Monday, September 08, 2008

My Confession....Now with 100% more porno!

Ok, it’s time for a confession and for once I’m not being sarcastic. This is something I’ve never old anyone, ever.

I, Paulius of Blogville, was at one time in my life a paid literary pornographer.

Ok, I’m exaggerating a little…so let me tell you the whole story:

When I was at University, one of my writing tutors gave me an amazing tip. I’ll paraphrase him:

“In this writing studies course, you’ll be churning out tons of short stories over the next three years. Don’t just hand them in and forget about them. Every time you finish one make about ten copies and send them to every small press you think might publish you. Even if you only get published in a tiny magazine with a readership of six people, you still get to put a publishers credit on your resume…which is great when you eventually look for an agent to start shopping around your big novel.”

He was right. By the end of my first year I had two short stories accepted for local magazines.

While I thought that being an official ‘published author’ was awesome, the cynical side of me kinda resented it. You see, small presses almost never paid for submissions. Even if they did you were likely to get about five dollars and a couple of contributor’s copies.

I didn’t like it. Even though this was almost pre-internet and the small presses were still the primary proving ground for new talent, I just didn’t like the idea of pouring my heart and soul into a story, then just giving it to someone who would sell it for profit, while I wouldn’t get a single penny.

Sure those magazines only sold about ten copies per issue and were primarily just a way to get your name ‘out there’, but I was a typical first year writing student with delusions of grandeur. My work was important. It had value. I shouldn’t be giving it away for free!

Put simply, I wanted to get paid, dammit! Stephen King doesn’t give his work away for free, and neither do I!

Anyway…

My tutor always had the latest copy of the Writer’s Digest along with a massive list of small presses around the country that he made available to his students. Flicking through the listings one day I finally found what I’d been looking for. I’d found a publisher that not only accepted unsolicited manuscripts, they actually paid for them. Around $50 for a 2000 word story, $100 for 5000 words, longer fiction to be negotiated.

Awesome! It wasn’t what anyone would call ‘real money’, but fifty bucks for two thousand words was a lot for a poor college student. I already had about six two-thousand word wonders ready to go that were just sitting on my hard-drive collecting dust.

Then I hit the snag. Reading the listing in detail, the only type of fiction this company would accept was ‘erotic fiction’. Basically they were a company that bought up porno stories and then sold them on to other publications like ‘gentlemen’s magazines’. (Read: porno mags.)

I deflated. I was writing horror and sci-fi at the time, I had nothing to send, and had zero experience in writing ‘erotic fiction’

Then I thought of something… how hard could it be? I was a 19 year old hormonal college student!

So that night I arrived home, put on a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, false beard and a trenchcoat so no-one would recognize me, locked myself in my room and sat at the computer.

I told myself I wasn’t really going to write and submit a porno story…sorry, I mean ‘work of erotic fiction’. This was just a laugh, something I’d get two paragraphs into before giving up before going back to working on my Sci-Fi epic.

Then I discovered something about erotic fiction. It was easy, and I mean crazy easy to write. As long as you knew what audience you were writing for, you’re golden.

Writing for men was the easiest. You needed zero plot and zero character development. All you really need is a cardboard cutout male protagonist (nothing more than a proxy for the male reader), two or more ‘hot chicks’ and a rationalization for them doing it…and then just get as graphic as you possibly can with the descriptions.

Basically, you’re writing a porno script, and we all know how deep and insightful they are. Guy meets girl, girl introduces guy to her hot room-mate and they get it on. Bow-chicka-bow-wow!

If you really want to keep it simple, you just write it like a diary entry or letter (Did you think those ‘Penthouse Forum’ letters were real?)…then you don’t even have to write anything about the females other than what they look like and what they’re doing. I was at the launderette when this gorgeous leggy blonde in a tube top walked in. As she walked past me she accidentally dropped a white lace thong on the floor…

You get the idea.

Writing for females was a little more difficult but not by much.

For females you do need a plot, but not a very complex one. Maybe the Count’s daughter has fallen in love with the stable boy and the Count has forbidden them to see each other. Danger! Romance! A big fat cliché! It really doesn’t matter.

Then you write just as you would for males, only you swap the graphic descriptions for flowery metaphor, but get a lot more detailed about the emotions going on. Women only ‘stroke the guy’s hard cock’ in male-oriented fiction. In female oriented fiction ‘The chamber-maid’s heart swells with unrepressed joy as she caresses the Duke’s proud manhood.’

Eeew, I think I need a shower after writing that.

Basically, it comes down to basic fantasies. Most men who pick up a porn mag to read a short story want to read about a guy ‘banging’ a ton of totally uninhibited ‘slutty chicks’. A woman picking up a ‘romance’ magazine wants to read a far more romantic story…where people still ‘get it on’, but in a much more grandiose setting with a bit of drama thrown in so they don’t feel like they’re reading porn.

Men buy playboy for the articles. Women read Harlequin Romances for the ‘story’.

Anyway, as you can probably guess, within an hour I had a two-thousand word short story in my hands. With nothing better to do, I spent the next two and a half hours rattling off a longer five-thousand word one.

Not wanting to lose my nerve, I printed them both, terrified the whole time that my parents would walk in.

Hey, I knew my stories were literary effluent that no self-respecting writer would touch with a bargepole. I also knew I was writing them just because I could really use the money…but if my mum walked in and found me printing a story about a mechanic doing a set of nymphomaniac twins on the hood of their car…I’d have some very awkward explaining to do.

The next day, I sealed them in a very appropriate plain brown envelope along with the usual cover letter, and went to the postbox feeling like I was trying to get into a sex shop on a crowded street without being noticed.

I dropped them in the postbox and almost immediately regretted the whole thing. If they got accepted I was a pornographer, if they rejected them I’d failed to get on the lowest rung of the literary ladder.

Before I go on, I know I might be offend some people with that last remark. Yes, I know it’s possible to write ‘real’ erotic fiction that actually qualifies as ‘art’… but that wasn’t what this company wanted. They wanted basic hack-work that appealed to hormonal teenagers who’d never spoken to a real woman before and extremely bored housewives.

Shortly after mailing my submissions, I completely forgot about them.

It was about six weeks later when I got out of bed and found a letter addressed to me on the doormat. The return address was very familiar, and when I realized what it was, I snatched it up and locked myself in my room again.

Where the hell did I put my false beard and dark glasses?

I nervously opened the letter, pulled out a sheet of paper and started reading:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your recent submission and we invite you to submit again…

Great, I thought. I put my immortal soul in danger just for a stupid rejection letter. I’d failed. I’d attempted to write trashy hack0work and been told I wasn’t good enough.

Then my eye spotted the word ‘enclosed’ further down the paragraph. ‘Payment’ followed soon after.

I looked back into the envelope and found an itemized receipt along with a check for $150. Both my stories had been accepted… and apparently they wanted more.

My mind started racing as I stared at the check. I could afford that digital camera I’d been drooling over for months. Not only that, I’d just been paid $150 for just over three hours of very easy work. Considering I was working part time at a bar at the time for less that $5 an hour, this was the big time.

I worked it out in my head. I could easily write five or six two thousand word wonders per week. Assuming they all got accepted (and I arrogantly assumed they would, they bought the first two and I wasn’t even trying)…that was $1200 a month.

Holy Shit!

I almost started writing my next story right then and there, already mentally cashing the checks…then something in the back of my mind stopped me.

Did I really want to do this? Did I really want to introduce myself to people at parties as “Paulius…the guy who writes those cliched stories you see in ‘Razzle’ and ‘Penthouse’”?

It wasn’t so much that I thought I was ‘better’ than writing porn. I was a student and the money was worth it. You can’t ‘sell out’ before you have anything to sell…I didn’t even have to worry about copyright issues! While I’d be incredibly wary about selling my ‘real’ work, who cares about a bunch of throwaway porno stories that I didn’t even want my real name on?

No. the problem was that I would be impossible to keep the whole thing secret. Quitting my part-time job and suddenly having a ton of disposable income would obviously be of great interest to my parents…and if I ‘stretched the truth’ and told them the money came from selling ‘fiction’, they’d want to read them and would tell everybody.

That was a conversation I didn’t want to have:

“You’ve sold some stories? Who to? Can I read them?”

“Sure Mum! Do you want to read the one about the lesbian twins in the hot-tub, or the one about the cheerleader who takes on the whole football team at once?”

So my career in ‘literary pornography’ ended almost before it started…although it did buy me a kick-ass digital camera.

The saddest part?

Since the internet, there’s just no money in ‘erotic fiction’ any more….and my parents and entire family live 3500 miles away.

I have no luck.

3 comments:

Evanesce In 2008 said...

Hey... at least you weren't a stripper.

Sunny said...

And what's wrong with being an exotic dancer??? It's honest work altho not what you'd call a mainstream job.
;-)

I would have said at least he wasn't a drug dealer.

Besides- I'm sure he would have made a great dancer(despite the fact I've never seen him do anything but slow dance at our wedding!).

Evanesce In 2008 said...

Nothing's wrong with strippers. I've helped many of them put food on their tables ;)