It’s a post-Fifty Shades of Grey world, and there is a huge demand for super-sexy romantic novels. Authors work hand over fist to supply readers with what they want, and as a freelancer, I copy edit a lot of erotic romance.
What does a copy editor do? Nitpick, mostly. Take a sex scene—the writer’s job is to describe the action and the emotions of the characters. My job is to make sure there aren’t too many hands or too few commas.
I respect all my clients and their books, not matter how racy. But let’s face it—the fact that I have Googled “accidental butt-sex” as part of my job is a bit surreal. And answering questions like, “I can say nipple clamps here, right?” has become my new life. In other words, my life is weird and your reading preferences are to blame.
I Can Say “Nipple Clamps” Here, Right?
Envious? Want to be the next E.L. James? Here are some things I’ve learned:
1. Have a cover story. I’m not apologetic about my work. I’ve copy edited bestsellers, and that’s something to be proud of no matter how many times I have to check if blow job is one word or two. (It’s two.) But I don’t usually volunteer exactly keeps my dogs in kibble between royalty checks for my own books. Not least because I write young adult novels. But also because…
2. “I edit erotic novels” is an invitation for weird looks, odd questions, and lame jokes. If I made an Erotic Romance Writer Bingo card, the Free Space would be “I bet the research is fun.”
3. Always work with your back to the wall. Because it’s a certainty your mother will walk through the room at the exact moment when you’re looking up whether it’s safe to use oil-based lube with a silicone sex toy. (Good to know: when in doubt, water-based is like the O negative of lubrication.)
4. There are only so many ways to write about oral sex and make it interesting. I joke about adding a per-book surcharge for every blow job I have to read after the first two. Except I’m not really joking.
5. On a related note…don’t make public jokes about charging extra for blow jobs.
6. You get really limber. Sometimes the only way to check that the sex scene choreography doesn’t require the hero to be Stretch Armstrong to follow is to play Twister with yourself. Or a friend, if you’re lucky. Then you can mark the Free Space on your Erotic Romance Writer Bingo Card (see #2).
7. Eventually it will seem perfectly normal to have a message board discussion about whether it’s “c-o-m-e” or “c-u-m” because, surprisingly enough, neither Merriam-Webster or the Oxford English Dictionary has anything to say on the preferred usage. I regard this as a serious oversight.
8. When a magazine article prompts someone in the hair salon to ask, “What the heck is a ben wa ball?” you will know the answer and be able to deliver it as straight-faced as a weather report.
9. Incognito browser window. Use it. Unless you’re cool with ben wa balls showing up in your Google ads the next time you look up movie show times.
10. My yardstick for “inappropriate things to say in public” has totally shifted. I don’t mean general cursing, the F-bomb, or various scatological interjections. It’s the borderline things I have no idea about anymore. Last fall I was baffled as to why all the news channels were quoting the presidential candidate as saying “grab [women] by the female genitalia,” which is not semantically the same thing as “pussy” at all. We can’t say pussy on TV? It’s not like he said “grab them by the…”
Yeah…the c-word is still beyond the pale for me, no matter how many times they say it on Game of Thrones.
I guess point #11 is that once you read so much bedroom banter, you develop strong opinions about how you’d want someone to talk about your lady garden.
And point #12? I may be a prude (I am), and I might not understand the appeal of nipple clamps, or a Prince Albert, or anything with the word “plug,” but I’m a professional, so by God, whatever it is, it will be punctuated correctly.