Writing S-e-x

Posted Oct 6 2018

One bit of feedback I’ve consistently gotten from contests, critique partners, and beta readers is that I’m pretty good at writing “love” (i.e., sex) scenes. Not exactly what I most want to be known for (since I don’t write erotica), but you go with what you have. And apparently what I have are good, sometimes great sex scenes.

Which may turn out to be a good thing. The full manuscript I revised a while back for one of the “home and family” lines at a major publishing house has been passed to an editor who asked to see it for one of their “spicier” lines. Partly in response to that development, and partly because the story demanded it, I changed a “kiss” scene in the book I just fiished into a full-blown sex scene (which meant moving it off a public beach to some place more private). And now I’m starting my newest story with a sex scene in the first chapter. Two actually. And it’s not erotica.

While I’ve clearly gotten over any hesitation about writing sex scenes, I still haven’t gotten used to the idea that someone who knows me (besides my critique partners) might actually READ one I wrote. Colleagues–ish! Students–*shudder*. Family–ugh! It’s almost enough to make me seriously consider a pen name. In a foreign language. Or maybe just a number. “Another sexy romp from 367.”

But why? How are sex scenes any worse, any more personal than anything else I write? I’m a very private person, but I’ve chosen to write romantic fiction for publication. Putting emotions on the page is part of the job. Isn’t sex, the kind of sex I write, part of my characters’ emotional journey? And if it is, and I think that journey is worth sharing with others, then my sex scenes have to be out there, too.

Which isn’t to say that everyone has to write sex scenes in their books, or even that I always have to. The point is that writers have to be true to their stories, whatever their story may be, and park their fears and foible at the door before they enter the always challenging world of writing romantic fiction.

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