So, as I said, I wrote this short novel/novella (henceforth referred to as "the little story" until the title is actually settled on by the publisher) and sent it in to the publishing company, and it was accepted for publication (supposed to be this July assuming all goes well). I also sent it to my cousin who is a very good guy. He also tends to speak frankly. His comments were polite, but to the point.
"You write a romantic story, but you do realize your sex scenes read like bad porn? Right?"
Unfortunately, it's true. Yeah, the little story had been accepted, but I think we can all safely assume it was in spite of not because of the sex scenes. I tend to be a technical person. I love everything to be organized and precise, so describing romance scenes is generally not my strong suit. (Trust me, I'm working on it).
Because the little story has now made it to the publisher's editor, I had someone to ask. Thank the muses, she was very helpful. Apparently, there are some great classes put on by writing associations. You take the classes and glean constructive advice. I'm enrolled in one put on by the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. It's actually called Writing Love Scenes.The first class is about levels of sexuality expressed in novels. Apparently, I write what can, in polite society, be considered mildly kinky erotica. Wow...now it has a name! Progress.
The next thing I've been doing is reading lots and lots of novels. I've learned a lot of fun things I never knew or, perhaps I should say, I never knew why... For those who don't think romance novels (especially the erotic ones) aren't of value, I have to say, I find them both amusing and educational. Then again, I was raised in the very conservative heart of the country where sex ed is considered erotica.
The other constructive thing I've learned is that you are free to have an "I don't go there list." Apparently, there's a standard one that should make sense to most people: no bestiality, no incest, no rape, no necrophilia, no pedophilia, etc. That's actually rather comforting. I have been assured that publishing companies get this stuff and have to reject it. I pity both the person who has to read the slush pile and the person who found that to be enough of a turn on to write it. But, that said, you can add to the list if something isn't what you'd find tasteful or stimulating.
My standard, for anyone who cares, is that you have to have consenting adults with the capacity to make a coherent decision.
Because my first novel is something of a coming of age story, it does involve a seventeen year old male who gets involved with a guy who is older. Initially, the publishing company was hesitant to let even that stand, but (1) I was willing to change it, and (2) I also explained that given the location the law did consider him legally old enough to consent.
Eventually, when the powers that be read the story over, they agreed to let his age stand because a large part of the story is about the emotional pitfalls of such a young man getting romantically involved with an older man. I think it's something that isn't often addressed in m/m romance nor even in society. Neither character had a malicious intent. Circumstances just arose that they found themselves in the situation.
All in all, the technical skill to write good erotica is a fascinating topic.