Writing Sex: I like it if you like it

croppedQuillNow and then I teach an erotica writing class at a sex toy store. I love that gig—they hand me a nice check, and I turn around and spend it all before I leave.

Something else I like about that gig is that I get to hear so much amazing erotic writing. And yet, nine tenths of the people who show up have never written anything before, let alone something sexy.

Part of what makes it work is my workshop structure—the way I set it up, it’s impossible to screw up. Everybody can dare to write badly, and dare to be bad. But I think the real secret is that once they’re loosened up a little, everyone writes from the heart. Even the noobs who have never written anything write about what turns them on

And that turns the reader on.

Okay, yes, we all have different tastes. I enjoy bondage stories but not the whole “lifestyle” thing, and a little spanking goes a long way for me—sorry, Anne Roquelaire. You may have little or no interest in magical sex in demonspace, sex with trees, sex with swans, sex on rooftops, mango sex, or any of the other crazy shit I’ve written.

But if someone is writing from the heart about what turns them on, it just can’t suck. I’ve been amazed over and over by the very stimulating fun that my beginner erotica writers come up with.

Maybe it’s the “virgin” thing. You always remember your first time because it is your first time. Your first rBoobsketch9-lowreside on a horse, your first karaoke attempt, your first driving lesson. They say your first sniff of cocaine is the best, and after that it’s all downhill; I wouldn’t know, but I believe it. Someone who has never written a sexy word before is bound to be keyed up, sweaty, a little anxious, not sure what happens next.

That makes for excellent sexual tension.

And when they can get that first-timer’s tension out onto the page—magic happens.

If you’re writing sexy stuff aready and want to recapture the thrill of that first time, consider stepping outside your comfort zone.

The safe word here is fiction. You are not really having sex under a restaurant tablecloth, with your brother-in-law, in a mosh pit with strangers, while dropping acid, or with a shapeshifting dragon lord. The more outlandish or forbidden the idea, the more nervous you’ll be about it.

Stimulate your brain, and the sex you write can’t fail.

And if you’re reading erotica and getting a little bored, well, there’s a world of “wait, they what?” out there.

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Writing Sex: I like it if you like it — 6 Comments

  1. I must be the exception to the rule, because I find writing sex to be very unpleasant. I can do it–through sheer bloody-mindedness–but it’s NOT fun for me. It’s an embarrassing chore, and while most of my friends can dash off sex scenes in five minutes, I sweat blood over the miserable things for five weeks.

    I wouldn’t mind so much, but sex scenes seem to be the only thing that people care about reading (or watching) these days. It’s enormously frustrating.

    • Not all stories need sex scenes. You should limit the ones you do to ones that are absolutely necessary to the story you want to tell and skip doing others. Don’t worry about the current popular wisdom. Take Ray Bradbury’s advice: tell the story that only you can tell.

  2. 😀 I think I went through that exact process that you suggested. The first sex scene I wrote was shaky and awkward, but it was supposed to be shaky and awkward for the characters, and then it got easier, and then it got filthier, and filthier, until I kind of felt like I had burned myself out. Then of course, there was one more even stranger place that I could go. So I went there. And now I have no interest in writing sex anymore, because pretty much, if it’s a kink, I’ve written it.

    (Actually, thanks, Citrus_Taste because once you’ve hit all those squares, it’s a bit hard to get worried about writing sex)

  3. Sex is one of life’s pleasures, and most teens and adults are interested in it — if not doing it, then understanding it and the power it has in their lives. While not every story requires a graphic depiction, every human character experiences his or her own sexuality, and that is indeed part of the story.

  4. It is important to Be the Author on this, and keep that element in balance with all the others. There are books, yes, that can be heavy on sex, just as there are books heavy on military porn (descriptions of weapons, combats, etc.) or academic politics, or whatever. But it has to be right, the correct dose, no more.

  5. Thanks for this excellent post. I’m also one of those people who struggle when writing sex scenes. I’m a little better than before but you’ve given so much good advice here, I think I could take a run at something more than a fade to black. Bookmarking this entry.