Saturday, 21 December 2013

Do Novels Make You Cry?

It occurred to me, seeing my bloodshot eyes in the mirror after putting down the book I had just finished reading, that I had never seen my husband cry while reading a novel.

Yet I do it quite regularly. Indeed, it's almost a benchmark for me of a novel's quality, if it can move me to tears.

Romance or lit fic?
Of course, this rarely applies when reading poetry or what I would call literary fiction. I'm talking largely about genre fiction here, and mainly romance. With poetry, if it's good, I do feel moved emotionally - perhaps 'thrilled' or 'disturbed' would be a better description - and frequently also moved to write something myself. But only a very few poems have brought me to tears, and no literary fiction that I can recall.

With literary fiction, it's more a sense of having some truth revealed. Not usually a truth which pertains to matters of the heart, but one about human nature in general, the momentary lifting of some veil covering one of the mysteries of life and death. Something important and significant, but not necessarily emotional in quality. The kind of quasi-mystical, revelatory impression one receives from reading almost anything by E.M. Forster, for instance. Or perhaps James Joyce, before he erroneously decided longer was better.

So is it normal to cry after reading a novel?

Is romance more literary if it's tragic?
Perhaps the real issue for me personally is, why is something that can elicit a powerful emotional response often considered second-rate by those who value literary fiction above genre? Is it because these books work on an emotional level and don't necessarily uncover the mysteries of existence?

If only they could do both.

This continues to be a problem for me, both as a reader and a writer. I want to write romance which could also be considered literary, but the genre divides are now so sharply defined, that may no longer be possible.

With my head, I know that certain kinds of writing touch me deeply but intellectually, and that these are considered by the literary establishment - and often by common consent - more 'worthy' than the novels which touch me deeply but emotionally.

Confession time: romances by the marvellous Mary Balogh frequently make me blub.
With my heart though, I admit to loving the latter and returning to them more often than the former. Much as I admire literary fiction, genre fiction is what turns the pages for me.

And makes me cry.

Monday, 9 December 2013

WOLF BRIDE 99p promotion NOW ON!

WOLF BRIDE is today's DAILY DEAL at Kobo

It's Fifty Shades of Tudor sex, by Harry! (The Sunday Times)

Wow, what a truly brilliant book. This truly exceeded all my expectations... This was a superb read, addictive, passionate, compelling and hot. A passionate love story which I cannot wait to continue with book two. (Victoria Loves Books)

The most inevitable literary mash-up of the 21st century. (The Independent)

It's not just the bodices that are being ripped off in this rollicking and rude romp through Tudor England... Well-written and will sweep you breathlessly along. (Star magazine)


Hilary Mantel meets Sylvia Day: the first instalment in a deliciously erotic trilogy, set against the sumptuous backdrop of the scandal-ridden Tudor Court.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

What's Next After Nanowrimo?

So you've written your 50,000 words in November, or as close to it as possible, and you're staring December in the face. Nanowrimo is over for another year. What on earth happens next?

And is it possible to have fun with your new book?

Here is a suggested order of events for the post-Nanowrimo entrant:

1. Finish the novel, if you haven't already
 Don't worry if this is going to take a while. The important thing is to keep the momentum going from November's daily word count. If you just set it aside and have a 'rest' before continuing, you will come back to it cold and creaking, and probably never finish it all. Keep writing. Get it done.

Most importantly, ENJOY yourself. Writing the story is actually the best part of a book. Selling it and then promoting it are much harder, trust me.

2. Put the finished manuscript aside for a few weeks
This stage is about getting some perspective on what you've just written. A freshly-written book is hard to assess. Step away, maybe plan out a new book, or do some research that you couldn't fit in during November.

3. Reread your novel
Set aside a full day to read your finished novel in one go, trying hard not to pause for anything except food and the bathroom. That way you'll get a good over-view. Avoid making notes except for major structural issues/errors.Try to get a feel for the story, see if it has light and shade.

4. Rewrite your novel: Phase One, Major Structural Issues
Rewrite your novel according to any serious problems you spotted with the structure. Maybe you need to cut the Prologue or Epilogue, or start at Chapter Three. Don't worry about line edits at this stage. Just think structure, pace, characterisation, motivation, consequences ... all the big stuff. Again, try to enjoy this process.

5. Rewrite your novel: Phase Two, Clean Up Your Prose
This is the nitty-gritty dull stuff of self-editing - or the most exciting phase of novel-writing, depending on your temperament. Put commas in the right place, don't overuse semi-colons, and ALWAYS check if a word is hyphenated. You may be surprised. Don't just rely on spellcheck, it may not spot their/there mistakes and certainly won't pick up on clumsy writing.

You may not think it's worth the effort, but try to develop your prose style into something fit for purpose. Cut long sentences in half, remove endless strings of adjectives and adverbs, make your verbs work harder for you - stride, not walk; bellow, not shout - and think about balance, especially in your paragraphing. I actually LOVE this part. (Bit of a word geek, me.)

'Start a new paragraph for each new action' is a good simple rule, and that includes dialogue.

6. Now write a synopsis
A synopsis is basically a short document, most usefully one page, maybe 2-3, in which you briefly describe your main characters and the chief action of your story. Leave out anyone and anything non-essential. It's not a blurb - i.e. cover copy - because that merely sets out a scenario without giving you the end result. In the synopsis you must tell the reader not only how it starts, but how it ends. And God help you if you don't actually know by now.

This could become a selling document, so write and present it professionally. Check your spelling and punctuation. Try to sound sane. This may be your one and only chance to showcase your writing skills to a busy literary agent.

Whatever you do, keep the synopsis easy to read and check that, even if the book is dark, it never feels depressing or dull. If you enjoyed writing your book, let it show in the synopsis. Let your story shine.

7. Send your synopsis (and three chapters) to a Literary Agent
These days only a very few publishers take manuscripts off the street. Most prefer to go through agents, which means you have to get an agent if you want anyone to read your novel. And getting an agent is TOUGH. Get a book like Writers and Artists Yearbook, and consult lists of agents there. Or look online. Find out who represents your genre and don't send science fiction to agents who say 'No science fiction' etc.

Check out their websites to see which named agent at that agency might be best for you, then address it by name - and spell their name right! Ring first to check they are still with that agency; agents move, it happens.

Present the synopsis and/or sample chapters exactly as required - some like snail mail, others email using a Word doc. - so you don't annoy them from the word go by failing to check their requirements. Sound professional in your covering letter, avoid exclamation marks, chatty small talk, and details about your life as a repo man. Be brief. Enclose a writing-specific CV, or just mention any publications or awards if these will be helpful.

You can approach several agencies at the same time. Just make sure you mention that politely in your letter, so they know what's what. And be happy and optimistic. Even if twenty agencies say no, you only need one to say yes.

8. Keep writing while you wait
Waiting can take a long while. Longer than it took you to write the damn thing in the first place. So don't waste your precious time staring at the empty mailbox. Start writing or planning your next book or Nanowrimo project while you wait.

And be prepared for rejection. It's all part of the game.

And keep smiling.

Good luck!

Saturday, 23 November 2013


My Double Bill (two stories in one edition) THE PETTICOAT CLUB is on free Kindle-only promotion this week. You don't have to have a Kindle to download it. Just follow the details on Amazon.

THE PETTICOAT CLUB: where genteel young ladies fight secretly for ladies' rights in Regency London


The Petticoat Club is a Double Bill edition, comprising two Regency novellas: 'Poppeia and the Petticoat Club' and 'A Most Dangerous Lady' - both also available as individual titles.

The “Petticoat Club” is a secret organization of young ladies dedicated to righting wrongs against women. Highwaymen, romance, intrigue, and sexual misadventure abound in this two story volume.

Elizabeth Moss is an established English novelist. She is also the author of WOLF BRIDE (Hodder): 'well-written ... a rollicking romp through Tudor England that sweeps you breathlessly along. Four stars.' (Star Magazine) 





THE PETTICOAT CLUB on Amazon Germany






THE PETTICOAT CLUB on Amazon Australia

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Publication Day

WOLF BRIDE hits the shelves today in paperback: browse on
Published in paperback today: WOLF BRIDE
Book One: Lust in the Tudor Court

The most inevitable literary mash-up of the 21st century
The Independent
Fifty Shades of Tudor sex!
The Sunday Times

Find Wolf Bride on UK Amazon

Wolf Bride on US Amazon

Wolf Bride on the Hodder & Stoughton website

The stern Lord Wolf comes to the court of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn to claim his virgin bride ...

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A Literary Mash-Up or an Erotic Book Meld?

I just love publishing jargon. Some of it is so funny and fiercely inventive, it makes me smile. And I wanted to share with you the most marvellous example of it recently aimed at my new novel WOLF BRIDE.

WOLF BRIDE is out now in digital edition, but is launched in paperback on November 7th. So it's been doing the rounds of the newspaper desks. Last week, The Independent mentioned it in their weekly book news round-up, 'Between The Covers'.

"The two most successful literary genres of the past three years have finally met, in the most inevitable literary mash-up of the 21st century. Wolf Bride by Elizabeth Moss is described as 'Hilary Mantel meets Sylvia Day.' ... It is published by Hodder and Stoughton on November 7th."
A literary mash-up, for those who are unsure, is usually a book which incorporates another pre-existing text within it, often as a parody.

In this case, of course, there is no pre-existing text being incorporated, but rather a meeting - or melding - of two completely different literary vibes. So while not entirely an accurate description, applying the term 'literary mash-up' to WOLF BRIDE does at least have the merit of getting across an idea. The kind of political intrigues and shenanigans at King Henry VIII's court described in Mantel's WOLF HALL come together in my novel with the kind of steamy erotic content associated with one of romance's hottest writers, Sylvia Day.

Personally, I love the label 'literary mash-up.' How about you?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A Neater Way To Nano

What Is NaNo?
I entered for NaNoWriMo last year, and am planning to enter again this year. For those who don't know what that means, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. It's a free contest, with hundreds of thousands of entrants every year, and the idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. If you hit 50,000 by the end of November, you are officially a 'Winner!' (There's no prize except kudos.)


Last year I managed about 44,000 words, but that was largely because I didn't write some days during the month, as I had a busy schedule. (When don't I?)

This NaNoWriMo will be the same: I'm finishing a book right now which is unlikely to be done before November 6th. This means I'll have no time to prepare a synopsis or think about characters properly - I'm not even 100% sure what I'll be writing this NaNo, as I have several projects on the back burner - and will lose at least one week out of the four allowed. So it's unlikely I'll manage more than 35,000, I would guess. HOWEVER, I will still follow my own unique method of approaching NaNo, regardless of my need for extra speed.

How Most People NaNo
The accepted wisdom is that the NaNo entrant just slaps down any old words in any old order, and as long as it's vaguely literate, and moves the plot along, that's acceptable. In fact, it's broadly considered the ONLY WAY to approach the NaNoWriMo experience.

Editing of the novel is done AFTER November. Indeed, many entrants fully expect to be editing their 'finished' book for the next six months or more.

How I NaNo
I can't work like that. I'm a fast writer, don't get me wrong. I regularly finish novels in 6-8 weeks. But impatience comes along with that speed. When I've finished a novel, that's it. It's finished. Next, please. I'm happy to hand it over to my editor for any suggested revisions to the plot, and then a copyeditor for changes at a language level - luckily, these tend to be light. But I dislike having to go back over the book myself - except for a very general check for foolish errors and inconsistencies - before sending it to my publishers.

My opinion is that, if you edit as you go along, by the time you type THE END, your book really is finished. If you edit as you write, you can send it straight off with a clear conscience. No need to put it away for a few weeks, then revise and edit for a few months before considering it finished.

Of course this presupposes an editor or two down the line who will catch any major issues! But it has to be added, even editing your book for six months may not make it 'perfect'. If there is such a thing as a perfect novel, which I don't personally believe.

My Neater Way To NaNo

  • Think about your novel in terms of sentences, not chapters. Each sentence builds and supports your novel. If it's a wobbly sentence, further down the line your paragraph - and even your whole novel - may fall over!
  • When writing each sentence, consider balance and sense. LISTEN to your sentences. They are not just a means to an end, but an end in themselves. A happy sentence makes sense and looks balanced.
  • Don't be afraid to be poetic in your prose. Or staccato if that suits you better. But be consistent. Set out your prose style on the very first page, the very first sentence - hopefully one that suits both you and the book you're writing - and stick with it. Sometimes it may take a few chapters to find the right narrative voice. Then you may want to go back and adjust earlier writing to match it. But only early on. Don't change styles mid-book or you will flounder horribly in a quagmire of your own making.
  • Avoid moving on to a new sentence until you are pleased with the one you've just written. If you absolutely must move on, highlight that sentence in red and go back to it at the end of your writing time.

  • HOW TO WRITE SWIFTLY WHILE ALSO SELF-EDITING: try the following ideas.
  • Getting the words right first time often means being SPECIFIC. Not a red car but a maroon Ford Fiesta (or hatchback if you want to be less specific). Not a dog but a Labrador. Don't take this to extremes though. If you draw too much attention to an object, it becomes 'important' and the reader will wonder why. Though obviously if it IS important - the killer was driving a maroon Ford Fiesta - that's okay.
  • Plan your book. If you loathe pre-knowledge of your plot - um, why??? - then at least sketch out vaguely what should happen in each chapter or group of chapters. This will avoid the pitfall of writing at a tangent for 10,000 words and realizing later it adds nothing and has to be cut.
  • Think: why does this scene exist? If it does not reveal character or move the plot forwards, cut it.Try to do this BEFORE you write it. (See above for planning.)
  • All dialogue should reveal character. But avoid dialects and foreign languages, they almost never work except for a few words put in for flavour. He's Scottish. We get it. And don't include rambling dialogue to indicate character or you will bore your readers. Just suggest it: 'Mrs Hubbard continued to talk long after I had ceased to listen. My attention was focused on the body in the rocking chair.'
  • Charge straight into scenes: don't introduce them, don't set the scene or drearily recap what went before. Don't info-dump ('The house had once belonged to my great-aunt, whose suicide in 1986 while I was studying Zoology at university led to my father's revelation that he too suffered from the same family illness ... ') but reveal backstory in drips, here and there.
  • Overall, avoid anything extraneous to the dynamic interaction between characters which forms the basis of most great novels. Setting and landscape may be important in your novel - it always was for Hardy - but in that case, think of setting as a character and use it in a similar way. Make the setting actively do things, not just 'be'. Think of the moor in The Hound of the Baskervilles: it's practically a character in its own right, deceiving people, sucking the unwary into the bog in an almost malicious way.
  • All the above will allow you to write swift and lean prose. Nothing unnecessary, everything serving a purpose. And above all, get the sentence right before moving on, and you will not need to waste months of your life editing your novel once NaNoWriMo is over.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

First review of WOLF BRIDE: 'addictive and compelling'

WOLF BRIDE: out Nov 7th
The first blogger review of WOLF BRIDE was posted today at Victoria Loves Books. And Victoria's verdict on the paperback, which is out very shortly?
'What I expected was a book with lots of sex, what I got was a truly addictive and compelling love story.'
Read the rest of the review at Victoria Loves Books.

I am thrilled by this marvellous first review of WOLF BRIDE, which is my Tudor debut as Elizabeth Moss.

Victoria at Victoria Loves Books concludes her review:
'This was a superb read, addictive, passionate, compelling and hot. A passionate love story which I cannot wait to continue with book two. GOOD GOOD GOOD BOOK! LOVED IT!'

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Writers Speak Out

Are you a writer of romance or erotica?

I'm planning a series of short guest posts by writers of romance or erotica - traditionally, digitally or self-published - here on this site where writers can speak out about:

HOW they write

 WHEN they write

WHY they write

You can be as polemical or soft-spoken as you wish, but you should be engaging. Funny is also a plus!

So if you're a writer who would love to speak out about the craft of writing, or the ins and outs of publishing, just send me cover jpgs and the usual blurb/details of a book or book series you'd like to promote. You should also include the above information - How, When, Why, plus anything extra you want to contribute by way of opinion about writing, in no longer than 400 words - and any necessary links to websites or book pages.

Some books may not fit my site, but if you feel there may be a concern over that, just ask!

Email me via j.holland442 @ - Word document or jpg attachments ONLY please.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Fictional Orgasm

For the fictional orgasm, the sky's the limit

I often wonder if we aren't setting ourselves up for sexual disappointment when we read - or in my case write - stories where the characters always experience mind-blowing orgasms. Of course, admitting to a run-of-the-mill orgasm is not generally done, except for comic effect. The orgasm tends to be an unspoken event. You might admit to a friend that you had sex last night, even great sex. But you would be unlikely to start describing the ins and outs, so to speak, of your orgasmic experience.

We can categorize our orgasms on a realistic scale from:

1. Reasonable
2. Good
3. Great
4. Fantastic
5. Mindblowing

(You'll notice there is no negative scale for orgasms. Because, let's face it, no one ever has a BAD orgasm. Bad sex, perhaps. But any orgasm, however meagre, is worth a thumbs-up.)

In erotic fiction, orgasms on the 1-3 scale tend not to exist, unless it's a preliminary - and deliberately disappointing - sexual encounter before the main thrust of the book begins. No, most fictional orgasms will be firmly on the 4-5 scale of Fantastic through to Mindblowing. One exception to this is the literary novel. Within its pages you may find any orgasm from Gritty Urban Reasonable - often with an unpleasant aftertaste - all the way up to Stream of Consciousness Mindblowing - accompanied by a poetic description of waves crashing on the shore or a memory of naturally occurring patterns, such as furrows in a ploughed field etc.

Reading erotic fiction, a woman can become anyone, do it with anyone

It's vital, however, to differentiate between the fictional and the realistic orgasm. For although distant cousins, there is often little resemblance at all. For a start, most romantic heroes, including historical types, include at least a brief bout of cunnilingus in their foreplay, and always enjoy it immensely. Yet it is oddly rare for men in real life to express a strong yearning for such an activity. There are exceptions. But it was only recently that a fellow writer expressed a concern that a loving description she had just read of a Tudor lord going down on his mistress seemed unlikely in the extreme. But was it?

Did Tudor men prefer to eat out or just toss the dog a bone? And how can we be sure?

When it comes to the orgasm proper, we may indeed part company with reality. But I have to admit, I would be failing in my duty to my readers if I did not pen a stirring description of an orgasm to end all orgasms for my heroines, and not once, but every time without fail.

So what do you think of the fictional orgasm?

Is it time for erotica to 'tell it like it is' or should writers like myself continue pushing back the boundaries of the fictional orgasm, each one better than the last?

Elizabeth Moss is the author of WOLF BRIDE: Book One of LUST IN THE TUDOR COURT

Monday, 16 September 2013

Why We Love Reading Erotica

Jumping on a train the other day, I overheard two (male) station staff discussing Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James and pondering the reason why the book - and its spin-offs - had been so popular. Why liberated women, in fact, love to read erotica where a man is pictured as dominant.

I butted in - as you so often do when you're a writer - and told them I write erotica too. I explained my take that women lead such busy, complicated lives, sometimes they just want to be swept off into a world where they are desirable and adventurous, and where they no longer have to feel 'responsible' for everything.

We want to be heroines too ...
Modern women are 'responsible': for their everyday living, for their finances, for their careers, for their children, even for organising their love lives and contraception. And being the responsible one can weigh you down. We all love our independence, of course, and would never throw it away. Wishing to read erotica does not disguise some urge to return to the bad old days of the male head of the household, and the woman as silent partner.

But occasionally it feels fun and sexy to let go of our professional, business-like side, especially if we are 'in charge' in many areas of our life, including work. If our outer life is very structured, it can feel sexually energising to let our hair down, perhaps literally, and be the softer, less dominant partner for a few hours.

Some wrongly believe that reading erotica of the Fifty Shades variety means women want to be spanked, or tied up, or made to be submissive. Not necessarily!

Just because we love reading about the potential for such naughtiness does not mean we want the reality. We may be too stressed or too busy or too damn tired for hanky-panky in the bedroom. Some of us may not have a man willing to take charge, or have a man who would too readily take such kinky fun as a signal that we want to be dominated full-time.

By reading an erotic story, we can vicariously enjoy an insight into other people's sex lives, imagining how it would feel to be the heroine, bound to the bed, or bent over, awaiting a firm male hand on her upraised bottom ... but never have to do any of it ourselves, if we'd rather not.

WOLF BRIDE: Erotica meets the Tudors

Finally, the main thrust, if you'll pardon the expression, behind the sudden emergence of erotica as a popular genre for women has been the twin prongs of cover redesign and the e-reader. With generic covers, or a discreet e-reader in their bag, women need no longer feel embarrassed to be seen reading a sexy book. Though increasingly I see women on the train and in other public places thumbing merrily through EL James or Sylvia Day or any of the other erotic novels on the market, liberated from embarrassment by the knowledge that millions of other women are doing this too.

Maybe one day soon I'll see someone reading WOLF BRIDE by Elizabeth Moss. And carefully refrain from leaning across to ask, 'Any good?'

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Opening Pages of Your Novel: Part Two

Continuing on from Part One: The Opening Pages of Your Novel: Part One

On the first page you are setting out your stall. This is the magical world of my story: this setting and these people are what my story is all about. To return to the literary agent I mentioned in part one, Luigi Bonomi, 'the first page must pull them in - be indicative of the whole story.'

You may ask, how can I get my whole story into the opening paragraphs and pages of my novel? Not all stories are that simple. Or are they?

Theme is a kind of cohesive gel which brings together all the elements in your story. So if you can convey theme in your first few lines, you're onto a winner. Films often do this, using particular images or image-montages at the start of a film to suggest, either boldly or subliminally, the coming story and its overarching theme. And we live in a visual-rich age.

Readers also respond well to images and imagery, so don't be afraid to use them throughout your story, but perhaps most carefully in your opening pages, to suggest or underline theme, and thereby the entire story. Often this image will come naturally, without a writer even needing to think about it.

But if you're stuck, look at films you've enjoyed, or the openings of novels you recall very strongly. What images exist there? What clues about the coming story were you given in those first few vital moments?

Now consider your own story, and its general themes.

What kind of opening image - a place or an object - might subtly imply a theme of betrayal, for instance? Or a coming-of-age story? Or a love story?

Films can teach us plenty about the impact of an opening image. The key opening scene of the romantic comedy FRENCH KISS shows us the heroine in a flight simulation cabin, trying to cope with her fear of flying, as she is hoping to travel soon. Not only does this image - Kate on a plane - recur several times in the film, showing each time how she is developing as a person, but it also serves as a metaphor for her story.

At the beginning of the film Kate is trapped, 'grounded' in a failed relationship. By the end of the film, she is no longer afraid to accept the shortcomings of her old relationship: her new-found willingness to change has liberated her, and she can spread her wings and fly. The theme of being blind to true love is also emphasised by repeated comic instances of Kate just failing to spot the Eiffel Tower.

Think of your favourite novels. Which visual metaphors can you recall? Do they point to theme or shape a contrast? The opening scene of Margaret Mitchell's epic novel GONE WITH THE WIND introduces us to Scarlett O'Hara on the porch at Tara, her father's plantation. She is in her element, in her prime, queen of all she surveys, and we are shown her youthful arrogance in the first few pages so that we can later draw comparisons between our first glimpse of this fiesty southern belle, the hardships she is soon to face, and the woman she will eventually become. Interestingly, the opening scene of GONE WITH THE WIND takes place in the 'late afternoon' with these young 'aristocrats' of the south squinting into the sun: they are too blinded by their wealth and soft living to see that their world is coming to an end.

Be careful with the visual metaphors you choose though. Readers are cynical and sophisticated. They know when they're being suckered in. Try to make your imagery organic; let it spring naturally from the world of the story and its characters. If you know your story closely enough, such visual clues should come effortlessly. Many writers know instinctively whether to set their opening scene at twilight or high noon or in the dead of night, depending on the world of their story - and where it is headed.

Lastly, I'd like to go back to what I was saying about narrative voice and structure. Everything has structure. Even sound has structure. And your opening scene is no different. The accepted wisdom of scene structure is the same as for parties: if you want to make an impression, arrive late, leave early. But while incredibly useful when considering where to start and end, that dictum does not help people who need to learn how to shape a scene effectively.

You need to decide from the outset, though this will also happen naturally, what kind of scene shaper you are. Then work to your strengths, which is another way of saying avoid your weaknesses. If you've been told your scenes lack cohesion or purpose, don't shrug and consider yourself a creative artist, be professional and shape them more tightly.

"If they were caught, Eloise thought, the penalty would be death." The opening of my novel WOLF BRIDE.

Each scene should have a vital reason to exist, a reason which pushes the story forward, preferably without which your story cannot stand, and this applies in particular to your opening scene. It may be the only example of your ability to structure a scene that an agent reads. Although it's important to get everything else working for you - sentence structure, word selection, tone, dialogue, character, imagery - if you cannot shape the opening scene in a workmanlike fashion, you will lack the page-turning quality so prized by agents - and readers!

One way to tackle shaping your opening scene is to think of it in the same terms as the imagery I mentioned above: the opening scene may be a catalyst for the action ahead; it may suggest or encapsulate theme; it may underline character, or explain how a character became that way; it should set up or indicate the action of the story, and introduce either one or more of the main characters or the situation in which they will shortly find themselves.

The page-turning quality!
Unless it's a prologue written in a different style, your opening scene should also be in tune with the narrative voice of the book, so the reader knows what kind of voice will be whispering in their ear - and whether they can trust it.

In addition, the opening scene should have a clear beginning, middle and end. Which means in real terms a set-up, a conflict, and a resolution of sorts. And if that structure subtly mirrors the main action of the plot, so much the better.

If an opening scene can do most of the above, and not be impossibly cluttered or heavy-handed, and you have also used your understanding of narrative voice and character to make the reader care what happens next, then you will have done a fine job.

Elizabeth Moss's latest novel is WOLF BRIDE (Hodder & Stoughton): published 29 August 2013, available NOW in both the US and the UK, and other countries, in ebook form.

Monday, 2 September 2013

How To Write: The Opening Pages

Get the opening pages right, and you'll not only hook your reader, you'll hook the story itself.

Elizabeth Moss has published sixteen novels under a variety of names, plus short stories and novellas, in the fields of both commercial and literary fiction.

I'm going to assume in these posts on writing that you are either a new and unpublished writer, or self-published and looking to get into traditional publishing. So do bear that in mind if those do not apply to you.


Most of the 'how to write' books I've read insist on a BANG or WOW opening. Something in the first few lines or on the first page which will capture a reader's attention and keep them turning the pages. And it's true that your first reader - apart from friends/family - is generally an agent or publisher, and since getting their attention is rather important for a new writer, getting the opening pages right does seem desperately important.

Luigi Bonomi of LBA, Literary Agent of the Year 2010, wrote in an online article on 'How To Get An Agent' that the first page has to be 'brilliant' and 'pull them in'. Due to the sheer volume of submissions handled by most literary agencies - around 5000 manuscripts a year is not unusual - Bonomi reckons 'you have on average around 60 seconds to impress an agent with your covering letter and first page.' Which sounds harsh, but is probably about right.

Professionals know what they're looking for in a submission, and deal with so many, it only takes a once-over with an experienced eye to make that initial yes or no. And you need to avoid the word no for as long as possible.

So try to ensure your opening is pacy, exciting in some way, and emotionally resonant. However, starting with a BANG or a WOW may not suit your story. Or your narrative style. But that does not mean you cannot hook a reader's interest in other ways.

You may have heard about 'voice' and how important it is to get one as a writer. And been confused, no doubt. Voice is something we use when speaking. How can it transfer to narrative technique?

The writer's 'voice' is the one we use when speaking, yes, but also the one we use in our own heads, when thinking. It's our dream voice. Our private narrative on life. I don't necessarily mean accent or dialect when I say 'voice', I mean intonation, significant word selection, sentence structure - all things we don't tend to consider when speaking, but which come naturally to us.

We don't think how our feet and legs move when taking a few steps, it happens automatically. In the same way, the writer's voice is the one we use automatically, without really thinking; the natural voice inside ourselves that has been developing since early childhood. All sorts of things may be muddled up in it. Nursery rhymes, sounds we love, structures we inherited from our parents or carers, snatches of poetry, songs, books, films, and the effects of external pressure - speaking a certain way because it is 'expected'.

The writer's voice is about rhythm and selection. The way we choose to balance sentences, and the words we choose to balance them. See what I did there? That's my voice. But it's also a voice I can put on, like an overcoat. Because the writer's voice is not fixed or singular. It's fluid and multiple. The core of it, the essence of the voice, remains the same. But it can be manipulated or tweaked to achieve different effects, depending on what kind of writing is required.

The opening page is like an introduction at a party: it's about making a great first impression!

Which leads me to character. Because character is what forms the structure of the writer's voice in each new story. The narrative voice in a novel may not be - in fact, almost never is - the same as the writer's internal narrative voice. But it is based on it because it has to be. Write what you know, experts tell us. And what we know best is ourselves.

So each narrative character is a little bit like you. Even the serial killers.

A narrative character is the one who shapes the story for the reader at that moment. To let that character 'speak' to the reader, you need to enter into their narrative voice, using your own like a rope wrapped securely about your waist. They may talk funny. They may not fully understand themselves or their predicament. The reader may feel superior, having to read between their lines to get the gist of what's going on. That's dramatic irony. Or they may know more than the reader. They may withhold information. Trick the reader, shock them, make them pull up in surprise ... and re-read.

Voice and character are inextricable.
So sketching out character in your opening pages is also the act of setting out your narrative voice. Voice and character are inextricable in most fiction. They are the front and back legs of a pantomime horse. Look after the one, and the other will look after itself. Voice reveals character, and character defines voice.

You can start with dialogue. If you do, make it reveal character. That is, if the narrative character is speaking, give him or her only words to say that reveal character, not merely point to plot.

'There is a bomb in my knapsack,' suggests a cool character, someone hard, determined, unruffled by the threat of imminent death, probably very dangerous.

'For god's sake, help me. There's a b ... bomb in my knapsack!' gives the opposite impression. You don't always need to add a qualifier: she said coolly, softly, loudly, in a terrified voice.

Or you can start with narrative prose. Only remember that someone else is behind it. Not you. If it's fiction, it's never you. He looked down from the hilltop. The town under enemy fire was lit by a thousand points of light, like a Fourth of July firework display is a very different opening to He stared down from the hilltop. The town was under enemy fire, houses ablaze, people screaming as they ran for cover.

Each of these opening lines should arouse a different emotional response in us as readers. It should also make us wonder about the narrator, and their emotional response to the situation.

Writing character revolves around such emotional responses to action and situation, or a lack of them. We as readers are emotional creatures. We latch onto emotion in the narrative voice and think, yes, I know how that feels, or would feel the same if that happened to me. We begin to trust and open up to what is being narrated. We begin to care.

We ask silent questions as we read. What will happen to this person with the bomb in their knapsack, or the innocent people in their immediate vicinity? Who put the bomb in the knapsack? What is their motive in blowing everyone up? Why did they use the word 'knapsack' instead of the more usual 'backpack' or 'rucksack'? Where is this town, why is it under fire, and how many of these people are going to die?

As soon as we have no further questions, or none which engage us emotionally, we stop reading. As soon as a character ceases to arouse an emotional response in us, we stop reading. Your job as writer is to prevent us from doing that. To keep us reading, keep us turning the pages. Keep us caring about your story.

Believe in your story.
Emotional response is what we need to evoke when we write. That's what keeps the pages turning. We also learn to manipulate emotional response when we create a slippery or untrustworthy narrator, a narrative voice that cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

That too is part of the art of writing: being a confidence trickster, getting the reader to believe in what you have written, to trust your narrative character implicitly. If they do and then later discover the narrator was lying, are you prepared for the backlash? The book thrown across the room, the manuscript put through the shredder, the pithy email rejection?

Don't use false mystery or untrustworthy narration to hook a reader unless you have a plan to back it up, and a damn good plan too, or you will lose their trust. Not just in this story, but in all your stories.

Fiction is by definition untrue - even when based on a true story. Yet a good writer makes the reader forget that and 'believe' in their characters and their story from the very first line.

... Continued in Part Two: The Opening Pages of Your Novel: Part Two

Elizabeth Moss's latest novel is WOLF BRIDE (Hodder & Stoughton): published 29 August 2013, available NOW in both the US and the UK, and other countries, in ebook form.

Paperback due November.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Publication Day for WOLF BRIDE

WOLF BRIDE is out in ebook today. Paperback follows in November.

If you enjoyed Sylvia Day's Crossfire or Regency erotica series or EL James' infamous Fifty Shades, then you will enjoy this brand-new Tudor series, LUST IN THE TUDOR COURT.



It's always a thrill to see a new book available, and to get reviews and rankings, and know people are reading your work.

But seeing WOLF BRIDE published is a special thrill for me.

And here's why:

Elizabeth Moss is a name I used a few years back when first starting to write Regency romance. I failed to get my target publisher interested, and had several manuscripts lying about which I loved but nobody seemed to want. So I sent them out to some friendly fellow authors for comment and advice, polished them up, and published them myself on Kindle.

But I carried on writing and dreaming and hoping my EM books would find favour somewhere ...

Two years later, my first Tudor novel as Elizabeth Moss was accepted by a major publisher - Hodder and Stoughton - and today I see the fruits of my labour under that name.

Hence the very special thrill I'm feeling today, seeing my book on sale. I hope some of you will buy WOLF BRIDE and enjoy some of that thrill with me!

Elizabeth x


Debauchery and decadence at the court of Henry VIII form the backdrop to this arranged marriage between soldier Lord Wolf and Eloise Tyrell, lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn.

"Fifty Shades of Tudor Sex!" - The Sunday Times

Hilary Mantel meets Sylvia Day

Twitter hashtags: #WolfBride #feelupthebodies
To buy your digital copy, here's the UK Amazon link to WOLF BRIDE.


Monday, 26 August 2013

Help me launch WOLF BRIDE!

The day is almost upon us for the ebook launch of WOLF BRIDE, Book One in my LUST IN THE TUDOR COURT trilogy.

I'm so excited to be launching this new Tudor baby into the world, and I'm hoping some of you might be willing to help with that.

This is largely because I have RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury - from excessive typing over the past few months, and even tweeting has become painful. As you can imagine, this is not a brilliant condition for a writer to suffer from!

So any help anyone can offer with the promotion for WOLF BRIDE would be doubly helpful at this time.

As the series title suggests, this is a hot new Tudor series, set against the dramatic final months of Anne Boleyn's reign as Queen of England.

"Hilary Mantel meets Sylvia Day"  #WolfBride  #feelupthebodies

WOLF BRIDE is published by Hodder and Stoughton. This is the ebook edition. The paperback edition launches in early November.

Anyway, if you're interested in the Tudors, or in historical romance, or just in me as a writer, you can help launch WOLF BRIDE in a few simple ways, outlined below.

Please help, if you can, on launch day, Thursday August 29th, or during the following week. Or at any time following the launch, in fact.

My epic thanks to you all for this help!

Elizabeth x

Pick one suggestion - or more! - below to help me launch WOLF BRIDE on August 29th

RT or tweet direct, preferably using hashtags

If you're on Twitter, you could RT one of my promo tweets in the twinkling of an eye, via ElizabethMoss1, preferably one with a link to where the book can be purchased online.
Here's the Amazon UK link for WOLF BRIDE.
Or you could tweet about the launch directly yourself, preferably using a link. Something simple like "Tudor novel WOLF BRIDE by @ElizabethMoss1 launches today in ebook!"
Or "Happy Publication Day to @ElizabethMoss1 for her Tudor novel WOLF BRIDE!" 
Both would be fantastic and very welcome, thank you!
Or just generally mention WOLF BRIDE or use the hashtag #WolfBride, and/or my fun hashtag for the whole series, #feelupthebodies.

Post a Facebook link to WOLF BRIDE online or just comment about the book

If you're on Facebook, mentioning the book there or linking to it on Amazon or the Hodder book page would be fab, especially if you mention me too as Elizabeth Moss.
You could also mention or link to my book page for WOLF BRIDE on Facebook:
Alternatively, you could just visit the WOLF BRIDE Facebook page (link above) and leave a comment or link to any review or blog post you may have written. Thanks!

Review or give a star rating to WOLF BRIDE on Goodreads or Amazon or Shelfari etc.

If you buy the book and feel able to review or star it, that would be marvellous! You can find WOLF BRIDE on Goodreads here and on Amazon UK here and Amazon US here. On Goodreads, it would also be great if you could mark WOLF BRIDE as To-Read. At the moment, only 3 people have marked it to read, which obviously could be improved!

Blog about WOLF BRIDE on your own blog

This help would be extra-specially fab. And the cover is so beautiful, it would make a lovely 'look at this great cover' post all on its own. *Smiles winningly*

Many, many thanks to anyone who feels able to help with my launch for WOLF BRIDE. Do comment below this post or chat to me on Facebook or Twitter if you need extra information or just want to say hi.

Elizabeth x

Saturday, 17 August 2013


WOLF BRIDE: out end August 2013
You can find all titles by Elizabeth Moss on Goodreads, for review and comment, and Giveaways.

Be sure to mark WOLF BRIDE on the Goodreads site as To-Read or Read on Goodreads!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Cover Reveal for WOLF BRIDE

I'm delighted to reveal the cover for my forthcoming novel WOLF BRIDE: Book One in the LUST IN THE TUDOR COURT series, set against the backdrop of Anne Boleyn's last days as queen.

Published by Hodder & Stoughton in ebook (August 2013) and paperback editions (November 2013).

Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Petticoat Club: a double bill Regency

Read a sample on Amazon US.

This week, I have rewritten and reissued two of my Petticoat Club Regency adventure-romances in a double bill edition under the joint title THE PETTICOAT CLUB.

More romance, more adventure, and yes, more sex!

The “Petticoat Club” is a secret organization of young ladies dedicated to righting wrongs against women. Needless to say, their clandestine activities do not always go accordingly to plan. Highwaymen, romance, intrigue, and sexual misadventure abound in this sexy two story volume. Now even hotter!

Poppeia and the Petticoat Club
Miss Poppeia Pickford is sure she does not want a husband, until she encounters the dangerous highwayman whose mocking eyes seem to penetrate her soul.

A Most Dangerous Lady
Lord Trajan Randall is a rake who holds women in contempt. Which is why Lady Caroline decides to teach him a lesson he will never forget. 

For a limited period, THE PETTICOAT CLUB is on sale for only 77p in the UK and $0.99c in the States.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Wolf Bride in the Sunday Times

I was interviewed a few days ago by the arts editor of the Sunday Times for a feature on Wolf Bride, the first in my forthcoming Tudor trilogy (Hodder & Stoughton).

The article is in the Sunday Times today.

The series by Elizabeth Moss is aimed at the female readers who made bestsellers of Hilary Mantel’s account of Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power and EL James’s tales of sex and bondage.

The first instalment in Moss’s trilogy is called Wolf Bride and appears in late August. “Yes, the name is not entirely coincidental,” she admits ...

You can pre-order Wolf Bride on Amazon or via your local bookshop. Digital editions available from August, paperbacks from November.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Regency titles all massively reduced!

To celebrate the forthcoming publication of Wolf Bride (Hodder & Stoughton), first in a Tudor romance series set against the backdrop of Anne Boleyn's downfall, I have reduced the price on all my Regency ebook titles.

You can now purchase these Regency tales for only 77p in the UK and under a dollar in the States.

Better hurry while the promotion lasts.

Happy reading!

Elizabeth Moss Regency Romances for Kindle or iPad/iPhone users:

The Earl and His Tiger: Stranded in a remote cottage during a snowstorm, the rakish Earl of Stanton is staggered to discover that his sturdy "tiger" - an elite Regency groom - is actually a female in disguise. (Find on US Amazon site.)

The Uncatchable Miss Faversham: No one knew the "Uncatchable" Miss Faversham was not a respectable virgin. Except Lord Nathaniel Sallinger. And he was never going to let her forget it! (Find on US Amazon site.)

Poppeia and the Petticoat Club:  Miss Poppeia Pickford is sure she does not want a husband. It is just a pity that polite society does not agree with her view ... and nor does her heart, when she encounters a highwayman whose laughing grey eyes seem to penetrate her soul. (Find on US Amazon site.)

A Most Dangerous Lady: Lord Trajan does not believe in the "Petticoat Club", a legendary gang of women who take their revenge on rakes and noblemen like him. But all that is about to change. (Find on US Amazon site.)

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Wolf Bride: acquisition announcement

I'm delighted to announce the acquisition by Hodder and Stoughton of a three novel series under my name Elizabeth Moss. This is 'a tantalisingly steamy Tudor romance series' to be published over the next year.

WOLF BRIDE, Book One, is an erotic Tudor Court romance set during the last fateful months of Anne Boleyn's reign and bursting with seduction, passion, jealousy and love.

When Eloise Tyrell is told by her father she is to give up her post as one of ill-fated Queen Anne’s maids of honour and marry the cold, mysterious Lord Wolf, she is horrified. But she soon learns that there is more to her new adventurous husband than first seems – and he ignites a passion in her that she has never before experienced…

WOLF BRIDE is a scandal-ridden, debauched, decadent and passionate story and will be perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory, Sylvia Day and raunchy, revved-up BBC costume dramas like The Tudors.  

Elizabeth Moss was born in Essex, and currently lives in the South-West of England with her husband and young family. She also writes commercial fiction under another name.

Hodder & Stoughton will be publishing WOLF BRIDE in e-book on 29th August 2013 and in paperback on 7th November 2013. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon now.

Book Two will follow in early 2014.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Anne Boleyn's Execution

Anne Boleyn: probably a copy of a painting made in 1534
Few events in the history of the English monarchy have excited as much interest as the execution of Queen Anne, second wife to Henry VIII. To truly appreciate how this death must have electrified both the English court and that of other European monarchs, you have to realise that the execution of a queen was quite extraordinary and unprecedented, and many noblemen must have been left terrified and bewildered by its ramifications.

One moment, these English nobles were kneeling before their reigning queen in obedient duty and - for Anne Boleyn was by all accounts beautiful, witty and charming - in admiration. The next, they were forced to witness her head being struck ignominiously from her shoulders, while their king celebrated his imminent nuptials elsewhere with a new lady.

The doomed queen left her lodgings at the Tower of London some time before 8 o'clock on the morning of May 19th 1536, surrounded not by her own beloved ladies but by women appointed to her care by her enemies. Clad in dark grey, with an ermine mantle and sober hood, Anne made the short walk to the scaffold, which stood draped respectfully in black for her execution.

Among the crowd would have been some who wished her ill and rejoiced to see her brought to this end. Others must surely have wept - at least secretly - at the cruelty and injustice of this officially sanctioned murder of a queen. Those watching included Sir Thomas Cromwell, the senior courtier who many believe had almost single-handedly orchestrated her accusation and trial, plus noble dignitaries such as the Duke of Suffolk, the King's illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, who was Duke of Richmond, and Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor.

Silence fell in the crowd. Perhaps surprisingly, after tales of her hysterical laughter and erratic behaviour in the days leading up to her execution, Queen Anne's demeanour on the morning itself was apparently calm, untroubled. She gave a speech which neither admitted her guilt nor blamed the king, carefully avoiding any comment which might cause her baby daughter Elizabeth to be treated poorly after her death.

Her women removed her cloak, hood and mantle, following which the slender-necked Anne hid her beautiful hair under a plain cap, a sight which must have been quite heartrending in its pathos. She forgave her executioner - a time-honoured tradition on the scaffold - and possibly also paid him.

The executioner was a Frenchman, hired for his skill with a sword, for Anne was not to be executed in the common way with a rough block and axe, but decapitated with a sword, kneeling in the European style. The legend goes that the executioner was much moved by her beauty, and so found his task doubly difficult.

Blindfolded, Queen Anne was helped to kneel before the crowd. In her last moments, she called out in prayer, most likely: 'O Lord, have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.'

Again, legend steps in at this moment to have the executioner call loudly for his sword, though he had it to hand. This feint might have been employed to ease the queen's passing, by making her unaware that death was imminent. While she was waiting for the sword to arrive, he struck off her head with one clean blow.

Cannon were fired to announce her death. No doubt a message would also have been borne swiftly to King Henry, to let him know he was free to remarry. The queen's body, together with her head, were swiftly buried in St Peter ad Vincula, the ancient chapel within the confines of the Tower of London, where many high-ranking traitors also found their final resting-place.

A few years later, the unfortunate young Katherine Howard, also Queen of England, joined her there, accused of similar crimes of adultery and treason.

The execution of Anne Boleyn features in my forthcoming Tudor novel, WOLF BRIDE, to be published by Hodder & Stoughton in August 2013. Now available for pre-order.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Wolf Bride Playlist 1

I always listen to music while I write, it's part of who I am as a writer, and most books demand a different musical approach for the maximum inspiration. Each stage of a book may require different music, tailored to the 'mood' and overall dynamic of the story and characters.

I particularly enjoy listening to fast, upbeat, uptempo music when writing, as it seems to increase my speed!

For my latest novel, WOLF BRIDE, which is an erotic Tudor Court romance set during the last fateful months of Anne Boleyn's reign, I listened to the following songs, many of which are retro. Though not quite Tudor!

This is Playlist 1 for the early part of this novel, and I am now listening to different tracks for my inspiration. I'll post those up later!

SMOOTH (feat Rob Thomas) - Santana

I'LL FIND MY WAY HOME - Jon & Vangelis

WILLING AND ABLE - Prince and the New Generation



HYMN TO HER - Pretenders



SHE - Charles Aznavour

SKYFALL - Adele (James Bond theme music)

UNDREDTIDE - Mediaeval Baebes

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Poppeia and the Petticoat Club on FREE Kindle promotion

My highwayman story POPPEIA AND THE PETTICOAT CLUB, a quick and fun Regency novella with pistols and romance, is currently FREE to Kindle readers.

UK readers can download it for FREE here: Poppeia

US readers can download it for FREE here: Poppeia

And if you enjoy the story, please do let other people know on Amazon if you have a few moments to spare. At the moment, this quirky little novella has one review on Amazon UK, and 3 reviews on Amazon US.

It would be wonderful to know what other people thought of it!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Ten Tips For Writing Sex

1. Slow Build-up - or Don't Forget The Foreplay

A slow build-up is vital in a romance, excellent for creating sexual tension in an erotic novel, but less important in a short erotic story (where things need to develop quickly). 

Women readers in particular like to 'know' a character before they can really identify with that character having sex. For women, a strong emotional connection is where it's at. Here are some tried and tested ways to build up to sex slowly: use meaningful dialogue; focus on eye contact (without overdoing it); employ brief descriptions which flash an image across the page rather than force it down a reader's throat; fall back on a little indiscreet public touching (the hip jar as two people squeeze through a door at the same time, for instance); or deliberate brushing against each other in a situation where no sex can happen (on the train during the daily commute, or in a crowd).

So take it easy. Most of us wouldn't rush into bed with a stranger, unless that's our secret fantasy. Fictional sex is often the same.

2.  Don't think of sex as action - Sex is character in action.

As with so much in life, the WHO and WHY of sex in a novel is far more important than the WHAT and HOW.

Feeling, motive, subtext: these are what should inform your sex scenes rather than Tab A fits in Slot B. On a very basic level, sex writing should not read like instructions for the floor game Twister:
'Blake slipped his left arm about her waist while his right hand toyed with her nipple. Teresa kissed him back passionately, her right leg rubbing against his left leg, one buttock perched on the arm of the sofa, the other wavering precariously in mid-air.'
This level of detail can very rapidly become either boring or comic. So write less on the nose, and always bring the sexual act back to the characters involved:
"Blake slipped his arm about her waist, holding her so tight she could hardly breathe. Standing on tiptoe, Teresa kissed him back, revelling in the intimacy of their embrace. At last, she thought, at last!"
Beyond mere physical descriptions, sex in a novel should reflect who these two - or more! - people are, and why they want to fit together so intimately. No two people will have sex the same way (thank goodness). So don't just think back to your own best bedroom performance (you wish) or sexual experience when writing these scenes.

Focus on your characters and how you, as their creator, think they would have sex. Vicars will fondle their loved ones in a different way to porn stars, one would reasonably assume. So repeat the mantra character, character, character - and you can't go far wrong.

3. Sex Is Not a Filler!

Sex in a novel needs to happen for a reason or at a key moment. Choose a point which it feels natural and organic, or a highly dynamic place for sex to occur. Only use sex in a novel, in other words, where you know it will develop or deepen a plotline. This is true even for an erotic novel, where there might be several scenes in a chapter. Don't just chuck a sex scene in every few pages. Consider their best placement for greatest impact on the reader, and try to vary them in mood, style and approach.

4. Sex Is Different for Everyone

As a further progression of point 2, always remember what kind of people your characters are, and what kind of sex they are most likely to have. Don't fall into the trap of copying sex scenes you're read elsewhere. Tailor each one to your characters very closely, and think about character motivation in particular.

Here is a thought which may not be apparent to everyone. Sex is not always about pleasure, desire or the basic urge for procreation. For instance, in a BDSM novel, sex can be about power, fear, or control. It can be about punishment or revenge. It can also be about healing the scars of early trauma. None of these attributes need to be sexual in nature. They become sexualised by the context in which they occur between characters, i.e. when having sex together, or by withholding sexual contact or subverting it into something different.

Again, look for the sexual subtext and employ it. Sexual subtext can be a deliciously subtle tool in the right hands, if you'll pardon the expression. If you can find a strong theme or symbol to underpin sexual subtext in your novel, so much the better. Just don't clout readers over the head with it.

5. Keep Sexual Content Appropriate

Genre and subgenre become incredibly important when writing sex in your novel. When in doubt, do your research at plotting stage, and save yourself the hassle of rewriting later when your sex scene proves inappropriate for the genre. 

If writing Young Adult fiction, for instance, check with the editor you're targeting or do some major market research before having your teens enjoy wild, unprotected sex. Some YA books do include sex, but it's rarely very detailed. There are also the thorny questions of contraception, consent, and sexual responsibility to consider in that market. So be advised and play the sex down in fiction for young adults unless it's absolutely central to your plot. 

For older or Christian readers, sex may need to be more muted too, with an emphasis on loving and committed relationships. Always think: is this sex right for my target reader? 

Of course, you can't please everyone all of the time. So decide on your target readership - or write your story following a publisher's guidelines, if you prefer - and stick to that. In general, don't assume you'll gain or lose readers by modifying your work in some way. Just write the sex that moves and excites you personally, and there's a good chance that it will excite your readers too. Unless you're into something very odd and unusual!

6. Talk Sexy

Don't use too much rambling dialogue during sex. It kills the mood. Equally, too little dialogue makes sex feel mechanical and uninspiring if they're basically silent during sex, or using dialogue which adds nothing to our understanding of this scene or these people.

Each exchange of dialogue in a novel should DRIVE the novel forward to its destination, and that includes during a sex scene. There's no place in your novel for lazy dialogue like this: 'Yeah, do me, baby!' or 'Oh my god, it's massive!'

Look back to No.s 2 and 4 above. Always write the words your characters would say at this special and heightened moment, not some generic sexual exchange that adds nothing to the tension. And please, don't have them quote poetry at each other during the act unless you're a brilliantly accomplished writer or their romance is intended to be comic.

7. Where to Stick It

Sometimes an early sex scene is necessary for the plot (rather than to catch a browsing reader's eye). When this happens, try to keep it low-key in comparison to the longer and more elaborate scenes to come. You can always describe mood rather than actual moves, and then contrast these early scenes with later ones to show how a relationship or character has developed.

When plotting, it's important to think seriously about structure, and to shape a book's sex scenes to make the tension rise slowly and incrementally, like Ravel's 'Bolero'.

For instance, a short romance might have three major sex scenes: let's say at 20,000; 35,000; and 55,000 words, each one hotter than the last. Longer romantic novels would have something similar at the same ratio, and if a subplot involves a second couple - this is useful to ring the changes or swell out a thin plot - they can provide a second to last sex scene near the end.

If you're writing a straight novel that contains sexual activity, your sex scenes should occur wherever it is most useful for character or plot development, and in a way that is reflective of the overall plot.

N.B. All of these so-called 'rules' about structure can be ignored. The book will still work if you're a good writer and the reader trusts you. But if you're flailing about, unsure where to stick your sex scenes, it's a good rough guide.

8. Light a Cigarette and Roll Over

What happens after sex in your novel can be just as important as what happens during it.

You might choose to have that longer conversation now, which would have felt awkward during passion. Or perhaps a sudden shift in mood that again drives the plot forward by REVERSING what readers were expecting from the scene. In one of my recent books, I had a character call his lover by the wrong name during sex. So what started out passionate and loving ends up with a fight.

If you end a chapter or other section with sex, as frequently happens - readers often need the breather of a fresh chapter after a strong sex scene - then consider pace and mood. Your reader may turn straight over to the next chapter, all flushed and panting. So don't start the next section with a gruesome hospital operation or a child's nappy being changed. Let them come down slowly.

Though in a comic novel, a child at breakfast saying, 'Mommy, I heard funny noises in the night,' could provide a funny moment.

9. Keeping it Hot and Tight

In an erotic novel, as opposed to sex within a straight novel or romance, it's vital to maintain both tension and contrast. If a couple are at it every few pages, for instance, look for ways to ring the changes: threesomes, different places, different moods - angry sex; playful sex; dirty sex - new positions etc. Whatever feels new and exciting.

One of the best ways to maintain sexual tension within erotica is to concentrate on language and subtext. If one sex scene is very crude and graphic, make the next one about mood., i.e. instead of 'He entered her with one powerful thrust,' make it, 'He felt like one with her as they made love.'

Be sparing with obscenity. Too many swear words and crudity soon desensitises a reader and makes a story boring and predictable. You want to thrill and excite the reader, not dull her senses. Remember: even erotica needs a plot and a good writing style. So keep things relevant: ask each scene why it exists. And don't just dash down any old sentence. Respect your reader's intelligence.

But don't over-write and draw attention to your style. The story is what counts.

10.  Miss Whiplash

Know your market. Perhaps you're already established in hot romance and would like to move into BDSM erotica. Be aware though, highly specialised erotica should only be written by those who already read and understand it, so avoid wasting your time on something that won't ultimately suit you as a writer.

Niche erotica pushes specific buttons for readers, and uses code which other enthusiasts will spot and respond to: master, slave, rubber, whip, suck, squirt. So read up on the subject, do your research thoroughly. Don't write what you don't enjoy yourself; your disinterest will soon show. And beware both e-market and traditional publishing censorship if planning any bold pushing of the boundaries: all characters these days need to be over-18s, there should be no non-consensual sex, no physical violence that causes actual harm or grief (mild consensual punishments aside), no necrophilia, and no sexual contact with animals.

And lastly, good luck - have fun with it!