(the following is part of an ongoing series of columns I did for The Erotica Readers & Writers Association on the ins and outs and ins and outs and ins and outs of writing good smut)
A fellow pornographer startled me the other day when she said that she wanted to be "the best erotica writer." I couldn't help but applaud and also be a bit disappointed. I mean, why stop there?
I mean erotica is fine and good and to reuse one of my favorite lines "it's been very, very good to me," but it isn't the only thing out there. Why stop with writing just smut?
Aside from the expansion of your potential sales arena, there are lots of other great reasons to try your hand at other genres. Erotica isn't just about sex, it's merged and melded with all kinds of other genres - mainstream, science fiction, horror, fantasy, and all the rest of them - or, it could be argued, erotica is nothing but those genres with the sex put back in. In any case, increasing your hand in other genres can't do anything but add something extra to your smut.
But we're still talking about smut. Okay, wanting to be great in anything is a noble effort but it's still trying to be big in a relatively small pond. Writing other things is it's own reward.
I know that's a scary thought, especially if you're either beginning to get comfortable with being an erotica writer or even building up some respectable credits. It's definitely not easy to jump into a whole new genre and basically start from scratch.
But you know what? Writing is hard. When it stops being hard maybe it's time to give up and do something else. No, I'm not saying that it never gets easier, just that writing is a process, and as with all good processes there's a good deal of stretching and straining that goes into it. Staying with just one kind of writing, or genre, is fine and fun but playing it safe and easy can make a writer lazy, and worst of all - dull.
Besides, you don't know what you might be great at. Sure you may be a fine and dandy erotica writer but you could be a real kick-ass non-fiction, horror, romance, mystery, thriller and so forth writer. You won't know until you try.
Certainly there's a chance of failure, of being rejected, but at least you would have done what few people have done: tried to stretch your ability, or writer's voice. Here's something else to think of: in all the world you're doing very few people would even dream of do, let alone have the courage to do - be a writer. That's the hard part. Trying to write something else, that's easy by comparison.