“Write what you know.” It’s the first advice given to new writers, but it’s invariably bad advice if you take it literally. Write what you know doesn’t mean your story has to be a carbon copy of your life. Nobody wants to read that, trust me.
On the contrary, ‘write what you know’ means you have to examine what you know, and also what you can research or learn. Because once you research or learn something, then you know it. Write what you know means you can literally write about anything, so long as you prepare.
Write what you know it also about experience and emotion. So yes, write about your dad’s red Ford Cortina estate with the traffic-light air freshener. Write about the fear of walking into your first gay bar. Write about the gut-wrenching pain you felt when that first woman broke your heart. But also, write about women from 1958, as I am in my upcoming lesbian romance, Big London Dreams. I wasn’t alive then, but I know how it feels to kiss a woman for the first time. To dance with a woman. I can put a magnifying glass on those emotions to hold the reader in the story, then shade in the period details once I’ve researched them.
Don’t be scared to write eras you haven’t lived, jobs you’ve never done, a gender you’ve never lived. Do the research, put yourself in the character’s shoes and truly feel their life. Then you can write what you know, because you know.
When you’re writing a sex scene, it’s important to focus on the emotion and not the body parts. It’s not a biology exam, and nobody is going to thank you for using the word vulva. Trust me.
Sex scenes in romance are like fight scenes or car chases in action-adventure books. They’re essential and highly anticipated. Your characters (and your reader) have to work to get there, and when they eventually reach their peak, it’s your job to ensure nobody is let down.
The key thing is to make your sex scene both sensual and alluring. Describe what’s happening, but do it from the perspective of the character and all that they bring to the scene. What are their hopes? What are can they see, touch, taste, hear? What’s it reminding them of? What are they feeling in their heart now it’s finally happening?
Fingers can slide and caress. Tongues can tantalise and tease. Lube can be popped and pressed. Everything the character thought they once knew can be rewritten. Sex scenes should move the story forward. They should reflect what has gone before and what’s possible from here on in. Your characters have just taken things to the next level. Show it all.
Remember, you’re not playing a game of Sex Twister: no crazy moves required. Don’t use coarse or flowery language as that will throw your reader out of the story. Keep it real, but elevate it to a almost-perfect reality. Make sure senses tingle and stars collide. It’s all in the build-up, all in the emotion. The first kiss, the first touch, the loaded look that tips your character over the edge. Romance and sex go hand in hand, so don’t be scared of writing a sex scene. Instead, put yourself in your character’s shoes and write from the heart. Embrace it. Have fun with it.
And don’t for one second think about the fact your parents might read it.