Tag Archives: freelance editor

The Monster Mash: Writing Sex Scenes, Part Two

A guest post by Joshua Essoe.

In part one we talked about if you should go all the way, how to decide, creating tension in all the right places, and what position you should take. Tonally speaking.

Today, let’s get into some specifics of when you’re trying to verb the adjective noun.

Your characters should inform everything that takes place between them. Who are they? Are they gregarious and shameless? Well then, yeah, a character like that might just throw their clothes off, give strip teases for the thrill of it, and view kisses as fun but meaningless.

Is your character shy? Well that character is very unlikely to just throw their clothes off or have sex in a changing room. Maybe they want the light turned off first, maybe they kiss tentatively, and slowly, maybe they need their partner to undress first.

And let’s not forget about laying down complications, hiking up tension, and stroking inner conflict. Maybe your character feigns confidence and it gets tested terribly when things heat up. Maybe they’re worried about some perceived physical defect. Maybe the character is married or committed to someone else–what kind of inner conflict would that engender? How would that other relationship inform their choices in the romance with someone else? Are they in love with two people at once?

Let’s get deeper into the question of how far you should push.

Just like any other scene, you focus on what you want your readers to focus on. And that is what your specific character would be focused on. What does your viewpoint character find attractive and sexy about the character they are with? Both physically and in their personality, their movements, their smell, the sounds they make. Maybe that shameless character is turned on by having everything articulated. That character definitely likes the dirty dirty. Maybe that shy character is focused on the eyes and minute facial expressions. Use all the senses. What is going to make it interesting and unique are the specific details you use. The more specific and narrow you make your focus, the sexier the scene will be. And yes, sometimes that means you’ll be writing about what parts go where and what that feels like.

The way you inform your readers of that, what words you use, will depend on your characters, the tone of the story, and how you’ve set it up. There should always be some words on your Do Not Fly list. Let me suggest a few:

  • Turgid, adj
  • Purple, adj/noun
  • Fleshy, adj
  • Wrinkled, verb (If this is an adjective, then please don’t send me this MS.)
  • Pert, adj
  • Moist, adj

These are not sexy words. Even penis. Penis is not a sexy word. They accurately describe something, sure, but analytically relating what a thing is, or what a thing does, does not sexy make. Likewise, be careful with the placement of your sexy words because it will be hard, err, difficult to keep from using them over and over. Keep track of those little buggers or everything is going to end up wet, or hard . . . or turgid.

But, like everything else in writing, it is a careful balancing act. Just like any other action scene, don’t go overboard with your descriptions or you’ll bog down your prose, and kill your pacing and interest. When I say focus in and use specific details I don’t mean that you should describe every single movement or action taking place. You can leave some things to your readers’ imaginations. They’ll fill in the blanks.

Be aware of the tropes. There are a lot out there, but here are some common ones:

  1. The woman or man is unattainably attractive.
  2. She has an apparent willingness to have sex with the male protagonist, usually as a means of manipulating him.
  3. The female character is duplicitous, and either secretly evil or forced to act that way for some reason.
  4. Rape. I can’t tell you how tired women, in particular, are of reading rape used as a tool to garner sympathy, or stoke conflict. But that is a separate article.

One final note. It’s worth talking about the actual, physical writing of these kinds of scenes. I heartily recommend your local Starbucks if you want the dude with the Beats by Dre, the man in the pinstriped shirt, and the cute, spikey-haired girl sneaking stares as your face flushes, your breath quickens, and you start to sweat. Just please keep your hands on your keyboard at all times.

Or maybe you should plan to write these things in private. And then you can let your hands do whatever they gotta do.

Wherever you chose to write your dive in the dark, don’t stop, once you start. Going halfway into the scene, then pulling out for a break kills your own tension and takes you out of the flow. It would be like texting with your buddy while you’re bed-pressing with your partner. Just like in real life you want the process to go smoothly without interruption. Write the whole scene in one ecstatic burst. Do not go back to read what you’ve written. Do not count how many times you’ve used the words “moist,” and “pert.” It doesn’t matter, don’t break your rhythm.

That means do not stop to edit yourself! The scene might suck, but that does not matter, just like any first draft, you’ll have your chance to go back and massage it into splendor later.

If you’ve never written a sex scene, and maybe even if you have, you may feel embarrassed, or even scared enough that you can only manage a tag to yourself, “put the sex stuff here.” For those of you that this applies to, take heart. You don’t have to view writing sex and romance as writing a sex scene or writing erotica. You’re just writing a scene. That’s it. You’ll do great. Let your characters guide you, listen to them, just as you would with any other scene, and write.

Joshua EssoeAbout Joshua Essoe:

Joshua Essoe is a full-time, freelance editor. He’s done work for best-seller David Farland, including the multi-award winning novel, Nightingale; Dean Lorey, lead writer of Arrested Development; best-seller, James Artimus Owen; and numerous Writers of the Future authors and winners, as well as many top-notch independents. He is currently the copy editor at Urban Fantasy Magazine.

Together with tie-in writer Jordan Ellinger, indie success-story, Michael J. Sullivan, and traditionally published author and NY Times best-seller, Debbie Viguie, he records the weekly writing podcast Hide and Create

When not editing . . . ha ha, a joke. He was a 2014 finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, and lives with his wife, and three horrible cats near UCLA.

Editors: Freelance v. In-house

Jen Greyson
Author, Jen Greyson

I’ve had an opportunity to work with both an amazing freelance editor, Joshua Essoe, as well as an in-house editing team for the boutique publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop (of 50 Shades of Grey fame). Beyond my own experience, there are still a myriad of relationships depending on the size of the publishing house and skill of the freelancer, but I wanted to share my experiences with each to let authors know what they might be able to expect.

One of the biggest differences is the number of passes on a single work. When I hire a freelancer, money is a big part of the amount of time he can spend on my work. Unfortunately, my checkbook will only allow him one pass, so he has to hit everything in one sitting-plot issues, line editing, copy editing-the whole shebang. When I send it to my in-house team, money is still a factor, but now it’s on their side as to how many passes they can afford in overhead.

For my first book, the initial in-house edit focused on the overarching plot. I sent in a polished manuscript and after a couple weeks, I received a 10-page evaluation addressing suggested plot changes, crutch words, character inconsistencies, etc. I then had a few weeks to fix the issues and send the revised manuscript back. My freelancer addresses the same things as that evaluation, but he tackles his evaluation and in-line comments about my misspelled words and comma misuse, at the same time.

After that content edit, the house editors send me the line edit. From here, my in-house editor and I will work for a few weeks passing the manuscript back and forth until we get a clean copy (for me, 10 passes total). Then my copy editor gets to take a pass (I’m lucky in that I have a fantastic copy editor and she doesn’t hack my stuff to death–I’ve heard horror stories where sometimes the copy edit is worse than the line edits) and we work to get another clean copy (4-6 passes). Then a final proofreader gets to take a fresh look and be a final set of eyes, more passing around (2-3), and I sign off on a final copy.

Beyond the three editors working on the manuscript, there are also the other departments to consider, as well as the other books the house is launching. All those people and factors can play a part in the book’s final form.

But really, besides the amount of time and hands that touch the manuscript when comparing freelancers to in-house editors, everything else is the incredibly similar.

The good, the bad, and the horrifically disfigured.

However, and this is a big one — Not all freelancers are created equal and anyone can start a publishing company these days, so it’s incredibly important to do a huge amount of homework no matter which path to publication.

My pursuit of TWCS wasn’t accidental. Random House had just
paid seven figures for the rights to 50 Shades of Grey and the Greyson_evy_darknew adult genre was on the rise, in part due to the college age of the main character. My characters haven’t quite fit anywhere other than new adult, and I wanted a smaller publisher willing to go to bat for me and my characters without trying to force them into a different genre (like every other agent and editor I sent it to). TWCS had first-hand experience of launching a mega-hit and I wanted to take advantage of all that in marketing my book, Lightning Rider.

My decision to hire Joshua was just as purposeful. He’d already edited work for NYTBSA, David Farland, and other fantasy authors. Finding a freelance editor is easy-finding a GREAT one is tough. Before spending money on an editor, it’s always wise to ask for them to review a few pages and see if their style matches. Research the genres they work on and find one that works on what you write. Readers have very specific expectations whether they’re reading fantasy or romance or thrillers. If the freelance editor doesn’t know what those expectations are, you may end waste a lot of time and money.

Not all edits are created equal.

Whether I’m working with a freelance editor or my in-house editor, one thing remains the same. I’m the only one who can tell the tale. It’s up to me to make sure my characters are represented on the page like they are in my head. I know best how they react in certain situations, what their voices sound like, and I get to fight for them to make sure their story is told in the best way possible.

Both my freelance editor and my in-house editor have suggested changes that I didn’t agree with. Most of the time I can see where suggestions make a better story, or when grammar rules takes precedence, but sometimes . . . sometimes there are places where I’m unwilling to bend because I know where the story goes beyond this book, or when a simple word change in a bit of dialogue changes the tone so it’s no longer that character’s voice. I know where the story started a decade ago when these characters were children and their backstory took a major hit.

Sometimes, knowing when to ignore advice is as important as taking it.

From the moment she decided on a degree in Equestrian Studies, Jen Greyson’s life has been one unscripted adventure after another. Leaving the cowboy state of Wyoming to train show horses in France, Switzerland, and Germany, she’s lived life without much of a plan, but always a book in her suitcase. Now a wife and mom to two young boys, she relies on her adventurous, passionate characters to be the risk- takers. Jen also writes university courses and corporate training material when she’s not enjoying the wilds of the west via wakeboard or snowmobile.Her debut new adult fantasy, Lightning Rider, releases from The Writers Coffee Shop on May 31, 2013.