I was chatting to a fellow writer on Facebook recently who asked my advice on her work. She’s writing a few different things on the way to her first published novel but one project is a type of romance novel and essentially, she wanted my view on how spicy she should make it.
She said: “I’m not sure how far to go with it because I could get a little graphic in that one if I wanted to. I just don’t know if I should keep it PG or not?”
Well my view is basically this – nobody can tell you as a writer what you are comfortable with when it comes to sexual content – it really is up to you.
But one or two things did come to mind:
1. Sex scenes are tough to write well
Just technically they can be difficult, even for seasoned authors, and it can be embarrassing if you (ahem) screw them up. In the UK we even have a joke award for bad writing about sex, and some big writers win it. Morrissey won this coveted gong last year for the ‘bulbous salutation’ in his much derided first novel.
2. Don’t forget you aim to see the book published
So people you know will read it and you might have to read bits out loud to rooms full of strangers. Other people will also have opinions on what you write so, if you produce something even vaguely controversial, you have to be ready for their response.
For example, an older writer of Miss Marple style stuff tutted and huffed her way through a review in a local rag of my second book The Pick-Up Artist which she clearly felt was very rude! (Even though it really isn’t all that rude at all).
You can’t please all of the people all of the time and you will have to work out how much you care about who you offend.
3. Having said all that, only good writing matters in the end
So if you feel sex scenes or other forms of, ‘adult content‘, are right for your book, then of course you should be as filthy as you feel able.
Personally I can say that neither of my first two published novels includes a full on sex scene. PUA, which is a romcom, comes close, but, pulls out at the last-minute (can’t seem to write on this subject without sounding like a Carry On movie).
I remember my editor from Magic Oxygen publishing who brought out The Pick-Up Artist actually urged me to put more sex in it. And I took her advice up to a point, but only in as far as I felt it worked for the book.
There are certainly a few bits in PUA I would be embarrassed to read to a church social club – but I can always choose a more sedate passage.
And, in the end, it’s often the story and the characters who dictate the tone you write in once you get going, you find you have to be true to the story you are telling.
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