Elements of Arousal:
How to Write and Sell Gay Men's Erotica
(2nd edition of Lavender
Blue) by Lars Eighner
Reviewed by 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about computers and the specifics of tax law) is now woefully out of date.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clear in context when a section is outdated.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