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This blog was featured on 04/25/2019
E.L. James on Her New Original Romance + Writing Dos & Don'ts
Written by
She Writes
April 2019
Written by
She Writes
April 2019

As one of the world’s most famous and in-demand authors, E.L. James is equally famous for protecting her privacy. An interview with her is rare, and it’s an almost ironic characteristic for the author best known for the erotic Fifty Shades trilogy.

“I need to get a hobby,” she said in an interview with the Independent. “Writing used to be my hobby.”

When James first released Fifty Shades of Grey through a small Australian publisher in 2011, she hoped to sell a few thousand copies and prevent online copycats from stealing her work. Instead, her erotic trilogy went on to sell more than 150 million copies worldwide, and was translated into roughly 50 languages, including Arabic and Mongolian. The series was adapted into a feature film series that grossed more than $1 billion globally, which James co-produced.

This excerpt was originally published on the Independent. Read the full interview here.

Fast-forward nearly a decade, she has just released The Mister, her first new work of original romantic fiction since becoming an international phenomenon, and one that she hopes will launch a new phase of her career.

“It’s a passionate, erotic love story,” she said in another on-camera interview with the Today Show. “I write for women.”

The Mister is a " Cinderella story for the 21st Century," she says, and one that introduces readers to a wealthy British aristocrat, newly tasked with handling a legacy of family businesses after tragedy strikes. He unwittingly falls for his house cleaner, a beautiful, mysterious young woman with a troubled past.

"This is still steamy," she said in an interview on the Today Show, "but in a more conventional way. I fell in love with [the new characters], and I hope other people fall in love with them."

On Writing Tips

There’s little E.L. James has said by way of writing advice since she claims she never intended Fifty Shades of Grey to be a success, much less an international sensation. And while the adoring fanfare resulting from her erotic series is nearly unprecedented, it is only matched by the literary criticism she received for breaking so many writing rules.

For that reproach, James has surely laughed all the way to the bank. But for those of us anxious for just a slice of her writing success, there’s still valuable takeaways – even if some of those lessons serve as reminders of what not to do.

Avoid repetition of words and phrases. 

When Ana first meets Christian Grey, she thinks she spots a “ghost of a smile” in his expression. That’s a nice, descriptive way of putting it — it’s easy for the reader to imagine. The problem is, James uses the same exact phrasing only a few pages later, for the same character. And that’s not the last we hear the term “ghost of a smile,” either — it pops up a few more times in the first book. Using something so specific again and again just comes across as lazy.

Use adverbs sparingly. 

Anastasia Steele never met an adverb she didn’t like, especially when it’s modifying the way she or another character speaks: “I mumble almost inarticulately”; “I murmur apologetically”; “he murmurs softly.”

The tips above were originally published on Huffington Post. Read the full post here.

Bad Publicity is Still Publicity

During the height of Fifty Shades mania, you couldn't spend one day without reading someone, somewhere, panning the books and complaining about how badly they were written. They also snickered about naughty scenes and concepts, and complained about how it was taking over the internet. The end result was millions more people deciding they had to find out for themselves what all the fuss was about. The more the reviewers, professional and otherwise, panned it, the more the book sold. The takeaway here is that if you're suffering from bad publicity, ramp up the volume to encourage them to spread the word even further. Use it as a marketing tool. Readers are smart. They like to buy books and decide for themselves what's good and what's not.

Be True to Yourself

James has admitted over and over that the Fifty Shades trilogy started during, and was based on, her midlife crisis, and that it has an over-the-top sexual flavor. She's been criticized for this, but she refuses to apologize for it. In the beginning, it was shocking for people to admit that a middle-aged woman could harbor such elaborate sexual fantasies, but it's just that honesty that her readers love about her. James advises being honest with yourself, no matter what your truths are, to gain the respect of your readers.

The tips above were originally published on Infinity Publishing. Read the full post here.

Serve Your Fans

Despite the fact that critics of her work will line up around the corner to deliver their most stinging review, E.L. James didn't stop at writing under the pressure of bad feedback. She had an audience who wanted to read her work and she realized that they were the ones who mattered.

So instead of collapsing under the weight of criticism she just continued to produce and serve her audience. Not once. Not twice. But five times with the storyline that had won her readers in the first place. Proof that you don't need the world to love you to be a success. You just need to find your people and serve them again and again.

Photo Credit: ELJamesAuthor.com

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