There was a time when few novels, even romance novels, had much sex in them. There were many embraces and lots of panting and kissing and even some petting, but in a large percent of the books, when it went beyond that, the bedroom door closed and the scene broke off right there to leave the rest of the encounter to our own vivid imaginations.
By the time the new millennium rolled around, those bedroom doors were often being left wide open--if the impassioned couple even waited long enough to find a bedroom. Some authors began to feel pressured to write out those encounters in more and more detail when it became clear that a lot of the women who were buying romance novels were no longer satisfied with a closed-door policy.
I began to get messages from new authors who were working themselves into a tizzy of it all. “I can’t write sex scenes no matter how hard I try.” “What if my mother or one of the ladies from the church got the chance to read what I wrote?” “When I write sex scenes they read flat, with no sizzle at all. Kind of like directions on how to install a dishwasher.” “I write those hot scenes, but it’s like pulling teeth because I’m so uncomfortable about it.” ect…. All of them ended with a cry for help, a “What should I do?” or a “How do you write them?” or something along those lines.
The truth is, anytime you try to write something that you don’t want to write, that you don’t like, that you are uncomfortable with, it’s not going to work out as well as it should. It’s never going to be your strongest writing, the writing that will show off your real talent for story telling at its best. Just because there is a trend for publishers to buy paranormal romances or erotic romance or humorous romance, doesn’t mean you should try to pen one. You will do your best writing when you spend your time writing what you enjoy, or at least writing within your own comfort zone.
If you are comfortable writing it but fear what others will think of you, well, that can hold you back just as tightly. Maybe it would help to write under a pen name so you can put that worry away and write freely. Sadly, many people will read a book where six women are kidnapped, tortured and then hacked to pieces, with it all described in great gory detail, and not find any offence in it, but those same people will almost hyperventilate over an adult couple making love with it being described with any real details at all.
When you figure out what you are comfortable writing, then you’ll know just how much sex should be in your stories. Don’t forget there are romance publishers out there that still buy books with no sex in them at all and others with mild sex, or limited sex. Even in a pretty hot romance, sex is a very small part of the story. The romance is the sexual tension between two people who are falling in love, the tingle when his hand brushes hers, the way her heart races when he stares into her eyes, the way the scent of her perfume distracts him beyond reason, or the way his palms itch because he wants to touch her so badly. A story can vibrate with sexual tension without one sex scene.