Write Like Your Mom’s Not Watching

John Stewart can’t believe you just wrote that.

Let’s be clear from the outset. My mom is the last person I fear judgment from in my work.

But I think every writer second guesses their decisions about how far to go in sex scenes. In Monster in My Closet, I wrestled a great deal with writing the incubus plotline. Not because it was filled with sex, but because it was, essentially, rape—even if, in some cases, all he did was brush his hand against his victim’s arm.

I expected some backlash over it. I worried I’d chosen a sensitive subject. And I did choose something difficult. But in my head, I had imagined the ickiest, scariest scenario I could, and that’s what came out. It felt right. I wrote it. And I waited for people to yell at me.

It hasn’t come. A few reviews have said they didn’t feel the nastiness of the incubus fit with the quirky, lighter feel of the rest of the book. But many more said they liked the mix of light and dark.

So what’s the lesson here? No matter what you write, you can’t please everyone. Write the story as it presents itself. Don’t self-edit to please people, whether you know them or not.

I admit, I worry a little over my dad reading those scenes, but honestly, he reads Stephen King. He reads all kinds of stuff. What I wrote isn’t going to shock him.

There’s no sex at all in Pooka in My Pantry, icky or not. So, now I’m worried about that. What if people are expecting it now that they’ve read the first book? Should I put in a sex scene? Well, no. There’s no room in the plot for that, so I’m not about to wedge in a sex scene. It goes both ways. Embarrassment at what’s not included can happen just as easily as it can at scenes that were included.

Write the scenes that need to be there, regardless of audience reaction, no matter who you think that audience is. Write the story that needs to be told and worry later about what people close to you will think.

With all the other decisions we make while writing—word choices, sentence structure, character actions, plotlines—worrying over who’s going to read it can paralyze us into never finishing.

Finish it. Worry about consequences later. Your mom’s probably a lot less prudish than you think.

Rachel is the author of the urban fantasy Monster Haven series from Carina Press. She believes in magic, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks, and putting things off until stress gets them done faster at the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas.

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