Thoughts on Writing, Getting Published, and City Life
Monday, January 18, 2010
Jill Myles: Sexytimes Writer
Today we welcome Jill Myles, author of the sexy paranormal GENTLEMEN PREFER SUCCUBI, out now! So buy it! I mean really, just look at this cute trailer:
Jill's talking to us today about writing those pesky sex scenes. I don't know about you, but writing them always makes me uncomfortable. Like my mom's going to pop out from behind my shoulder and scold me. ("Wendy! For shame! That's private stuff!")
Warning: The following post has words like "orgasm" and "schlong." If you are my mother, click away. Click away now.
1. We all could probably think of elements *not* to include in sex scene (weird animal or botanical metaphors, lots of bodily fluid, etc.) but what do you think makes for a good one?
Good question! I think it differs for everyone and for what type of book you are writing. If you are looking to shock or titillate your readers, you have to push the boundaries of what is 'acceptable' and 'normal' in a sex scene. On the other hand, if you're looking to create a touching moment, someone whipping out the handcuffs isn't going to do it, you know? So if you're going for a touching moment, I think lots of devoted-type actions are the best -- the hero touching her cheek, stroking her hair, kissing every inch of her body, etc. If it's angry sex, think harsh, jerky motions, the heroine slamming the hero down into the bed, things like that.
2. Confession: I've only written scenes with Uncomfortable or Intentionally Ho-Hum sex, but still, I always have trouble with pacing. How do you know when to end it?
When I think someone's going to get rug burns. Kidding! It's tricky to tell when to end it. Not to be graphic, but (well, okay, I'm going to be graphic) unless you're doing something ultra-extraordinary with the hero's schlong, I think that once you get past the initial point of penetration and the heroine's orgasm (a good hero ALWAYS lets her come first) then you might consider wrapping things up. The heroine's just going to end up with friction burns if the hero's sawing away at her lady-business for seven pages more.
3. How easy is it for you to write a steamy scene? Can you whip out some heat typing away at Starbucks? Or do you have to give it more thought?
It's easy (with an asterisk next to that). I really enjoy writing the sexual scenes because they're emotionally intense and really progresses the hero and heroine's relationship. When I'm writing a sex scene, to keep my brain 'choreographing' the thing, I tend to have to write it all in one sitting. And since most of my sex scenes end up around 3 or 4k, well, it makes a good writing night and I'm always super happy when I'm done with it because that's some rockin' word count (no pun intended).
As far as thinking ahead what they'll be doing? Not really. I just let it all play by ear.
That being said, the asterisk comes in to play because I am NEUROTIC about someone reading over my shoulder for any sort of writing -- not just sex scenes. So I write when my husband is playing video games or napping, and always, always when I can have some mental privacy. Never, never at Starbucks. If there is even a shred of a chance that someone's going to see what I'm writing? I can't continue. It's this weird phobia of mine.
4. A 4,000 word sex scene?! Holy crap! Er...um...what was I saying? Oh yes: How do you handle other people's nosy personal questions when they find out what you write?
I work for an extremely conservative company in the day job, so I have a pen name and keep things as separate as possible. My co-workers know that I write, but they don't know what name I write under. People tend to snicker or ask personal questions when they find out you write romance, so I basically don't give them the opportunity. Maybe that's a cop-out, but it's what I'm going with. I did make attempts at one point, though -- I told my boss that I wrote romance, and she immediately came back with "Wow, your husband must LOVE that. Wink wink." It was, in a word, CREEPY. So yeah, separate lives and all that.
5. How can you tell if you've given TMI? Or are being too vague?
I leave everything in the scene, even the stuff I'm handwringy or questioning. Did I go too far? Is someone going to get offended? Did this just go over the line to non-sexy? But I trust what pops into my head and I leave it there. Usually when I'm mid-scene, I'm too close to it, and I find that if I continually edit when I'm in the scene, I tend to take the edge off of things. So I leave it and re-read it when I do my read-through after I've finished the first draft. 9 times out of 10, I can't even tell which part made me uncomfortable/awkward (which means that my instincts were good). And if something still sticks out or makes me go 'Yuck' during the re-read, it has to go.
6. How does language come into play?
When I first started writing love scenes, I had a difficult time even getting myself to use the word 'nipples'. I find it to be an awkward, strange word. No clue why. But there are only so many 'peaks' and 'tips of her breasts' that you can use, and at some point, you just have to suck it up and go nipple. And you know what? Now I nipple all the time! Nipples everywhere! But the same can be said for sex scenes overall. You feel really awkward and weird writing the first steamy scene so you try and neuter it (the scene)...but at some point, you're going to have to go nipple. And once you do, it's hard to go back to glossing over things.
That being said, I avoid certain words just because I find them kind of icky. Words like 'spurting' and 'dripping' and 'sloppy'. Not sexy. I think everyone has certain words that set their teeth on edge. Anything that makes me think of geysers of bodily fluids? Probably not going into my book. YMMV of course. Some people dig that.
Thanks, Jill! That was enlightening.
And remember, Jill is hosting a contest! Her agent, Holly Root, is offering a query critique for one lucky winner drawn at random. Leave a comment here and you'll earn one entry for the drawing. Commenting at each of the other blogs on Jill's tour will earn you additional entries.
Jill will pick the winner on January 27.
Next stop on the tour is tomorrow: Ilene Wong. More sexy stuff! And here is a list of all the stops.