Writing sex scenes in the MeToo era

fabio coverThere’s a reason romances are sometimes referred to as “bodice rippers.” For many years, they were filled with alpha male characters aggressively taking what they wanted, even if what they wanted was the trembling heroine. We live in a time, however, where aggressive male sexual behavior has been wisely denounced as unacceptable, something women should not have to tolerate. What does this mean for the romance writer?

Romance novels range from sweet to steamy, from hero and heroine exchanging chaste kisses to graphic descriptions of hot sex. I edit books within this spectrum, and, before anyone gets on a high horse, I greatly admire the women who write sex well. As I edit now, I’m acutely aware of one word, though, a word that I believe must undergird any love scene, whether it’s a quick peck or a sizzling romp in bed. That word is “permission.”

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To Tell Your Story, Learn Style Rules

cheerful editor header 2Creativity trumps all. If you have a creative, imaginative, compelling story to tell, you’ll find an editor who wants to buy it and readers who want to snatch it up.

But if you want to control that story, to tell it the way you see and hear it in your mind, here’s my advice: learn style, usage, and grammar rules and increase your vocabulary. Otherwise, you’re ceding control of the story to pesky editors like…me. 🙂  Continue reading

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“Replace All” should have flashing warning lights

imagesImagine you’re writing a tautly plotted detective story, and your tough-guy PI’s name is Stephen “Sting” Raye. Imagine your beautifully crafted tale has lines like this in it:

He saw the setup. He could spot it a mile away. He was probably the only fellow in the audience who guessed the setup in that Paul Newman movie, “The Sting” before twenty minutes of the flick had rolled by…

When he caught her gaze, he was immediately taken by the deep blue of her arresting eyes…

“You know why they call me Sting, don’t you?” he hissed at the perp, gun to his neck. He didn’t wait for an answer but slapped the guy–hard–with the gun across the cheek, leaving red welts and watery eyes. “Sting. Like bees. I swarm in and sting.” Continue reading

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How much activity to describe

Noting continuity issues is a big part of a copy editor’s job. Not just timeline continuity, making sure the author stays true to the days of the week or any mention of time passing, but also continuity within one scene.

For example, if a character enters a room and stands talking to another character, then several pages later, the author writes, “He stood…” readers will stumble if they didn’t know when he’d sat down. The last time they “saw” him, he was standing. Readers might even shuffle back through pages to see where they made a mistake and missed the author’s reference to him sitting down. I know I’ve done that, as a reader. I want to keep an accurate picture of the tale unfolding in my head.

Does this mean an author has to describe every action in a scene? No.  Continue reading

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Testimonial from bestsellng author Courtney Milan

“Libby is fast, meticulous, and detail-oriented. I highly recommend her as an editor.” —Courtney Milan, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author.

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Prose that sings…or just confuses?

“Like silent mariners, the clouds skittered by, their jejune iconoclasm contrasting with the blue sky’s sterile composure, making Khendra sigh with longing and a deeply felt miasma of melancholy.”

Man, that’s beautiful writing, isn’t it?

Well, maybe it’s a beautiful series of syllables, but it’s not really good writing. It’s unclear. Except for the beginning of the sentence — Like silent mariners, the clouds skittered by — the images it conveys are vague, set within confusing language that takes the reader out of an emotion the writer might want to convey. It makes the reader stumble.  Continue reading

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Testimonial from bestselling author Day Leclaire

“I highly recommend Libby Sternberg’s editorial services. I’ve worked with more than a dozen different editors over my twenty-six year publishing career in romantic fiction, and Libby is one of the best I’ve used. Some editors try and put their own stamp on you or change your writing style. Libby’s edits are detailed and hit all the important elements without taking away from my own voice or the story I was trying to tell. It added to the quality of the work and caught issues I’d overlooked. She is also fast, accurate, and is
willing to give a thorough explanation of anything you don’t understand.”  — Day Leclaire, USA TODAY bestselling author of sixty-plus novels and eleven-time RITA nominee.

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