Tips for Writing Love Scenes

So today I thought we could focus on writing love scenes. Love and sex scenes are some of the hardest scenes to write. We need to portray hard to capture emotions and desires. So let’s take a look at some tips for writing these scenes today. Also note, these tips are more for romantic scenes in any genre besides erotica.

  • Make it about more than just sex. These scenes should always advance the plot, not be gratuitous.
  • Create the mood. You do this by your word choice. Don’t use awkward or cliché words or phrases. You do not want your reader to laugh or cringe when they read this important scene.
  • You don’t have to be graphic or too specific. Don’t want to name body parts? Feel free not to. You can even just fade to black before things get too hot and heavy. It’s perfectly fine to focus on the characters’ emotions and the overall sensations rather than a laundry list of naughty actions.
  • Avoid euphemisms. They’re cheesy and/or cliché. Remember when we said we didn’t want our reader to laugh?
  • Build up the tension. This includes building up their relationship and, in sex scenes, building up with foreplay before we get to the main action.
  • Use it to complicate their relationship. After sex, things are different. Use this for tension and much needed conflict in your story.
  • Keep things believable. Sometimes things are a little awkward, like a first kiss. No relationship is perfect, so don’t make things perfect between your characters. Perfect equals boring.
  • Make your characters dynamic. They should change because of their relationship with each other from who they are at the beginning of the book to who they are at the end. Otherwise, what’s the point?
  • Know the difference between groan and moan.
  • Don’t rush. Remember how we said to build up the scene? Don’t disappoint your readers with three seconds of action.
  • Consider the genre. You’re going to write a love or sex scene differently if you write YA than if you write erotica. Know your genre expectations and how to meet them.
  • Start small and work your way up. What are your characters’ hands doing when they kiss? What kind of kiss is it? Light and airy or bruising with intensity?
  • Use all five senses in your descriptions. What does the MC smell like? What do her lips taste like?
  • Write about both characters. Even if we only have one POV character, don’t neglect to write about what the other character is doing or saying.
  • Don’t drown your scene with too much dialogue. This is not the time for drawn out talk.
  • Show, don’t tell. This is important even in love scenes. Show the emotions instead of telling them. Show how they care for each other or pay attention to each other. Show the sensations the characters are feeling rather than just stating them. Show, show, show.

Those are some tips for writing love scenes. Remember to build up the scene and to show. What are your best tips for writing love scenes? Share below and happy writing!

Julia

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Publishing News

So if you’ve been following me on social media, you would have seen my announcement that my debut novel, Angelborn, is being published this year by OWS Ink. I am very pleased to be able to announce this and this post will be a little about the process and where I am right now.

So the process began with edits, which I am currently working through with my editor. Angelborn was extensively edited before I submitted, so we didn’t need to make any major edits, but we did have some tweaks to do. The ending needed to be changed as well as a few other scenes, but I am happy with where it is going. I have also learned to trust my instincts better as some of these changes I had originally planned on writing, but changed for different reasons. I think it’s really important to learn to give credence to what our gut tells us, but it’s also important to listen to and consider feedback. It’s a balance to be made for sure, but ultimately it is your story and you have a certain vision for it.

I am also in talks with my cover designer. To me this is the scariest part of the process as it is such an important part and I have little experience with design. I know what I find pleasant or eye catching, but I am hardly an expert. The important thing to remember is the cover is like an advertisement or movie poster. It’s supposed to sell the idea of the novel and accurately portray the genre, not be something like a scene from the book. That seems to be a common mistake authors make when coming up with book cover ideas that I’m trying to avoid with mine. As Angelborn is also the first book in a series, I have to make sure I keep series branding in mind. My original ideas for a cover were actually better suited to the sequel than the first book, so I had to switch gears. I want them to match and seem like a series, so that’s another aspect to consider in the process.

I am also busy working on getting the sequel ready for publishing next year. Since publishing works ahead of time, it’s important for me to get my book into the queue for next year as soon as possible, so I’ve been working overtime editing that as well. My first reader finished reading it in two days and gave me good feedback, which was great and helped to allay some of those imposter syndrome doubts we all face as writers. So I plan on emailing my publisher the second book sometime this week after I do some final passes.

And that’s where I’m at right now. Busy editing, which can be a trying process, but also excited to see my stories come to life on the page. Keep an eye out for further announcements as we get closer to a release date and let me know in the comments what you’ve been working on.

Julia

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Author Interview with A.L. Mabry

Hello! So I don’t usually do this, but my good friend and colleague just released a book of short stories called Darker Daze: The Storms Within. I had the privilege of being able to read this collection as a beta reader and I wanted to share this interview from the author with you all today. Here’s my review:

Darker Daze is a collection of dark short stories. Each story was well contained and the endings, though not happy, were very satisfying! So satisfying! I really enjoyed reading these twisted tales. My favorite was The Next Best Seller. It features a headstrong protagonist willing to do anything to achieve her goals, including black magic. At a close second, and tied, were Beneath Salem and Belladonna. The emotional arc in Beneath Salem was so good and Belladonna did not disappoint in giving the characters what they deserved. If you like short stories, check these out.

And, without further ado, here is my interview with A.L. Mabry.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

 

I am a wife and mother, first and foremost. My husband and I have five kids between us, ranging in age from 17 to almost 21. I went to college for early childhood education and taught preschool for 15 years before changing paths and focusing on my writing.

  1. What drew you to writing in the first place? How did you get your start?

 

I have always loved writing but I strayed and stumbled back to it. Throughout my teaching career I was using my writing without even thinking about it. I wrote stories, and songs, and even a whole curriculum. Then, when I was struggling with being a special needs parent I found the special needs blogging community. I grew from there discovering fiction writing groups and making the leap back to creative writing.

  1. What is your process like? From idea to finished piece?

 

I am a non-linear scene writer. I rarely write in order and I tend to do all my big scenes first before stitching it all together.

  1. Where do your ideas come from? What’s your favorite way to brainstorm?

 

I get inspired by EVERYTHING. People, places, quotes, art and so on. I generally just grab an idea and write a scene. Then I flash out a character and expand that scene and keep going.

  1. What genres do you dabble in and which is your favorite? Your least favorite?

 

I am primarily dark fiction/horror, fantasy and poetry. I love everything but I could probably live without Sci-Fi.

  1. Do you have a writing ritual to get you in the mood?

 

Not really but having a chunk of uninterrupted time available and shutting down all access to social media are imperative. I have the attention span of a fruit fly.

  1. Tell us about Darker Daze, both the inspiration for the book and what it’s about.

 

So, all of the stories in Darker Daze are fiction. However, most of them are inspired by real events in my life. Sometimes the inspiration was a mere second and then I fleshed out the worst case scenario. In one case, I took excerpts from an old journal and unleased my imagination on them.

  1. What’s one thing writing Darker Daze taught you?

 

I have learned that writing these stories is extremely therapeutic but, reading them is hard. Probably harder for me than you because there are so many little nuances that are only relevant to me.

  1. What’s next on the horizon for you?

 

I am working on the rewrites for Soul Purge which is slated for release this fall from OWS Ink, LLC.

 

  1. What’s your favorite food, favorite color, and favorite beverage?

 

I love potatoes in all its glorious forms. My favorite color is (and has always been) blue. And my favorite beverage is coffeewinetea.

  1. What’s three things most people don’t know about you yet?

 

-I am a Witch. Like, literally. I am not a big fan of labels but if I chose one it would be “Intuitive Eclectic Witch.”

-I am a survivor of domestic violence.

-I was a (very good!) teen mom.

  1. And finally, where can we find you online?

You can find me at http://authoralmabry.com from there you can find all my other links!

 

So there’s A.L. Mabry in a nutshell. Be sure to check out Darker Daze here.

Tips for Writing Descriptions

Descriptions bring our stories to life, but they aren’t always easy to craft. We want to paint a vivid scene for our readers without slowing the story down or boring them with info dumps. So what are some good tips for writing descriptions? Let’s take a look.

  • Give it a purpose. Whatever you put in your story has to serve a purpose and be there for a reason (other than it sounds pretty). This is especially important for descriptive writing. It should build your story world, develop your characters, and move the plot forward.
  • Follow Chekov’s rule. If you plant a description in the story (like a gun on the wall), it must pay off later and come into play. This also means we need to foreshadow if we are going to use something later. And it also means if something is not important, do not spend a lot of time describing it (which makes it seem important, thereby frustrating the reader when it doesn’t come into play later).
  • Filter through character perspective. If your character is the son of a billionaire, he will notice different things than a working class man. Or a housewife. Or a middle schooler. Match your descriptions to your character POV.
  • Don’t go overboard. If you’re trying too hard to sound poetic and meaningful and going over the top with your descriptions, you’re probably in purple prose territory. This is a mistake. It slows the plot down, kills your pacing, and exasperates your readers who don’t want paragraph after paragraph of descriptions. Descriptions are good, but don’t exaggerate.
  • Use all five senses to immerse your reader in the scene. For most of us sight comes naturally to our writing. Even the word imagery has image in it. But it’s important to include the other senses as well. Smells evoke memories and sounds fill the world around us. Don’t neglect the other senses that can help round out your world.
  • Be specific and concrete. Avoid vague and general descriptions like “she was pretty.” That tells us nothing about how she actually looks. Is she dark? Fair? Tall? Delicate? Sultry? Innocent? Give your reader a clear picture. And use concrete nouns. Say roses instead of flowers and worn, leather armchair instead of just chair. Watch your descriptions come to life.

These are just a few tips to help you strengthen your descriptive writing. What tips do you have? Share below and happy writing!

Julia

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How to up Productivity

We’re busy. We’ve all been there and got the t-shirt. We have work, family, a 100 emails to answer, a blog to post to, and a WiP that won’t write itself. But even though we’re busy, running around like a chicken with no head, are we being productive? There’s a huge difference. So what can we do to cut distractions and interruptions and work smarter? Let’s take a look.

First, structure your time. This is two-fold. The first step is to pick the best time for you to write. This means a time when you are productive and not likely to get interrupted. This could be in the morning an hour or two before everyone wakes up. At night after the kids have gone to bed. An hour after work in a café before you go home. Or once the kids are in school for the day. The second part is actually structuring the time you write to be most productive. We can’t just pound out words for hours. It leads to burnout fast. Instead break writing time into sprints and breaks using the Pomodoro technique. Focus and write strong for twenty-five minutes, then take a five to ten minute break. Reward yourself for your work with a snack or checking Facebook. Then get back to work for another twenty-five minutes. Repeat until you’ve worked for an hour then take a longer half-hour break. These breaks give your brain a chance to rest and recharge in between these sprints to keep you fresh. Rewards are also great for positive reinforcement, training your brain to write.

The next important step is to prioritize your time and communicate your needs with others. This is the hardest part. Something can and will always come up demanding your time. But if you’re not writing, are you still a writer? What I mean is you have to prioritize your writing time or it won’t happen. This may mean sacrifices in other aspects of your life. It may mean you can’t socialize every single day. It may mean the dishes have to wait an hour or two before they get done and that laundry only happens once a week. Then, once you’ve scheduled your writing time, you need to communicate your needs. Tell friends and family you’ll be writing and won’t be available for that time. Then stick to it. Leave your phone in another room on silent with a promise to check it when you are done. Tell your spouse and kids they are not to knock or interrupt you unless it’s an emergency. And explain what a real emergency is. It’s not for mom to find something you lost in your room. That can wait. Your writing and life goals matter and your needs matter, so don’t feel bad asking for this time to yourself to work. You deserve it.

Close the door or go somewhere quiet to work. No one can ask you what’s for dinner if you’re not home (just saying). If you need to, put a note on the door and/or lock it, reminding your family not to interrupt.

Other small things that customize your writing routine will help with productivity. This includes things like noise and temperature to help you focus and feel comfortable. Ambient white noise can help you focus. Others need just the right playlist to get into their world. Set up your music beforehand so you can get straight to work. Keep a sweater or blanket with you if you get cold or make sure the A/C is on in the summer. You’ll be distracted if you’re hot or cold. Also have drinks and snacks nearby so you don’t feel the need to get up and go to the kitchen in the middle of a sentence.

These will help you to work smarter and not harder. It isn’t easy, this business of writing while having a life, but I know you can do it. What are tips you have for being more productive? Share below and happy writing!

Julia

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Filler Words

Last time we talked about filler, so this week I thought we could cover a related subject, filler words. These are words that add to our word count, but detract from our story. These words are often vague, general, or redundant as well as being unnecessary. So let’s take a look at some common culprits.

  • This is a crutch word we rely on, but it takes away more than it adds. Instead of very, choose a stronger word. Instead of very tired, use exhausted. Instead of very hungry, use famished. Instead of very pretty, use gorgeous or exquisite. You get the picture.
  • So and really. Like very, so and really are meant to emphasize, but they don’t add much to a sentence. Use a stronger word instead.
  • Just. This word implies a lack of confidence in what you’re saying. Avoid.
  • Like, actually, basically, and other words that serve as verbal ticks. Just as we say “umm” when talking, these words can slip into our writing. But they don’t add anything, so cut the fat and delete them.
  • Most of the time that can be deleted from your sentences without changing the meaning. If that’s the case, keep it out. If not, like in the previous sentence, you can keep it in.
  • Almost and seemed. Don’t waffle in what you’re trying to say. Don’t be vague, be clear. Either it is something or it isn’t. Don’t use almost or seemed.
  • Same goes for maybe, somehow, and something. Be clear.
  • Redundant prepositions like up in stood up. You can only go up when you stand, so just say stood. Same for sat down. Keep an eye on these redundant words.

When you are editing, do a pass for these filler words. Use the control F feature to find and fix them. Do this in later passes when you’re closer to polishing your words rather than early on when you’re doing big revisions. As you fix them in edits, you’ll get better at catching them while you’re writing. What filler words are you guilty of using? Share below and happy writing!

Julia

Find me on Twitter and Facebook for weekly writing prompts.

Cutting Filler

Writing a great story isn’t just about having well-rounded characters and an amazing plot. Sometimes it’s just as important what you don’t put into your story. This goes for filler. So what is filler exactly? Filler is extraneous lines of passages in your story that don’t move the story forward or develop character. Even if you have a line you love, if it doesn’t add to your story, it’s filler and you need to cut it. Just like if you were painting a picture of a house, you wouldn’t draw the windows too big or paint one wall yellow when the rest are red. That would make the overall painting suffer. Filler is the same way.

So how can we cut filler to strengthen our stories? Let’s look at some tips.

  • Cut adjectives and adverbs. These are often extra words that don’t add much and can lead to purple prose. Use concrete nouns and stronger verbs instead.
  • Avoid clichés. Clichés are overused and don’t contribute to your writing. Instead they detract and take up space. And often times in descriptions they are vague and don’t really paint a good picture. Despite that cliché, it’s true. Craft stronger descriptions.
  • Show, don’t tell. You hear this everywhere for a reason. But remember not to travel into the realm of purple prose. It’s all about balance. For every couple of showing statements, it’s ok to have a telling statement to keep from waxing on.
  • Kill your darlings. Even if you love them. To make it easier, I keep a separate document called leftovers where I rehome anything I cut. It makes it easier to hit delete and sometimes I can rework lines into another WiP.

If you’re unsure whether something is filler or necessary, ask yourself whether it checks any of these boxes.

  • Character development. Does it add or build to your characters? And is this addition really adding to your development or just backstory? Remember it should serve the story at all times.
  • Does it develop the relationships between characters? Once again, make sure this moves the story forward and contributes to understanding.
  • Moves the plot forward. Does it create conflict and build up to the climax? If so, keep it.
  • We want to stay away from info dumps and adding too much backstory, but we also need to ground the story in a time and place. We also want our characters to interact with the world around them.
  • Is this a strong transition or just filler? Does the reader need this transition to go from one scene to the next? Quickly show passage of time or a change of location, but don’t go on too long for transitions, otherwise they become filler. Avoid paragraphs or whole scenes where nothing really happens. For example, driving to a location in a car or going through the character’s entire morning routine before a big event.

So those are some tips for cutting filler and deciding what is filler in the first place. What are your tips for cutting filler? Share below and happy writing!

Julia

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