the program does exist (it's loaded into the wetware inside my head), and it got there by trial and error learned while writing dozens and dozens of erotic short stories for men's magazines.)

So, that's how I got started writing erotica. I've now been writing erotic stories for over ten years, and during that time there were periods when erotica was all I was writing, because that was all that was selling. Inevitably, I've been writing fewer and fewer erotic stories in recent years as my other writing enjoys more success. I've now won the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association and the Aurora Award (Canadian science fiction and fantasy award) for my short fiction and I've had a collection published, Death Drives a Semi, which has brought me a little closer to my goal of emulating my idol, Ray Bradbury. But that doesn't mean I've forgotten about erotic stories. I still enjoy writing them from time to time, and I've also used what I've learned about erotica to spice up my horror writing. In 2001 my collection of erotic horror stories, Six-Inch Spikes will be published, extending the learning curve that began with writing erotic stories more than ten years ago.

Copyright Edo van Belkom. All rights reserved.

Visit: for more on this title and for more about Edo van Belkom and his other works of horror, erotica, mystery, and fantasy.





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