Stephen King tells us writing is seduction in his craft book, On Writing. However, this doesn’t have to be sexual. A good book can seduce you away from your real life and responsibilities (what laundry?) and sweep you into a new world you don’t want to leave.
What was the last page turner you read that had you thinking, “okay, just one more chapter” until you had accidentally sat on the couch for 6 hours and the book was done? That, my friends, proves writing is seduction. The last book that did this to me was this one.
I’m a contemporary romance author and Sweet Redemption was rejected by one publishing house for being “too spicy.” As such, I thought I’d use this writing prompt from Mr. King to share some of my best tips for writing erotic love scenes that burn up the pages (because seduction can be about sex).
Writing is seduction: tips to write sexy love scenes
Use all five senses. Sex is a total body experience and the mind plays a big role, especially for women. Unless your love scene is taking place at a garbage dump, use all five senses to immerse the reader in the scene. The worst kind of love scene is robotic and has the hero doing one thing that results in the heroine immediately doing something else. If your sex scenes are boring descriptions versus cinematic experiences that allow the reader to imagine s/he is there, then you need to do some serious editing.
Know your heat level. If you’re trying to publish traditionally and have some commercial success, it’s critical that you know who you’re writing for. Romance novels range from the sweet (holding hands with no sex on the page or even hinted at) to the erotic (there are also dark romances that push boundaries and break taboos) so submit to the appropriate house and target the right readers. Some women don’t want the word “c*ck” in their romance books and others will be sorely disappointed if it’s not there. I’m not saying one approach is better, but just own whatever you choose.
Research the genre. If you’re submitting to literary agents, you’ll be asked to provide comparable titles. If you don’t read, then you won’t be able to do this and you’ll look uninformed and unprofessional. It is also helpful to learn how to write sex scenes from a craft perspective before diving in (pun intended). There is more to weaving a story than just putting words on a page, so don’t make yourself look like an amateur or hobbyist. Here are some great options:
- Romancing the beat
- How to plot romance fiction
- Be a sex writing strumpet
- On writing romance: how to craft a novel that sells
- How I write sex scenes
- Write naked
- Writing love: screenwriting tricks for authors
- How to write hot sex
Don’t be repetitive. I’m not saying to use purple prose because no one wants to read about a “throbbing rod,” but be mindful about overusing the same words. One of my beta readers wrote, “I think you said ‘Trevor’s c*ck’ at least 200 times in that chapter.” She was clearly exaggerating, but her point was made and I rewrote the scene. If you’re stuck on word choice, use a sexy thesaurus or the sensual writer’s sourcebook (yes, I’m serious).
Respect diversity. If you’re a white author, you don’t need to try and portray people of colour in your books (and, arguably, you shouldn’t). However, if you do, ensure you get a sensitivity read and be mindful of using stereotypes. In addition to #MeToo, the #OwnVoices movement is making an impact in the literary world. Don’t use people of colour as plot devices or write offensive sex scenes (or any offensive scene).
Are there sex scenes in your books? If so, what are your best tips? If not, do you read romance? What heat level do you prefer?
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