I edit a lot of sex scenes. What can I say? A lot of people I work with write romance and/or erotica. While I also get my share of fantasy, sci fi, thrillers, and so on, even they can have a sex scene or two thrown in. And when I say thrown in, I mean they are built into the story so they make sense with the characters, not just thrown in like an HBO series does as the backdrop for a scene about something else entirely because they can.
I read one of the best posts about writing sex scenes, and I highly recommend every writer contemplating adding one read it, too. Chuck Wendig, of Terrible Minds, devoted one of his 25 Things lists to sex scenes. Read it here. Then read it again. Maybe print it out and hang it near your desk. Yes, I admit to being a Wendig fan girl, but once you read his blog, you’ll see why.
Adding sex to your story should enhance it, not make it screech to a stop, have a sex break, then start back up again. If 90% of your story is sex, not only does it have to make sense to the story and BE a part of the story, you have to mix it up. We’re talking about more than flowery prose or a list of body parts. Each scene has its own arc. Each scene is a scene. Oh, just go read Chuck’s post. He’s already said it better, funnier, and with more detail.
Every writer needs to learn to self-edit. This doesn’t mean you don’t need an editor, but it will help you get more for your editing dollar because your editor can focus on the big issues instead of the small ones.
What do you look for?
Make sure you have your quotation marks in the right places. Don’t forget them at the end of the dialogue. Make sure they are all the same. If you use straight quotes, make them all straight. If you use curly quotes, make them all curly. Whatever you use, be consistent.
While we’re talking about dialogue, watch your punctuation.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said.
is different than
“I don’t know what to do.” She frowned.
Can you tell the difference? The attribution in the first sentence tells the reader the character said that line. In the second, it isn’t an attribution, it’s an action. Because of that, you need a period at the end of the dialogue and you need to capitalize ‘she.’
How many ands do you have in one sentence? It can be very tempting to fit everything into one sentence, but you need to learn to read it objectively and know when to break it up. Reading loooong sentences can feel like you’re running out of breath when you read… keep those sentences varied in length and tight.
Speaking of tight… some words don’t need to be there. The two biggest culprits are very and that. Very is easy… you don’t need to use it… ever… unless it is in dialogue and your character would use that word. That can be a bit trickier. It can be insidious. It pops up all over the place, rather like dandelions in a lawn. There are a few times when it truly is warranted, but not as often as it would make you believe.
There are more things you need to learn when it comes to self-editing, of course, but this will get you started. We’ll probably add more on another post.