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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Structure/Pacing in Romance (specifically THOSE scenes)

I'm still happily chugging along on Elemental Forces. I passed the 20K word mark and have plenty of story left to tell. While I don't have a firm word count estimate just yet, this is shaping up to be the longest book I've written in quite some time.

Believe it or not, I don't have a written outline here. At this point, everything's plotted out pretty well in my head, so maybe I'll never get around to making one. But as I've been thinking over the structure and pacing in this project, I realized that I have two distinct categories for my books, and most romances probably fall into one or the other. And those categories are differentiated by...wait for it...*drumroll*...the sex scenes.

(The rest of this post will probably not be sexy. Sorry to disappoint.)

Category 1: One Sex Scene

All the novellas go here, which makes sense. (Hey, sex scenes take a lot of words!) I guess in these books, the primary plot/conflict/focus/whatever you want to call it is the good ol' "will they or won't they?" and everything gets wrapped up in a pretty little bow at the end when the characters finally bang. Excuse me, get their "happily ever after." Sure, other plot stuff happens, but it's all leading up to the big moment. To be fair, in some of my novellas, the one sex scene doesn't come right at the end, as the characters still have to work out their relationship issues before riding off into the sunset, but the concept stands.

Nothing is absolute, though, so there are some slight exceptions. Elysium, while novella-length, *technically* has two sex scenes, but they're back-to-back, so lumping them together is fair. Likewise with Seductive Suspect, which hovers on the border of "long novella" and "short novel" - the two sex scenes are adjacent to each other, and then the resolution of the mystery part of the plot comes afterward.

Category 2: Multiple Sex Scenes

It's not a surprise that the longer books go here, and then that got me thinking about various plots and their purposes. "Happily ever after" is still always the primary goal of romance, but the length of the route to get there varies. I admit this is where I sometimes struggle with the pacing. When the main characters get together relatively early on, the plot has to keep moving. It's easy to say "time for a sex scene, yay!" but the scenes also have to mean something and not feel gratuitous. I also realize this is highly subjective, as a look at any book with conflicting reviews will indicate. This also probably gets into the topic of romance vs. erotic romance vs. erotica, which I'm not going to touch here.

When writing Disintegration (which I'll likely re-release sometime in 2021), I was extra super careful while plotting out the progression of the sex scenes in the book, of which there are many. Almost, if not all of them are relevant to the plot, each building on the one that came before it. On the other hand, in Fire Beyond the Frost, there might be one or two in there that aren't necessarily relevant to the overall plot, but hey, they're fun, so why not. Then, while I was reviewing The Edge of the Sphere for its eventual re-release (no date set yet), there was even a sex scene I'd completely forgotten about. OOPS.

So, those are my two categories I've discovered. Is one better than the other? No, of course not. Does one take more careful plotting than the other? Eh, possibly. Most writers have cut huge chunks of work out of their final product, and I'm no exception. As noted above, there's no right answer for when to include these scenes, or how many to put in, and so on. If it works, it works, and I try not to ask too many questions when it *does* work!

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