It's the most wonderful (read: anguished) time of the year for writers: NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. For the non-initiated, NaNoWriMo is a 30-day challenge that encourages writers to complete a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. It's harder than it sounds. Luckily, Bustle will be providing NaNoWriMo tips and tricks all month long, and today, I have some knowledge for the romance writers among you. Five romance novelists sound off on a tricky writing question: how do you write sex scenes?
New York Times bestsellers Christina Lauren, Laura Griffin, Jennifer Probst, JT Ellison, and Alice Clayton know a thing or two about writing steamy sex scenes that feel true to their characters and their novels. You'll quickly see one through-line in their advice: don't write a sex scene just to have a sex scene. Make it count, and make sure it moves forward the relationship of your main characters.
Read below for their #1 piece of advice for writing a sex scene. If you're looking for more stories on romance novels, urban fantasy, and women's fiction, visit XOXO After Dark.
Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates and brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, the New York Times, USA Today, and #1 international bestselling authors of the Beautiful Bastard and Wild Seasons series, Sublime, and The House.
"Do we have to pick one? How about top three?
Make it useful. Sex should always move the story forward somehow. Emotionally, plot arc, character development. If you can skip the scene and not miss any of the plot or story unfolding, you don’t need it.
Dirty talk isn’t for everyone. Not every character needs to talk dirty. Some do, of course, but remember: be true to your characters. It can be jarring to have a character do a complete 180 without reason in the bedroom.
Count how many hands you’ve got. Get your mechanics squared. Is what they’re doing physically possible? Keep track of the number of hands, where all the clothes are, and who’s on first if you catch our drift."
New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin is the author of the Tracers series, the Alpha Crew series, the Moreno & Hart series and several other novels.
"Remember, it’s not just choreography. A powerful love scene shows an emotional turning point, which will propel the characters to a new phase of the story."
Jennifer Probst’s novels, novellas, and ebooks range from sexy contemporary romance to erotica. She is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author.
"Do not think about your mom.
Yes, I know, Mom’s advice is usually good. And true. And important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been proven wrong by this woman multiple times. But if I was ever going to be a romance writer, I needed to make sure Mom did not get in my head, along with my other relatives, friends, and my DAD (oh, Lord) and screw up my love scenes. You must be brave to write a kick-ass, hot sex scene. You need to get naked yourself and be vulnerable. Your writing is not a place to hear all those voices whispering that hero is talking too dirty, and the heroine likes it too much, and when are they going to shower because things are a bit of a mess?
Ignore all the judgments, and go for it. Enjoy writing a sex scene. Experiment. And for goodness sakes, do not tell your mother what you wrote afterward!"
New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter.
"Sex absolutely must further the story, so it can’t just be for convenience or because it’s been 100 pages since the characters have gone to bed. And it’s always good to explore the unexpected. My very first sex scene was vertical! Also, keep it simple. Inventive descriptors for body parts take away from the story instead of enhance it."
Alice Clayton worked in the cosmetics industry for over a decade before picking up a pen (read: laptop). She enjoys gardening but not weeding, baking but not cleaning up, and finally convinced her long-time boyfriend to marry her.
"You gotta go beyond Tab A in Slot B. Anyone can do that. A great sex scene involves all the senses, Touch-Taste-Feel-Sound-Hear. And the 6th Sense, which for me is Random. I love the Random tidbits that pop up (pardon the pun) in a great sex scene. Maybe it's the picture on the wall just over his shoulder, or the garbage truck that's backing up outside the window, these are the details that make it real to me."
Images: Greg Rakozy/Unsplash; Simon & Schuster