Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


Elements of Arousal:
How to Write and Sell Gay Men's Erotica

(2nd edition of Lavender Blue) by Lars Eighner

Reviewed by Jules Jones
Jules Jones

This book was written as an erotica writer's manual, but it's also an excellent guide to both the craft and business of writing for fiction in general. If you don't mind the focus on gay erotica, there is a wealth of advice that will be useful to any beginning fiction writer, and I still think it's the best "how to write" book I've ever read. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to any writer who isn't bothered by the content. However, be warned that the writing examples used are extremely explicit, and for that reason, the book will not be for everyone. The other drawback is that the second edition of the book was published in 1994, and thus some of the advice (in particular, about computers and the specifics of tax law) is now woefully out of date. This only affects certain sections of the book, and it should be reasonably clear in context when a section is outdated.

The first half of the main part of the book covers the craft of writing, the process of putting words on paper. The second half covers the business side of writing, from the basics of how to format a manuscript to what sort of records you need to keep to satisfy the taxman. Eighner starts with an important reminder -- in the first half of the book, he is giving the best advice based on what is most likely to be successful.  It should not be treated as if carved in tablets of stone. Some books on writing leave the impression that their way is the only way; Eighner makes it clear that his way is simply the way likely to be the most successful for most writers. He goes on to give a quick summary of what the beginning writer does need, doesn't need, and may need, and then repeats the message that you do not need to follow all of the rules if they do not work for you.

The first five chapters in the craft section cover various aspects of writing fiction, starting with a basic lesson in grammar and covering such things as characterisation and constructing a plot. While the examples used are from erotic fiction, most of this material is relevant to any fiction genre. The sixth chapter focuses on writing the erotic scene, and is a must-read for those writing erotica for a gay male audience. This chapter is less applicable to other genres (including other erotica genres) and may be readily skipped by those not interested.  Still, there are some useful lessons on the construction and pacing of a scene within a story.

The business section covers the many things a writer needs to know when it comes to selling the work, including submission format, record-keeping, market research as well as dealing with rejections, contracts, and taxes for the self-employed writer. It is United States-centric and in places very out of date, but is still an excellent source for information on these subjects. Even where the information is outdated or country-specific, it is a useful indicator of what sort of current information a writer should be looking for.

The book also includes a style guide and glossary. These are fairly basic, but their very brevity makes them a handy reference guide to keep on the writing desk.

Sadly the book is no longer in print, but Eighner has placed the text of the second edition online. Access is free, with a suggested donation to help cover the costs of the website. It's also usually readily available second-hand, often at very reasonable prices. The online version is easily searchable, but its location may be changing.  Additional information about the book can be found at

Elements of Arousal: How to Write and Sell Gay Men's Erotica (2nd edition of Lavender Blue), author Lars Eighner, publisher Masquerade Books Inc, ISBN 1-56333-230-2