The rise of erotic romance has pushed the boundaries of what’s acceptable in traditional romance novels. Pick up any novel in your local bookstore and chances are you’re going to find a scene steamy enough to be considered erotic rather than a mainstream “they kissed and made love” kind of scene.
In fact, as a reviewer it’s been one of my biggest complaints about the industry. Books with graphic sex should be labeled somehow so you know what you’re getting. I’ve read way too many ‘contemporary romance’ books, which should have been classified as erotica.
At any rate, as the book publishing industry works its way through this trend you might be wondering if you too have to write extremely explicit scenes to get published and if so, how.
To answer the first question, no you don’t have to write explicit sex scenes to get published. While erotica is a fine trend, which I do enjoy reading and writing from time to time, it’s not required by the industry as a whole. That being said, there does have to be some sort of physical interaction between your characters.
Note that if you’re writing Christian romance, your physical interaction is going to be limited. I strongly recommend reading several Christian romance novels to explore the boundaries.
But what about writing those sex scenes? Here are some tips to get you through it, and heck to even enjoy it!
#1 Gradually, introduce sex into the relationship. The caveat here is if you’re writing erotic romance. Sometimes these folks just jump into bed without knowing each other’s names. For the sake of this article, we’ll assume you’re not writing erotica.
Romance author, Linda Howard offers the following:
12 Stages of Intimacy:
- Eye to body. The old once-over, except it happens in a fraction of an instant. Only a few significant details are absorbed. Attraction occurs or it doesn’t.
- Eye to eye. Eye contact is sustained only between intimates. If a stranger stares, it’s considered rude or an act of aggression.
- Voice to voice. Ranges from small talk to intimate.
- Hand to hand. This requires some trust. Hand to arm counts here, too (man’s excuse to get his hands on her, by guiding her).
- Arm to shoulder. May be a hug.
- Arm to waist. Can be sexual, especially if “waist” is considered the small of the back. Men won’t do this to other men.
- Mouth to mouth. Full frontal contact during a kiss.
- Hand to head. Requires trust.
- Hand to body. Any body part –- breast, shoulder, chest…
- Mouth to breast.
- Hand to genitals.
- Genitals to genitals.
It should be noted that these stages can happen as quickly or as slowly as the story allows but they should happen in order.
#2 Know your anatomy. It may sound odd but many sex scenes, once they’re written, just don’t make sense. People are doing things that aren’t physically possible and they end up just making your reader laugh, not get hot under the collar.
Do a bit of research. Buy a book on sex, or heck buy two with pictures! Make sure the positions your characters are putting themselves into are actually physically possible.
#3 Set the mood. Writing sex can be an uncomfortable experience. We feel awkward and don’t know if we’re being too saucy or too restrained. The result is a scene that reads more like a how to manual than an intimate and enjoyable scene.
Setting the mood can help. I read an article once by a romance author, I wish I could remember who, who sets the mood by drinking cheap champagne and eating peanut M&Ms. Sounded like a good plan to me so that’s what I do when it’s time to write my sex scenes.
Of course, you don’t have to get tipsy and high on sugar to write yours, a little saucy music, a negligee or even watching a dirty movie can do the trick for you. Whatever works!
Writing sex scenes is just like writing any other scene in your book. Make sure your characters remain consistent and that their motivations and conflicts continue throughout. If the physical moment is a growth moment for the characters, make sure to flesh that out. Remember that old adage of show don’t tell and don’t be afraid to make the moment human with dialogue, humor and awkward moments.