I have many heroes, and one is Ray Bradbury. Oh, I immensely enjoy his horror writing, but one thing the man is a genius at is taking short stories and re-writing them, mashing a series together into a novel, rewriting quick-fixes. And it's always brilliant.

Now my editor friend suggested for a romance novel I, instead of the one I was writing which is..."alternative," as she put it, I should re-write a traditional erotic story of 1 man, 1 woman. Okay, no big deal, right?

So she suggested Auto Erotica, a story about Aileen and Patrick. I wrote that one mainly as one long love letter to the '67 Mustang GT500E:

 
Baby, take it all off!  Er, I mean, pop the hood!

 
If I could have sex with a car  and not be crazy, this'd be the one. The heroine Aileen drives this, and basically says that line. Yes, her relationship to this beast of the streets is all mine. The story has underground racing, and in its original form I wanted it to be all about contrasts. Aileen grew up in a world of poverty and gangs and has risen to the upper class. Patrick lived in a world of the upper echelon and works as a cop to escape it. Contrasts. It's exceedingly decadent, pure fantasy, so it works as an erotic story.

Why she picked this one to turn into a romance...I'll never know. There are certain unwritten rules of romance writing. Ask any romance writer, editor, publisher, or fan, and they'll argue this isn't true, but read enough yourself an you'll see these rules crop up:

  1. The hero must be stronger, older, or smarter than the heroine, preferably all three, and more sexually experienced
  2. The heroine must have one flaw that works as a plot device, such as clumsiness
  3. The heroine has to be a lady; she can be a tomboy but she must like old-fashioned sexual roles & not curse overmuch
  4. The hero may have a past where he was "bad" as long as now he is trying to overcome it
  5. The heroine's past may not have her being bad: she can think she was, but it must turn out she was a victim
  6. The hero must actively save the heroine in some way which proves his love 
  7. The sex described as "making love" must take time to happen* 
*Traditionally people argue this rule is what separates Erotica from Romance. In some romances sex is instantaneous (the one-night stand that becomes more, for example) and in some erotica it takes time. This just means true sexual intimacy, aka "making love" should take time to develop between the hero and heroine, but emotionless sex/fucking is fair game. Sex between other characters or in a dream can happen at any time.

 
Okay, I get that. I admit, I'm not one for romance novels because too many feel paint by the numbers using these rules. However I do enjoy a few, such as Jude Deveraux's Mountain Laurel, which surprises many people. It's the story about an opera singer blackmailed into traveling across the west at the close of the days of the Wild West, who slowly falls in love with the Army Captain escorting her. I like it because the hero is almost as virginal as the heroine, there's no huge conflict, and their love is actually damn realistic. I wish I could write romances that way.

Pictured: The least irritating romance novel ever written
Notice not a single heaving bosom on the cover
 
 
But I can't, so here I am. I hate Ray Bradbury at this moment because although the man writes in a few genres, he crafts each story so rewrites and merges or transformations are easy. It's like he writes every short form with retro-writing in mind. I haven't mastered that.

To make Auto Erotica into a romance I have to remove the gangs, change my heroine's past, which means changing the villain, which means changing the hero's occupation, and a million other things. Retro-writing, as I call it, is taking an earlier story and transforming it into something new, and it is the biggest pain in the ass ever. Seeing my heroine go from a gun-happy, drag-racing, cold-blooded, ex-gang member to a nunnish, drag-racing, murder witness...a little piece of my soul is dying. Let's hope when it's finished I'll get better.

The point of this post is to let you know, should you write erotica, try to remember the rules of romance. If your story doesn't conform at all, make a note of it in your files. Retro-writing it as a romance will kill you. If it conforms to at least 3 rules, edit it as an erotic story to fit as many as possible before publishing it even first as an erotic story. That will make retro-writing much, much easier.

Until later, happy reading and writing, my friends!