Does length matter?

I’m an erotic fiction writer, so it was inevitable I would get round to asking this question at some point. Does length matter?

Right, that’s the all-too-easy-to-make joke over and done with. Of course, what I’m talking about is story length. So to rephrase the question: does story length matter?

Short answer. No. If a story is compelling, or entertaining, and well-told, it should be as long as is necessary, and no longer. That could be anywhere from 1,000 words to 100,000 words, just so long as the words do the job they set out to.

I could (should?) stop there. I’ve answered the question. But I’m not going to, mostly because I find the topic interesting – specifically, in relation to the art of telling erotic stories, and even more specifically, regarding selling erotic stories.

Firstly, some terminology.

The divisions between short story, novella, and novel (plus a bunch of additional categories) are pretty blurry, depending on who you ask (or where you look on the internet). Here’s one set of definitions:

Flash fiction:               Up to 1,000 words

Short-short story:        Up to 3,500 words

Long-short story:        3,500 to 7,500 words

Novelette:                   7,500 to 17,500 words

Novella:                       17,500 to 40,000 words

Novel:                         40,000 words and over.

 

Some of these definitions are more variable than others. Not everyone uses novelette as a term – short stories might be as long as 20,000 words, and everything between 20,000 words and 50,000 words might be a novel. In fact, I’d say 50,000 words is a more widely used definition of novel, and in reality, commercial novels typically clock in at around 80,000 words.

Erotic fiction thrives on the shorter forms – novels are rare. Lots of stories in collections are often in the 3,000 to 5,000 word range. Unless you’re doing something unusual, this is probably about as short as a story can be and include a reasonably full sex scene. It leaves the bare minimum for setting up the scene and letting the reader get to know the characters. This is one of the differences between literary fiction (where 3,500 words for a short story is the norm) and erotic fiction – sex scenes can’t be glossed over. To set up a story and have a good sex scene takes up words.

I can’t do it. I struggle to write stories as short as that. Some writers can, and I’m jealous of them – getting everything into a story with so few words and making it a satisfying read takes some good, concise story-telling. It’s a real skill.

Short erotic stories work as a product because lots of readers are looking for a “one-sitting” read. From a commercial sense they work because of the existence of Kindle Unlimited: the length doesn’t matter as the reader is paying a fixed rate for as many stories as they can read in a month. Once they’ve read a short story, they just move onto the next one. To sell the story (as opposed to having it read in Kindle Unlimited) it probably helps if the story is a little longer than the minimum. As far as I’m aware, most erotic stories sold as stand-alone books on Amazon are rarely less than 5,000 words. Anything less doesn’t look like very much when read on a Kindle – to charge $0.99 or $2.99 for less runs the risk of it feeling “too short”. A more common length is maybe 6,000 to 8,000 words. Highly prolific authors (I’m not one) can write these fairly quickly, and maintain a high enough output to always be “visible” when readers are searching for books on Amazon. (In my experience, a book will stay highly visible for a week or two before getting buried by new books, will still be visible to readers who are searching diligently for a month or so, and will disappear completely after three months. The only way to maintain visibility for your back catalogue is to put out new books, which hopefully attract attention to the older ones as well).

I don’t think I can make any more generalizations than the ones above. There are erotica writers producing stories of every conceivable length, at vary frequencies. Even saying that short stories are popular is to ignore the large number of people writing novels – but if I was going to make one more generalization it would be that writers leaning more towards erotic romance tend to write the longer stories and novels.

I really should stop though – someone will be able to identify an exception to every statement I’ve made so far!

So as a non-prolific author who likes to tell stories that satisfy me (either by having detailed sex scenes or having complex characters who grow through the story, or both), what length are my stories?

My shortest stand-alone story is An American Affair. It is 7,739 words long. My longest in A Bit of Rough (77,149 words). So my shortest story is a novelette, and my longest is a novel. Penny Meets the Neighbors is also a novel, at 65,024 words.

Excluding the stories mentioned above, the rest of my stories can be divided into two groups.  I’ve got a lot of stories in the 11,000 to 14,000 word range (which makes them novelettes), and a similar number of stories in the 23,000 to 33,000 range (so they’re novellas).

The novelettes tend to be the “sex” stories, the ones I’d classify as erotica. If you’ve got a free hour or so, or an evening, they make hot, fun reads. They include Farmer’s Daughter Threesome (11,194) and Poolside Threesome (13,879) – notice the common theme! (1, Coverlid Place and Meaningless Masturbation? are the other two).

The novellas are more often the erotic romances, or the longer, more complex stories. They’re usually divided into parts or chapters to make reading them easier (they may not be one-sitting reads, but they’re easy to read in a couple of sittings, with obvious stopping places along the way). Islands (23,122) is the newest, and The Sin of Love the longest (33,335). The Other Side of Town and Horny Mandy are the other stories in this category.

To circle back to the start – does length matter? No, of course not! It’s about telling a good story, as well as possible. Whatever length the story needs to be will emerge in the writing. There is a readership for every type of story, whatever the length!

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New Story! – Poolside Threesome

I’ve got a new story out!

It’s called Poolside Threesome!

It’s available now on Amazon, and is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Universal Amazon link: viewbook.at/Pool3

This one is a return to good old fashioned sex-filled erotica! The premise is simple – Kimberly, a wealthy socialite, newly single after catching her husband and the maid together, is tanning herself by the pool. She’s watching Pablo, the handsome pool boy/gardener/handy man, happily whiling away the afternoon thinking dirty thoughts about him.

But Kimberly has a secret – she’d been lusting after the maid just as much as her husband – but unlike her husband, she’d managed to keep her hands to herself. The last maid has been replaced, but the new one is just as alluring in her own way. The difference is that she’s far more naive and sexually innocent than the previous maid.

Now Kimberly is single again, she has no qualms about seducing the new maid. She also wants to have her wicked way with Pablo. Her solution? A hot threesome with both of them!Pool - Copy

The Smashwords mid-year sale!

July is the annual Smashwords mid-year sale! All my books listed on Smashwords are discounted!

The best deals are on my novels – I’ve discounted them both by 75% – they’re both only a dollar now!

Here’s the link for A Bit of Rough: www.smashwords.com/books/view/772736

Here’s the link for Penny Meets the Neighbors: www.smashwords.com/books/view/720462

I’ve also discounted my stand-alone shorts and novellas by 50% (so they’re $1.50 now). Four of these are bundled together in Collected Stories though, which has been discounted 50% and in now just $2.00 – even better value! Here’s the link for Collected Stories: www.smashwords.com/books/view/725903 (It contains 1, Coverlid Place; Meaningless Masturbation?; Farmer’s Daughter Threesome; and Horny Mandy)

It’s still worth checking out The Sin of Love and An American Affair, since they’re not in Collected Stories. Here’s the link for The Sin of Love: www.smashwords.com/books/view/937019

And here’s the link for An American Affair: www.smashwords.com/books/view/904112

Happy reading!

New Story Out Today!

My new story has just gone live! Islands, an erotic romance. Here’s the Amazon blurb:

Marcus was wealthy and successful. Wealthy enough to own his own private bolt-hole, a house on a remote Aegean island. Once a rich man’s playground, a place to escape the grind of his life in London and host his friends at elaborate parties, now he uses it to hide away from the rest of the world. With his wife gone, killed in a car crash, it is the only place he can find peace.

The isolation is broken when his housekeeper, an elderly Greek woman breaks her leg and sends her daughter Callie in her place. Callie recognizes Marcus’s loneliness but finds it impossible to break through his emotional defenses. He no longer dares risk his emotions, terrified as he is of exposing his heart and feeling the pain of loss again. It takes a revelation that shocks Callie to the core to change everything.

Islands features sensuous prose, strong characters, an idyllic location, and a moving and involving story. It is an adult themed erotic romance, with explicit sexual scenes.

It’s enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, if that’s your thing. Find the story on Amazon here: viewbook.at/Islands

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Coming Soon!

I’m putting this here more for my own sake, to keep me motivated as I hit the final, difficult stretches – getting this story to the point where I’m happy with it, getting beta-readers, doing the editing, all the things that need to be done to get a story out. Long story short, I’ve been working on this since February on and off (with lots of off recently because of other commitments), but I can at least sense the finishing line is on the horizon now! So here it is, the cover for my next story, “Islands”!

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Erotica or erotic romance?

My stories always feature sex, usually quite a lot of it. Early on, I’d have called pretty much everything I wrote “pure” erotica. For instance, something like 1, Coverlid Place is very definitely a story about sex, and pretty full-on sex at that (think woman goes to adult store to give anonymous blowjobs at a gloryhole, then goes to an adult cinema knowing the audience will be a room full of horny men…). Or take Farmer’s Daughter Threesome – the title pretty much speaks for itself – the aim was to write a hot threesome story! I wrote longer stories in this sex-is-the-point-of-the-story vein too – Penny Meets the Neighbors is novel-length, and has a plot, but the plot is about how Penny gets deeper and deeper into her new, extremely wild sex-life. These stories are not romances!

Somewhere along the line, I started writing stories that I’d classify as erotic romance, rather than pure erotica. There’s still a lot of sex in them, and I strive to make them just as hot, but not only do they have a romantic couple-meet-and-fall-in-love element, but I also try to make them rounded as a piece of writing. There’s more character growth in them, and the sex serves a purpose in the storytelling beyond just being a turn-on (although these stories are still very much intended to arouse the reader!)

The first thing I wrote that felt different this way was Meaningless Masturbation? – it’s as hot as hell, and still one of my favorite stories, but writing it was about so much more than just the sex scenes, and it was really satisfying when it all clicked together and everything about the story felt “right”. More recently, The Sin of Love worked this way too – the sex scenes are super intense and smoking hot, but there was heaps more to the story than just the sex. It rates right up there with Meaningless Masturbation? in my own personal ranking of my stories.

There are a few stories that end up halfway between the two extremes, either by accident or design. A Bit of Rough (another novel length book) starts off as erotica with a main character who develops an obsession with “rough” men such as the builder working on her house. About halfway through, once she’s had a succession of encounters along those lines, I made her character grow, and the romantic element of the story increased. So overall, it’s an erotic romance, but early on, there’s a lot of sex that’s there for the sole purpose of being hot! Another example is An American Affair. It’s hot, and very sensual, because it focuses on the sexual encounters of an affair, but it’s also a little deeper, because it is based on real events, and is very personal to me.

So, have I switched from being an erotica writer to an erotic romance writer? I’d say no, but I have got better at merging the best of both worlds into my stories. My most recent book (The Other Side of Town) is definitely erotica rather than erotic romance, but I think it benefits from the lessons I’ve learned along the way. My work-in-progress (which will be called Islands) will be erotic romance, but again, the plan is to make sure it’s plenty sexy too! Going forward beyond that, I’ve got story ideas that fall into both categories – I just have to chose which ones to write!

Finally, have I picked a side? Do I prefer one to the other? Should I write one category of story more than the other? Even though I’ve found some of the erotic romance stories very satisfying to write, I don’t think I have chosen – I mostly write what I like, rather than writing for the “market”, and as long as I enjoy what I’m doing, I imagine I’ll keep on switching between the two – “pure” erotica can be a lot of fun to write! Hopefully I’ll keep on producing more stories that combine the best of both worlds. It all depends on where my muse takes me!

New Year,New Story

Happy (slightly belated) New Year! As ever, the intervals between posting anything to this site have been far too long. As usual, I have to blame the pressure of my day-job, which has kept me away from writing, and by extension, kept me away from having anything to say about my writing. The good news is that although I’ve only been writing very slowly, enough time has passed for the 50 or 100 words a day to add up to a real, complete story.

So what is it? It’s called The Other Side of Town, and it is a drift away from erotic romance into something that is very definitely erotica. I came up with a mood – Lisa, angry because she hated her boyfriend and the too-rich, too drugged-up social scene he represented. Angry too because she’d caught him with her best friend, fucking at a party. Once I got the mood, and the destination – a bar on “the other side of town” – the rest was all about deciding who the other protagonists were going to be. The end result has sex with a powerful, dominant biker in a back room at the bar, a cute barman Lisa can’t get out of her mind, some exhibitionism, and a “Part Two” where Lisa’s fascination with the barman is resolved (along with some more super-hot sex!)

The approach is all about being right in Lisa’s head, experiencing things as she sees them, processing them with her. The sex scenes are long and detailed. Lisa likes Nate and has to give him something she didn’t give the biker – you’re free to guess what that might be 😉

If you’re interested, it’s on Amazon for just 99 cents/99 pence. Free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Here’s a universal Amazon link to get you there:

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:)

In-between chipping away at the novella I’m working on, I’m plotting my next story. I really can’t wait to get started on it! It ticks all the boxes of what I want to write right now 🙂

Quick update

I’m still working on my new story, The Other Side of Town. It has “grown” now – it is no longer a relatively simple short story, but has evolved into slightly more complex novella. Part one is 14,000 words long, and has everything I thought would be in it, plus a whole bunch of loose-end/plot strands that need tying up, and which give me the opportunity to flesh out my characters more. So I’m writing a  Part two. I spent yesterday afternoon wrangling the plot into shape, and I’ve just started writing it! I guess it’ll end up as long as part one. We’ll see. Hopefully it’ll be done by the end of October. Once again, we’ll see!Other - Copy

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