Romance Novelist Whinge: Problematic Sex Scene Requires Fourth Re-Write

This is another of those posts where I am tempted to just leave it at the title.

In the never-ending novel revision project (never-ending because I am writing it 100 words at a session, and I have like…17,000 words to go), I am up to the first sex scene. And I’m writing it for the fourth time. Which, I dunno, maybe sounds like a lot of fun? It’s not. At all.

See, the first sex scene is basically the inciting incident for the whole rest of the book, so it happens REALLY early on. Like first chapter early. And it isn’t necessarily meant to be a sexy, hot sex scene. But I don’t want it to not be at all sexy, either, because it’s in the part of the book that would be in a sample download, and something that’s too either analytic or bad (in the sense of bad sex, not a bad sex scene, which are not the same thing!) might turn off (heh) readers who are trying out my work for the first time. So, since plot-wise what matters is that the hero and heroine have sex by mistake (it’s complicated), not what kind of sex they have, I would prefer it to be at least moderately good sex and a moderately good sex scene.

Hence writing it four (or more – God forbid) times.

The first time it was waaaaaaaay too long and involved and tender. The second run swung too far in the other direction, and it was just too abrupt and selfish (on the hero’s part) and not fun to read (there was spit involved. It’s funny in a Joe Abercrombie book…not so much a full-on romance). The third time did a better job with pacing and mood, but was still a bit too ornate and also hinged on a revelation I decided the heroine does not make. Or, rather, one she makes but the hero misunderstands – it’s just one more part in their ongoing conversation where one says a thing and the other hears something different.

I’ve got the fourth version started; it’s written up to the end of the heroine’s POV section, and I will be able to use the intercourse section of the third version (also heroine), so I just need the hero’s perspective for the bit in between. I haven’t had a good block of time to sit down and write it, and I will say from experience here, that sex scenes really do read best when they are written pretty much in one go and gotten on the first take. Like, I can’t write this section in 100-word increments and expect to get a workable scene.

Coitus Imaginus Interruptus is the fucking worst.



Filed under Confessions, Reflections on Romance, Writing

4 responses to “Romance Novelist Whinge: Problematic Sex Scene Requires Fourth Re-Write

  1. Only on a writing blog could we have these conversations – and you have my sympathy!

    But you have to write them to get the ideas out there, so you can pick and choose between what worked and what didn’t, so you’re farther along precisely because you wrote these.

    It wasn’t going to come out on the first try anyway – just keep plugging away until it has the right feel? flavor? sound?

    You’ll get there.

    Most people can’t do this at all; you’re way ahead of the pack.

    • This was absolutely a case of having to write it the wrong way, a couple times, to figure out the right way. I don’t normally work that way – most of the time i get it mostly right in one go – so i think my steuggle here really speaks to the trickiness of this scene.

      • Or perhaps my lingering inhibitions regarding writing out sex scenes i expect others will read :/

      • When I find a new tricky kind of scene, I usually end up writing a blog post about what the problem was, and how the solution worked out (in case I need it again).

        These posts are written because I couldn’t find where a book or anything online had the exact solution I needed, or I couldn’t find one fast.

        I like solving writing problems – it’s an intellectual challenge. It feels good when you get the right answer (as opposed to just quitting at ‘good enough’).

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