S is for…

I’ve taken on the challenge of an A-Z during April – one post each day on a chosen theme. My theme? Books and writing, of course…

S is for Sexy Scenes

Yep, I’ve written a few. I like to think – okay I hope – that when I have used a raunchy scene that it has advanced the plot or the characters a tad. I’m not, however, comfortable writing them.

So, how does one go about writing a sexy scene? Do I set the stage with mood lighting and soft music? Maybe a few candles? Nope. I wrote some of my more “interesting” scenes in decidedly unsexy surroundings:

  • In my lunch break at work in the food hall near IKEA with screaming kids and flatpack trolleys (Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry)
  • On the bus during my commute (Wish You Were Here)
  • Listening to next door’s washing machine beeping because it was out of balance and needed to have the load shifted and he’d gone out for the day (I Want You Back)

Then there have been those scenes I’ve written while still in bed on a Saturday morning with hubby standing in the doorway asking if I’d like scrambled or poached eggs – or maybe an omelette – for breakfast? Hmm…

The thing is, writing a squidgy scene isn’t a whole lot more different than writing anything else. Plus, if you let your imagination go wild, it can even be kind of fun – although it helps if you pretend that it will never be read by your mother. Before I gave a copy of Wish You Were Here to my mother I seriously considered redacting entire paragraphs. (sorry Mum)

But, I digress. When it comes to writing those scenes essentially:

  • The first sex scene between your protagonists should be the longest one in the book. It’s a turning point and a huge emotional whammy – often in more ways than one.
  • It’s also primarily an emotional act rather than a physical one. Whatever it is that our characters are doing – or how they’re doing it – we want to know how they’re feeling.
  • If you can delete the sexy bits without impacting the story, they probably shouldn’t be there. It has to advance the story in some way – either through bringing your protagonists together, pushing them apart, or complicating things enough to make a situation worse before it gets better.
  • Sex is when we’re at our most raw, most needy, and most emotionally vulnerable – this should come across (no pun intended) in that first scene.
  • Stay away from the IKEA style tab A into tab B type of physical instructions. As, (I think it was) Anne Gracie said in the Trust Your Voice session at last year’s RWA Conference, sex is about more than the “docking procedure”.
  • With your attention (and blood) diverted to areas much further south than your brain, deep and meaningful or philosophical conversations can happen before or after, but absolutely not during. Speaking of which, sex is real – as is humour – so it’s ok to lighten the mood as well.

In One More Dance (yes, I have a name for Book No. 5 now) my protagonists are in their fifties and – even though it shouldn’t have – writing their scenes presented a different set of challenges.

Previously I’d written characters in their late twenties and thirties. It felt easier opening their bedroom doors than it did opening the doors on an older couple – even though it shouldn’t have. In the end, I wrote their scenes in exactly the same way as I’d written for my younger characters. Time will tell whether that was successful or not.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me…although I’m on holiday at the moment so mightn’t get around to answering or responding to all comments.

10 Reasons Why I Love Scrivener…

10 Reasons I Use Scrivener...

I’m a pantser rather than a plotter. This means that sometimes I truly have no idea what’s going to happen until it does. I write scenes as they come to me, and generally get a draft out quickly. Because of this I need an app that doesn’t mean that I’m cutting and pasting whole rafts of words through larger rafts of words.

So I use Scrivener. For these reasons:

1. Project Targets

I need this. I set myself an imposed deadline and tend to stick to it. I pop this into the targets, decide how many days a week I’m going to write, and hey presto I have a daily word count.

The little line graph starts off red, moves to amber, and becomes greener as you get closer to achieving your daily target. You can even set it to alert you along the way.

2. The Folders

I allocate each chapter a new folder, and then add sub-folders for each new scene.

I label the folders with a sentence that tells me what that chapter is about, and each scene gets a few descriptive words too.

3. Flexibility

As I said, I tend to write in scenes.

Scrivener allows you to pop a synopsis of each scene, sort of like a post it sticker. This means that when I’m looking for something, a passage, whatever, I can just browse the synopsis. In Scrivener, this is available in a corkboard view, document view or outline view.

More importantly, you can drag scenes, and chapters around- before or after other scenes. There’s no cutting and pasting, no risking losing chunks of words.

You can even drag scenes down to a deleted scenes folder at the bottom of the page, so you can easily retrieve it if you change your mind later.

4. Word Count

Aside from the project total, Scrivener also keeps track of the words per scene. I don’t like my scenes to drag on too long, so this helps me work out where some trimming is required.

Apparently in The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton decreases her chapter length in proportion to the previous so that it spirals into an ending. It’s supposed to mimic the waning cycle of the Moon. The astrologer in me can appreciate it, the commitment-phobe in me hasn’t yet committed to reading it. Having said that, Scrivener would be good for that.

5. Character Sketches

Ever had to trawl through thousands of words trying to remember what you named the best friend’s husband? How old her kids are? Their names? Don’t stress it. There’s a handy little character section especially for that.

I sometimes find a celebrity who I think could look like my character and attach that image. I’ll also attach images of outfits that they might wear to work, or coffee, or on a date. It’s almost like having a pinboard.

I use this space to write any backstory that I need to write, and to keep track of things like goals, motivations and conflicts.

6. Location Settings

Similar to character settings, I find it helpful to pop in a pic or two, as well as some descriptive words. If there’s any history that can help me with backstory, it goes in here too.

7. Colour Coding

This is a new discovery for me. I Want You Back is an ensemble cast and is written in three different points of view. Colour coding allows me to see at a glance who is saying what. I also used this when I was editing Big Girls Don’t Cry to indicate which scenes still needed work.

8. Research

There’s a whole folder where you can store your research. Cut and paste directly into it, or write back stories to your hearts content. It’s all here, all handy.

9. Trash

I prefer to call this folder my “out-takes”…the words that when they first came out of my brain seemed so clever, but in the context of an actual story, are a tad too contrived. I save them down here. Just in case.

10. Compile

Then when you’re done, the whole thing compiles into a word doc (or pdf or whatever) at the touch of a command.

Too easy! I can’t say the same for the writing, or the editing…

Scrivener isn’t just for novels- there’s a format for all types of long form non-fiction as well. I use Scrivener for mac (purchased through the app store), but there’s also a version for windows users. Google it.

Continue reading “10 Reasons Why I Love Scrivener…”