So let’s give some context to this essay: I wrote for audiences at sexstories.com hence the reference to the site and its stories, as well as a ‘comments section’ and ‘Last 30 Days chart’. We cool? Cool. Gimme five.
Online erotica writing is a big leap from being just a reader. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, it’s easy to see this. When you’re a reader, you can hide comfortably behind a veil of anonymity and read people’s work, get off to it, and maybe even vote or leave a comment afterwards. When the leap is made to writing erotica for other people, whether it’s for free or paid work, it comes at a hefty price, and a good part of that price is being in the public eye in one way or another.
Erotica sites, and frankly this site in particular, is like a minefield that tests your determination. There are so many traps laid out on this website designed to discourage you. If you’re new, your stories sometimes don’t even break ten thousand views, barely anyone comments and it’s super difficult to get feedback. Even if you establish yourself, some of the comments can get quite toxic and a well-reviewed story might get buried in a matter of hours because viewers are tired of seeing that title on top of the ‘Highest Rated Last 30 Days’ chart after a whole 12 hours spent sitting on the top of our little mountain.
Even without going into the political views of the forums, the attitude of this site can often be a volatile one, and I know that more than a few of us have been wishing out loud that this site have a more supportive, accepting feel. Wishing alone isn’t going to get us anywhere, unfortunately, but that change starts with us, you and I.
If you truly want positive change for this website, you should want to contribute to that yourself, so I’ve made a little essay about where to start. Welcome to The Online Erotica Writer’s Guide to Etiquette. In this essay, I’ll be outlining and expanding five things all of us, myself included, should work towards being in order to make this website a more pleasant experience for everyone. Not only that, but a few of these are basic courtesy practices we should be upholding anyway.
- Be Humble
This one is the hardest one to achieve. Most, if not all, of us, are guilty of not following this through. I myself was an arrogant little bastard when I started writing erotica online.
It is incredibly easy for newcomer writers to trick themselves into thinking they’re altruistic and the epitome of kindness when they’re writing for free, but let’s not kid ourselves – the name of the game is by no means altruism. We write because we like attention. We all likes views, and ratings, and comments. Some authors are so obsessed with views and ratings that when their own stories aren’t doing well, they accuse innocent parties like Red Czar or Nathan Wolfe of downvoting their stories when these writers didn’t actually do anything wrong (I presume).
Being humble is one of the most important things to do to keep up a good relationship with your audience, and your writing. Very inevitably, you’re going to write at a slower pace than you do now, because life will get in the way or something, barring a work ethic like that of mypenname3000. When this happens, a few consequences will occur. This will also be covered in section three, but for now, it’s important to note that at no time does this site owe you anything. Yes, you’re writing for free, but this is something you elected to do of your own free will. If you don’t like writing anymore but want to finish your story, that’s on you. This story is absolutely filled with unfinished stories, abandoned long ago – just as you don’t have to finish yours, it won’t be anything new if you don’t. As a part of a community-driven site, the populace is what drives it forward, not a single person.
This by no means is meant to suggest that we’re not grateful for you being here. No matter who you are, I’m very grateful you’re here and reading/writing stories. At the same time, self-righteousness has been the downfall of many a writer here, and to put it simply, it would really suck if that was your fate too.
- Be Calm
As mentioned, I was an arrogant little bastard when I first started writing here. Even if I got one or two negative comments, my next chapter would always have a paragraph-long author’s note explaining how wrong those comments were and how grateful they should be that I’m writing for free in the first place. I even ended the paragraphs with ‘rant over.’ Gross.
Even if you want to ignore the first section and assume you’re not only the most important writer on the site but the most important person in the world, there’s one thing I want you to take from this essay: never respond to negativity with negativity. It doesn’t work out. People do not think you’re owning some troll. The person who was negative will only come back with paragraphs upon paragraphs.
If a person doesn’t like your story, be professional and thank them for giving you a chance. Fun fact – once someone said my stuff sucked, and I did just that and thanked them for giving me a chance. They were caught off-guard by the response, and decided to read another one of my stories. It turned out they only disliked the one story. I’m not exactly overly charismatic, that exact situation could happen to you as well if you treat criticism calmly.
I understand that negative comments are a trap, believe me. Not responding to them makes it look like you’re ignoring criticism, and responding with passion for your own work makes you look hotheaded and like you hate critique. There were a few writers that even recently showed this, and had I not messaged them and talked about it, I might think them hotheads to this day. Maybe you think responding positively to something so negative will make you look like a tryhard or ‘part of the system’ or whatever, but firstly, it really doesn’t, and secondly, if a reader sees you responding calmly to criticism and their first thought is ‘what a pussy,’ odds are you aren’t missing much by alienating that particular viewer.
It also takes practice to perfect calmness when responding to calmness or making author notes. I can accept that. Every author will have slip-ups. I still have them from time to time. The most important part is that when readers see you respond to criticism well, and have a calmer approach to opposition, they’ll like you more. And believe me, you’ll need that skill, because…
- Be Prepared for Pointless Opposition
Needless to say, there will always be opposition. A good amount of it will be justified, but the more well-known your stories become, the more unjust opposition you’ll receive.
I’m sure many readers who have been here for a few months remember the stories that pop up every so often that were stuck around 95% no matter what, and only registered users could vote. Many of those stories had comment sections that turned sour very quickly. If you adjust a well-reviewed story so that only registered users can vote so you stop the pointless downvoting some tend to do, the stie will treat it as new and put it on the front page. So now you’ve got a story at 95%, stuck on top of the charts, with no way really to dethrone it until a month passes by.
This spells trouble. If experience tells us anything, people will flock to your story, making new accounts or using their existing ones to downvote it, and accuse you of being attention-hungry, insecure, or shameless. Maybe you didn’t even mean to make it get onto the last 30 days chart, you were just sick of all of the downvotes people periodically give high-ranking stories (having a ‘highest rated of all time’ section on this site puts a target on high-ranking stories). It doesn’t matter now though, here come the accusations.
Here’s another fun one – even if you don’t do that, but your stories still do overall well on the site, people will accuse you of mass downvoting other stories in order to get yours to the top. I’ve seen this happen with countless creators on this site.
This includes myself. I’ve had my stories mass downvoted by a group of people sure I was mass downvoting other stories, so they wanted to get some revenge on me. Highly ironic since I didn’t mass downvote other stories but they did, but hey, I’m a fan of irony, so I’m fine with it. I’ve even had my account hacked on another site and my stories completely deleted because they believed I was being malicious with other stories. It doesn’t even matter if it’s true past a certain point – if you’re doing well for yourself and others aren’t, according to some people, you’re at fault.
Is this fair? Hell no. Is this the way things are? Sadly. The downside to the freedom of this community is that bad apples work their way into the bushels, so this is one of the hurdles we as a community have to work with when making this great site what it is. The bottom line is that people that don’t like you for seemingly random reasons exist. Trolls, haters, whatever you want to call them (though I hate using the word hater myself). Deal with it.
- Be Polite
A better general statement is just to be a good person. This includes being humble, being calm, and being polite. Politeness goes a long way, and can really make a good impression.
For example, remembering that negative comments, at the end of the day, come from people. Whenever people are leaving negative comments, it isn’t a massive conspiracy coming from bots with nothing better to do. It comes from people with their own feeling and motivations. And you’re a bit knowledgeable about that I’m sure – you write about people and what makes them horny. Why is anger any different to ascertain?
Another part of being polite is doing as much as you can to prevent that anger from occurring, without hampering your style. Don’t worry, I’m not advocating for walking on eggshells – I’m known to some as a notorious hardass who is ready to tear down a story. That’s my style, I’m hyper-critical with everyone, even myself. I rarely like what I write, and I rarely go back to the same story again after I’ve reviewed it. At the same time, I try to practice making my tone more objective than ‘mean.’ There are still ways I can improve on this, and I’m always learning.
Even if your style is blunt, working on minimizing the meanness will earn you some allies on this site, and considering the site runs on community, that is incredibly valuable. Even in your own stories – a few of my compatriots try to leave politics out of their stories entirely because they know how polarizing it can be. If I ever do include politics in my story, I’ll always want to keep the forum as open as possible and I’ll never want to slam another way of thinking as long as they’re not infringing on the rights of others.
As weird as this may sound, race is another issue. I have an Asian-American friend that writes erotica in her spare time, but she steers clear of this site because a few too many people and the way they write Asian characters makes her feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, the way they write about ‘slanted eyes’ and ‘yellow skin’ every chapter, and in some authors’ cases, every time they bring up Asian characters. I’m not gonna make a debate about stereotypes versus racism here, that’s a whole other essay entirely, but since it made my friend stop coming to the site it’s worth pointing out. And that speaks to something larger – I understand the fetishization of other races, other schools of thought, trans people, all that jazz, but as soon as you make a good majority (or even as few as multiple) of those people themselves uncomfortable to even be here, you’re doing something wrong, and you’re not considering their reactions and well-being as much as you could be.
Politeness goes a long way, it earns you connections, and going too far to reject considering other people prevents new authors from even wanting to come here. That probably also means missing out on potential readers. Sure seems like everyone on the site would benefit from all of us working to be kind, doesn’t it?
- Be Somebody
This section is aimed at myself more than anyone else. In the past I’ve taken to great lengths to make sure no one knows anything about myself, but I feel as though at this point that’s a mistake. First of all because one particular reader found me out anyway so clearly if people want to they will, but also because if one wants to be a person on this site they first need to… be a person on this site.
I’m not asking for a postal code or social security number or anything. However, after I submit this essay, I’ll be updating my personal info page to at least say one or two things about myself, then I’m going to attempt to remember the stories I loved most on this website and update my favorites section.
Including some kind of info on your page tells readers that you’re invested in this site and its community and care about it. I find the work of Tina Kerr decent, but when I go to her page and notice no info, no comments and no forum activity, I just assume she’s dumping a backlog of work onto this site and don’t even bother to send her a message. Maybe that’s on me for assuming, but I can’t be the only one making that assumption – making an impression in this way does matter.
Even just including an author’s note on your stories can go a long way. It tells your viewers something from your own voice, it maybe thanks them for reading the stories which makes a good impression, and it invites comments and conversation. Even if that conversation goes against you for writing a very opinionated essay (my personal favorite is a now-buried comment where someone called me Overbearing Pseudo-Scribe) at worst they’re a dissenting opinion you can calmly rebut, at best it’s something you can either laugh about or improve from afterwards.
- Be Involved
Genuinely, if you want to do well on this site and be remembered, the best way is to get involved in the community. Writing stories is what we do and who we are, but the connections we make here is what drives this community forward.
Those that know my stupid pen name well know I made an essay about looking at what kinds of erotic authors we are, and I invited authors to leave a comment in the comments section telling me why they wrote, and the open forum was great and in many ways educational. The commentors included these names which I highly recommend you check out, whether you like or dislike their style.
Not only was it super cool to cross-promote like that in the comments of the essay, it kind of opened up my eyes to how little forum there is to do such a thing on this website. As such, as of the time of posting this essay, I’ll be messaging the moderators of this website and asking them to make a new pinned subforum under ‘sex stories’ dedicated to writing sex stories – advice, shared experiences, thinking out loud, just getting the opportunity to talk to one another about writing.
I didn’t realize it until recently, but I have been wanting a forum like this for quite some time, so I hope that this dream becomes a reality (I hope it will, as I don’t believe I’m asking for much). If this essay is 4-5 months old at the time of reading and there’s still not a subforum up for that, be sure to message them yourselves too. 😉
Not a forum type of person? No worries. Even just voting on the occasional story is a good start to becoming more active on this site. If someone did a good job on a story, give them a positive vote (It won’t bury your stories to vote positively on others, don’t worry). That said, commenting is even better. Giving yourself a voice will help not only yourself to become a known figure on the site, but it will also help the community to grow and feel less shy about commenting on a whole. I know a few budding authors have asked for comments in the forums because ‘comments are so rare these days,’ so the solution starts with us. It means more and better feedback for everyone.
Side note: don’t forget to frame comments, even negative ones, supportively. If you’re commenting unsupportive things, maybe give that comment a skip. Our goal here is to support each other. That said, even if your comment is just “Hey, the protagonist reminds me of me in high school,” go nuts! Authors love to hear that kind of thing. They love to feel a connection with their audiences.
There, I’m done. Those are my Six Commandments. Aren’t I preachy? Well, that’s just my character. I hope you enjoyed my essay on one of the lesser-talked-about subjects of this site, and hey, if you don’t agree or if you think I missed something, let me know in those comments and set the record straight with me. Keep writing, keep reading, and keep making this community great, and thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Until next time, and until next tale.