#AtoZChallenge: X is for X-Rated

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

X is for X-Rated

erospsyche (1)

I edit a lot of erotica and romance, some of it fairly mild, some of it less so. Sometimes I’ll be sitting at my desk on a Tuesday afternoon with a cup of tea and a digestive, deleting unnecessary adjectives from a raunchy scene and I’ll think to myself how strange my job sometimes is!

But it’s not just erotica and romance that calls for X-rated scenes.  If you’re a writer, the chances are that one day you’re going to have to tackle a scene of this type. This is something that worries a lot of authors. So here are some tips on how to write a sex scene that won’t make you or your readers cringe.

  • Skip the euphemisms. Show your reader some respect. If you need some awful examples to avoid read 50 Shades (Down there? Really? What are we, eleven?)
  • Make it consensual. Obviously consensual. Non-consensual sex is not erotic or sexy. At all. It is just wrong.
  • Your characters are not porn stars. Unless they are porn stars. It needs to be hot, but not unbelievable. Don’t use clichés from terrible porn movies.
  • Stay true to your characters. As with all action scenes and as with all dialogue, your characters need to behave and speak in a way your reader can believe they would behave and speak.
  • Make sure the scene has a purpose. Like any scene or event in your book it needs to drive the story forward.
  • As with all your writing, but especially when writing about sex, use all five senses. ALL of them.
  • Often the idea of sex is more erotic than the act itself. Build up the tension.
  • Act it out! Seriously – one of my best teachers on my Masters course had written both excellent fight scenes and excellent sex scenes and she insisted that the best way to make both realistic and readable was to act them out. (That way you don’t end up having your characters do things that would take three hands each and I don’t have to sit there on a Tuesday afternoon wondering what’s supposed to be going where when I’d rather be eating a biscuit).

Once again, my top tip is to read. Shirley Conran and Jilly Cooper write better sex scenes than a certain other author mentioned above, as does Sylvia Day (sometimes). And of course you can’t beat a bit of DH Lawrence. Though in my humble opinion Flaubert did it best with poor old Madame Bovary.



  1. Appreciate these tips. It made me sigh believing that I did it right in the new novel. I find that having unmarried grown granddaughters is another tip that helps writing sex into a scene. I always smile…Grammy wrote this?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your insight and advice on this topic. It’s always tough to write sex scenes.
    My novel only has 2 bedroom scenes with 2 different couples, and i think they’re very light, due to respect for the characters and the readers. I don’t think readers of the sequel to Jane Eyre want a lot if sex, and neither do I in that type on novel.
    On the other hand, if I’m reading a steamy romance whether it’s contemporary or historical, I know what to expect and I’m fine with that. There’s one I love tomorrow on my AtoZ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the tips. These are great. I was recently contemplating cutting out all the sex scenes in my novel, but a bunch of twenty-year-olds not having sex would be odd. This helps a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – it’s really lovely when people take the time to stop by to let me know a post was helpful 🙂 Good luck with your writing. I agree that you probably need those scenes!


  4. Thanks for the useful, down to earth, real tips for writing sex scenes. I only have one sex scene in the novel I’m writing , but it’s the only scene that I can’t seem to get right, so I keep skipping it during my revisions . Guess I’d better take your advice and act it out, LOL. My husband won’t mind my novel research tonight . I especially agree with your tip about building the tension . We all know that in real life that tension leading up to the first time with someone is intense. Great article. Very helpful.

    Melissa Sugar
    Twitter @msugar13

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I do try and follow your suggestions above, and I, too, have grown-up daughters who will put in margin notes (bit Mills and Boon? or bit porno?) if I stray too far. The thing I have always found fascinating is that readers will read what they are looking for. I blinked as a friend explained to someone that she like my first book… because it had no sex scenes. It contains at least three erotic/bedroom scenes and revolves round the anon. poem which ends: ‘Oh that my love were in my arms and I in my bed again’.

    Liked by 1 person

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