The Naked Truth About Writing Sex

How do you like your sex?

Oops, I mean when you read a book, of course…since this is a G-rated blog about lesbian novels.

For those of you who’ve read any of my dozen romance novels with Bella Books, you know I write quite a bit of sex. And no, it’s not easy. And yes, it takes way longer to write a sex scene than to actually perform the act in real life, in case you’re dying to know!

Most lesfic romance novels today contain sex. Other genres, like mystery novels and thrillers, also quite often contain some element of sex, even if the sex is only implied or hinted at … the old fade to black routine. But if you’re like me (come on, hands up here!), you want to read the big payoff sex scene between the two main characters you’ve come to care about. Because romance novels without sex is like cake without icing, or cookies without the chocolate chips. I feel cheated if I read a romance novel and there’s no sex … like I’ve been left at the door after the fourth date with only a peck on the cheek (pull-leaze!).

Sex in a romance novel doesn’t just happen organically, even if it reads that way (and hopefully it does). It’s a lot of hard work, this sex thing. Writing it, I mean, ha! Sometimes you have to write a sex scene because you’re at the part of your manuscript where it’s time and the characters are demanding it, and it’s the last thing you feel like writing because you have a nasty head cold and your hair is sticking up in a million directions and it’s noon and you’re still not out of your bathrobe. But you persevere in your very un-sexy state because you have a job to do. And a job you love to do.

 

Even if you’re in the mood to write a hot sex scene, there’s about a thousand things to consider. Are your characters ready? Has the romantic tension been ramped up enough? Is the chemistry between them about to explode? Are they falling in love yet? How, where and when will the sex happen? In the back seat of a car? In the middle of the afternoon? Up against the kitchen counter after a glass of wine? In the bedroom after a seductive striptease? Is it sweet, emotion-filled sex or hot, heavy, crazy sex? And how will your characters feel and act afterwards? And once you’ve written that big payoff sex scene, what are you going to do next with your characters to keep that romantic plot going? Will they break up and have makeup sex? Or will they keep being in love and having great sex while they plan out their lives together?

Even before your two lovebirds have sex, as a writer, you must answer other questions too. Will your characters have sex with others before they get together? And what’s their sexual history? Are they virgins? Experienced? Previously married? Previously straight identified? Bisexual? Unsure? Sex-phobic? Uninhibited?

When you do write your characters having sex, how graphic will you make it? Will it go on and on for pages and pages? Or will you keep it short and sweet? There are as many ways to write sex as there are ways to have sex, so I won’t go into all the options. But a couple of nuggets of advice for aspiring writers:

  • Before your main characters have sex, make sure they are fully formed and that you’ve successfully demonstrated chemistry (if not love) between them. Otherwise, the sex comes across as frivolous or as window dressing. If you choose to have your main characters indulge in sex very early on in the book (sometimes even in the first chapter!), you’ll need to work backwards from that point and build chemistry and love before they have the big “payoff sex” later on.
  • When you do write the big sex scene, do not fall into the trap of writing it too mechanically. You know, the old, “and then the third and forth fingers of the left hand did such and such while the thumb of the right hand did this other cool thing”… Yeah, not very exciting when it reads like a how-to manual. Don’t detail your scene to death. The best sex scenes work because we care about the characters and we’re in their skin — feeling, seeing, smelling, sensing, touching — the things that they are. Let your sex scenes heighten the reader’s emotions and deepen the feelings of love between your characters.
  • If you’re writing sex as a sidebar for a book that is not a romance novel … let’s say you decide that your detective in your mystery novel should have sex, ask yourself if it’s necessary. Does it advance the story? Does the act reveal important things about your character? If the answer to both those questions is no and the sex is simply gratuitous, it probably doesn’t belong in your book.

I’ve worked up a sweat just thinking about all the ways to write sex … perhaps I need a cigarette now! Just kidding, I’m not a smoker, but I hope I’ve demonstrated that while a good sex scene in a novel seems to flow effortlessly, it’s one heck of a lot of work! Now go forth and read (or write) lots of hot sex!

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