How to write sex scenes – top 10 tips

In just a few weeks’ time my fourth erotic story will be published, so I thought now was a good time to share my top 10 tips for writing raunchy scenes. Here they are:

  1. Choose words that fit your heat rating: The language you use and detail you go into depends on the ‘heat rating’ of your story. If you’re aiming for a romance sprinkled with a few naughty scenes, then words such as ‘her centre’ or ‘his length’ might be more appropriate than words you would use in an openly erotic novel, such as ‘pussy’ or ‘cock’.
  2. Keep it aspirational: Remember that romance is fantasy not reality. Readers want beautiful sex, even if it is graphic. They don’t want to hear about wet patches or dodgy noises, so keep it rosy!
  3. Shifting perspectives is OK: Any writer will know that head-hopping in between scenes is a big no-no. I’ve found the only exception to this is sex scenes. Editors tend to be more lenient on shifting between perspectives in erotic scenes as it’s such an intense moment that readers can benefit from seeing it from both points of view.
  4. It’s all about the senses: In sex scenes more than any other, senses are really important as the characters’ sensitivities such be heightened. What does their partner smell like (pleasant, hopefully), what do they taste like, what do they feel like?
  5. It’s not a documentary! I always have a bit of a chuckle when reading sex scenes when the man goes all night like some sort of horny teenager. It’s fun to read though, and that’s the main thing. Unlike real life, when we’ve often had hard days, and have another hard day to look forward to, in literature that’s irrelevant. If your reader would like to think it could happen – make it happen. It is escapism, after all.
  6. Know what’s allowed: Publishers are generally very brave and accept – and actively seek – same gender sex scenes, orgies (not easy to write – you get confused with who’s doing what to whom) and fantasy sex scenes featuring vampires and the like.

    Study your intended publisher’s guidelines before embarking on writing a sex scene to ensure you know what’s allowed and what isn’t. Usually, for example, if it’s legal, you’re OK. Non-consensual sex is, in the romance genre, usually disallowed for good reason. My latest novella features a menage with werewolves, which are in man-form at the time – otherwise it would be bestiality, which would just be too weird.
  7. Who needs words? Actually, as a writer you do. It’s not all about the actions – what your characters say, and the noises they make, in the heat of the moment are just important a part of the sex scene as the sex itself. A sexy moan or mutter of a name (as long as it’s the right name!) can really ramp up the passion.
  8. Mix up the pace: If you’ve got a story with several sex scenes, be careful not to fall into the trap of them all being the same. This will bore your reader and have them skimming through the hotter sections, and you don’t want that. A good way of mixing things up is by changing the pace. You might have one scene where the characters can’t rip each other’s clothes off fast enough, whereas another time might be slow and sensual, and the next might be fuelled by an emotion, such as love, possession or anger, for example.
  9. Relax: For some writers, sex scenes are the easiest to write, whereas others really struggle. The more relaxed you are, the better your sex scenes will be. Write these scenes when you’re chilled out, know you won’t be interrupted, can relax that someone won’t be sneaking a peek over your shoulder and can even have a glass of wine or two.
  10. Just go for it: I know how it feels to think people are reading your sex scenes and most likely making all sorts of judgements about you. I use to care about this. Now I don’t. So what if people think you actually do that stuff you write about. Who cares? Let ’em think it. My usual response is ‘I wish my life was that crazy!’ Like I always say, no-one thinks Martina Cole goes around torturing people or JK Rowling can actually perform magic. It’s fiction. Get over it and write it all down. Writing sex scenes is brilliant fun – so what you waiting for?
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