When it comes to art and craft of the erotic short story, the past ten years of writing have left me feeling enthusiastically at-home. Whether I’m writing popular genre fiction or historical realism, I enjoy the challenge of writing short tales of diverse, quirky characters having wild, kinky, and sometimes even tame sex, across genders, orientations, races, and even species (demons, teapots, you name it). Each length, genre, and style has its own challenges, its own rhythms. And I love everything from 1000-word flash smut to 7000-word erotic folktales. But 5000 words is about where my comfort zone reaches its peak... or pique, even. Tempt me with a prompt and then tell me the minimum for a story is 20,000 words or use the expression “novel-length manuscripts only,” and you’ll find me hiding behind the bookcase, moaning in misery or gnashing my teeth in frustration. Nanowrimo? Don’t get me started.
Certainly, some of the reason for my preference for short fiction is that it takes less time. As Salome Wilde, all I do all day is write erotica, have sex, and drink absinthe. But Salome Wilde exists only in fits and starts, in those spaces between work and family and pets and housecleaning and all those other not-so-sexy life obligations. Commitment to lengthy writing—erotic or otherwise—just isn’t easy. And I’ve gotten so good at the short stuff, damn it!
We submitted our beloved contemporary hurt/comfort romance tale of Nick and Angelo, mixed-race best friends who become lovers, to Storm Moon Press for an anthology call, proud as we could be. Writing with a partner, I’d charged through my 5000-word limit, and Talon had smoothly slid into the world of original erotica. Then we got our response from Storm Moon Press’s, editor S.L. Armstrong.
We had hoped for glowing praise and a contract. We were prepared for rejection. What we weren’t ready for was what we got: a combination of enthusiasm, encouragement, and a request to turn the story into a novella. Armstrong felt that we had only touched the tip of the iceberg, that readers would want more, that hurt/comfort demands full and careful development rather than the resolution (however hot) of hitting the sack and living happily ever after. We didn’t disagree... mostly. We had lots of backstory and details in our minds that we hadn’t included in the story. We could envision more. We could figure out how to handle point of view and secondary characters and new locations and exactly how the apartment was laid out and create a plot arc and get to the minimum requirement of 40,000 words, right? Right?
For different reasons, and in different ways, we were both intimidated and more than a little freaked out at the prospect. We were flattered that our characters were compelling enough to inspire Armstrong to encourage us to expand our story. We were thrilled at the possibility of a contract. And we were awed by the offer to work closely with us—from brainstorming ideas to chatting about perspective to answering every question asked, both large and small. With a publisher that aims for quality over quantity, that cares about authors as well as their writing, and that understands that writing is a process more than a product, we found ourselves suddenly crafting a novella with joy.
We turned in a draft at over 50,000 words and plans to turn the novella, now titled After the First Taste of Love, into a trilogy. And even as we worked through the exhausting but enlightening work of multiple edits and proofs, we began developing a second novella project, for which we have also received enthusiastic and helpful feedback.
The lesson for me in this wild ride of an experience into novel- (or at least novella-) writing, is that, with the right support, we can break through walls that were always only illusions. We can refine our dreams and accomplish them. And in my experience as a writer who grows increasingly confident in her ability to write novellas and perhaps even novels, Storm Moon Press and its staff understand that lesson and provide that support.
Salome Wilde is the heavy-handed pen name of a cynical idealist who does her best to live many lives at once, including writer, teacher, scholar, actor, singer, artist, mother, spouse, lover, friend, secular Jew, cancer survivor, activist, feminist, and kinky bisexual babe. Her tales range from vanilla to kinky, from het through the many colors of the LGBTQ rainbow, and from the distant past to the present in both realistic and fantasy scenarios. For more Sal news and tidbits, visit www.salandtalerotica.com. Her novella, After the First Taste of Love is available from Storm Moon Press.
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