08 July 2011

Quantifying the Smut

I am writing a romance novel. It is, more specifically, a single-title, contemporary romance, with a hint of women's fiction. And series/spin-off potential. Confused? If you aren't an editor or agent, you should be. I could ramble on about the latest ways to distinguish between "romance" and "women's fiction," or how my novel incorporates elements of both genres, because of its unique voice. At conferences, there is always a lot of interest in the "unique voice." But instead, I'm going to answer the more important question: is the sex hot?

One of my most enjoyable evenings at the Romance Writers of America conference was spent at The Perfect Pint with Kimberly Savage, Ellen Price, and Serena Bell. It's an Irish pub located near Times Square, with yummy food, good prices, and, according to Serena, delicious wheat beer. Over dinner, we discussed how the editor and agent appointments had gone for Ellen and Serena, which led to more in-depth discussion of the details in our stories. We all write romance, so naturally, the conversation turned to sex. Well, sex scenes in novels, anyway.

Ellen declared that sex scenes are Serena's superpower. I think I might choose something less time-intensive, like laser-beam shooting eyes, or super-strength. But Serena's power should not be underestimated. Imagine how the bad guys might be distracted by the sudden appearance of a smoking hot sex scene. Maybe she could magically implant the audio version in their brain, and as a velvety-voiced narrator read it aloud, the other superheroes could swoop in and snare the  paralyzed perverts. Not that reading, or writing, sex scenes is perverted. Mostly, it's just hard. I mean difficult.

Ellen writes cozy romance, which apparently does not contain sex scenes. It might be intimated, but it isn't described. Ellen uttered the funniest line of the night, when she said she thinks "hot sex is icky. I mean, I like it in real life, just not in my books. I mean, the books I write!"  Well, of course everyone likes hot sex in real life!

After the laughter subsided, we agreed that sometimes it is tricky to write sex, knowing your mother will read it. Or, worse, your mother-in-law. Kimberly said she would have to give her mother a copy with all the steamy parts redacted, hidden behind bold slashes of Sharpie. Serena asked me where my sex scenes ranked on the hotness scale. I didn't know there are actual written parameters! If I recall correctly, the categories range from "cool" to "scorching," with "warm" and "hot" in between. "Scorching" would be considered erotica, so I labelled my scenes "hot." We'll see if my future readers agree. I wouldn't mind sharing Serena's superpower.

We finished the meal with chocolaty desserts. We chose that over  post-coitus-discussion cigarettes, because New York has banned smoking in restaurants. As we left the pub, I heard the song playing on the radio. Four fearless romance writers strode out into the night to "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw?"  I laughed, because that works as a plot point, too. As long as it's hot.

6 comments:

  1. Oh I love it when writerly types chat about The Sexy Sex! Not as much as having it in real life. But ya know, who doesn't?
    Julie

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  2. lol - that works as a plot point, too
    I never thought of it that way but it's so true.

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  3. I'm with Ellen--I canNOT break through the embarrassment of writing something my mother is going to want to read and recommend to her friends. And, yes, I realize she knows about sex..I mean, I was born and all...I'm just not that brave.

    Your conference pals sound hilarious, btw. Thank you for sharing!

    PS Five can't blame you for the dentist's ill-flavored goo. You didn't invent it and you don't get an residual earnings from its use.

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  4. Heh. One thing I don't have to deal with. Which doesn't mean I won't some day, just that I don't have to if I don't want to. :) Still, I would like to have been there for that conversation.

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  5. Officially: Kisses. Subtle. Warm. Hot. Burning. According to www.likesbooks.com (All About Romance). I've been hovering on the border between warm and hot but am seriously thinking about heading for the high end of hot. Why not, right??

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  6. @serenabellbooks: Thanks for the clarification! I was so distracted by the subject matter, I forgot the categories. Personally, I think we should all aim for "burning," as a reflection of our collective hotness.

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