Sunday, October 19, 2008

Man Oh Man! Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks & Cash by Josh Lanyon

Review by Vincent Diamond

Kinks and cash? Who wouldn't be tempted with a juicy title like that? With this intriguing title nibble, author Josh Lanyon, entices readers to dig further into this smorgasboard of writing about male/male fiction, erotica, and romance. A multi-published author himself, Lanyon has the publishing experience and awards to author a how-to guide on appealing to the male/male market.

Lanyon makes the distinction early on that male/male stories are different than gay fiction. "In M/M fiction, the romance is the foundation." He emphasizes that even a genre story such as mystery, thriller or paranormal, must have the appropriate genre elements plus the romantic elements that focus on a male/male relationship (which may or may not include traditional romance elements such as Happily Ever After). In traditional gay fiction, the emotional elements of relationships are often glossed over and are not the focus of the story.

The reason for this romantic emphasis is the nature of the male/male market: women. Yes, gay male readers are beginning to discover—and enjoy-- these stories, but the vast majority of publishers in this genre readily admit that most of their customers are women. Women enjoy stories without the "baggage" of main female characters; they want exciting stories with adventurous action; and they want hot sex scenes with two men. Sex scenes that don't include women.

Lanyon traces the history of male/male fiction to its roots in fanfiction (stories written in an already created universe such as Star Trek and The Sentinel). Written almost entirely by and for women, a substantial number of male/male authors have made the transition from fanfiction to professional publishing. And they've taken with them the recipes for cooking up a best-selling story: characters that readers care about, dramatic scenes with clear settings, and sex scenes that both serve the story and arouse the reader.

Lanyon quotes a number of publishing professionals throughout the book, letting their comments add distinctive flavor to the points he's making. (And a few appear to mis-step; one editor for a New York print publishing house makes statements that show a clear lack of understanding of the totality of the male/male market, dismissing women as readers entirely). The e-publishers readily embraced male/male fiction, and editors from Amber Quill, Aspen Mountain Press, Loose Id, Samhain Publishing, Torquere Press, and others discuss what storylines work, what submissions catch their eye, and how quickly the market changes. MLR (Man Love Romance) Press founder Laura Baumbach has terrific insights into the ever-evolving market for readers and authors.

With chapters on topics such as characterization, pacing, dialogue, and setting, a reader skimming the Table of Contents might mistake this for the same-old, how-to-write-good tomes of the past. But Lanyon's nitty-gritty details on these topics, and their application to male/male writing is the real meat of the book. By using examples from his own writing and others, Lanyon is able to point out exactly why or why not writing works. (Clunky blocking, un-necessary adjectives, boring physical beats). Even better, Lanyon edits on the page several writing samples to show readers how to maintain POV, how to block action scenes, how to cut bland words, and how to incorporate the crucial elements of male/male fiction.

He generously provides some real-world samples of an outline, synopsis, and query letter for his book The Hell You Say. Seeing the actual words on the page along with Lanyon's advice on pinning down a storyline is invaluble. For readers who are new to publishing, the resources section include listings of contests and publishers that are open to male/male fiction. Chapters are laid out in a logical order, and the overall design is easy to follow. Major points are often in a call-out text box or bolded for emphasis.

Even if you don't write male/male fiction, anyone writing erotica, GLBT fiction, romance or other genres will get a satisfying meal out of this. More than a how-to genre book, Lanyon's advice on writing is universal—and tasty.

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