Friday, 20 November 2009

Writing about Writing about Sex

I've got a piece up on the Guardian's BooksBlog about writing about writing about sex:

Afterwards I realised that it was a piece written with the benefit of hindsight: This is what I try to do. But when I started writing, I hadn't thought any of those ideas let alone formulated them into something close to rules. Instead I was making it all up as I went along.

I've always been interested in writing about relationships, so sex seemed a natural part of that. I wrote what I imagined my characters might be doing and what their emotions were without thinking of what my potential readers might think. It was only later that I realised that some writers become hamstrung by their worries of what their mother/father/partner/children/neighbours/friends might think. It cripples their writing, and no wonder, if that bunch is forever peering over their shoulder and commenting on what they've written.

Writing about sex should, ideally, be like having sex. You shouldn't write about sex if it makes you anxious or unhappy. It's not compulsory. It's an optional but, in my opinion, important element of human relationships. It should be something that feels natural and comfortable to you and happens in a non-judgmental environment. Let's face it, it's difficult to enjoy sex fully if you're worrying about your spare tyre or stretch marks, the same way that good writing is inhibited if you've got the critics sitting on your shoulder.

But the wonderful thing about writing about sex - about all writing in fact - is that you can write without inhibition because no one need see it. You have full control. Your characters can do whatever you fancy them doing, and they'll never answer back. And after it's all over, if you don't like it you can press the delete button, and there - It's gone. Your mother need never know.


ChrisH said...

I think that's a very good summary of how writing about sex should be. Well said.

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks Chris.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah - your title is already a link. Click on the title of any post and the link shows in the address bar at the top.

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks Ali, I meant the link to the Guardian piece which I struggled with for ages. But Peter Richardson has kindly shown me how to do that, with pictures and diagrams!

Nadia said...

Hi Sarah, I really struggled with the idea of writing such a scene for those exact reasons in my MS. Then I managed to get past that and wrote what I thought was a stonking bit of bedroom action... only to realise that I was actually forcing my characters into something they weren't ready for! I'm glad I didn't feel the pressure to include the sex just for the sake of it - I don't think readers particularly want that either.

Sarah Duncan said...

People say sex sells, but lots of readers don't like sex in books. SO you should do whatever you feel comfortable with (just like in real life) and not feel pressured either way.