Guest Post: Contemporary and Historical Romance Author Sarah Ballance

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My (Not Even Close To A) Love Affair with Writing Sex

I hate writing sex. Well, that’s not true. I USED to hate writing sex. Most of what I read was way too much of inserting Tab A into Slot B – something a friend and I referred to as “your name here” sex. In other words, the scene, as written, could apply to any pairing, any genre, any plot. Absolutely nothing personal to the characters…just a total name swap from a million other stories and scenes that never really seemed to merge with the rest of the story. It took me a while to figure out what bugged me, but eventually I did: the sex lacked voice.

Once I figured that out, I started paying attention. I also started reading better books, LOL, because while I felt some lacking, I found a handful of authors who nailed the sex in such a way that I swooned for all the wrong reasons. (Rebecca Zanetti, I’m looking at you and your Maverick Montana series.) I’m not talking about graphic sex, but rather sex that is so perfectly written between two characters that it can only exist between them. Sex that is full of personality and humor and sometimes cringe-worthy moments that couldn’t belong anywhere but in their world, on those pages. It’s exquisite. It’s real.

It’s the freaking Holy Grail.

And it hooked me.

It also completely changed my every perspective about writing sex.

Now writing sex isn’t a chore. It’s a challenge. Not one of those kill-me-now challenges, but one I love SO MUCH. Because it’s no longer about reconstructing Tab A and Slot B into something that works for a given book. It’s about my characters and their relationship and the crazy, adorable, nuances that could only belong to them. It’s also a work-in-progress, and I’m still, without fail, stunned when a reader comments on the hotness of the sex in my books, but the challenge—no, scratch that…the honor—of bringing intimacy to the page is now easily one of my favorite parts of writing. And one of the best lessons I’ve learned is that the intimacy doesn’t start when the clothes come off. It begins on the first page, with visceral attraction and a depth of sexual tension that grows, subtly at first, until the characters aren’t the only ones begging for release.

It happens, at its best, when readers are begging for the very same thing.

And what’s not to love about that?


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ballanceSarah Ballance and her husband of what he calls “many long, long years” live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom, she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids, but nevertheless, you’ll find her writing sexy contemporary romance for Entangled Publishing until they throw her out. To learn more, visit her website. (

Follow Michelle McLean:

Michelle McLean is a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl who is addicted to chocolate and Goldfish crackers and spent most of her formative years with her nose in a book. She has a B.S. in History, a M.A. in English, and a knack for explaining complicated things to uncomplicated people. Michelle's non-fiction works include guides on how to write essays, term papers, literary analysis essays, and poetry. She also writes romance with a good dose of mystery and humor, historicals, and a paranormal here and there. When Michelle's not editing, reading or chasing her kids around, she can usually be found in a quiet corner working on her next book. She resides in PA with her husband and two children, an insanely hyper dog, and three very spoiled cats.

4 Responses

  1. Barbara Monajem

    Two things tend to bug me about love scenes: one is the tab A/slot B stuff, and the other is descriptions of orgasms. Concentrating on the emotions and the uniqueness of the hero and heroine are what make the sexual tension powerful–and often the tabs and explosions can be left to the reader’s imagination. Great blog, Sarah.

    • sarahballance

      Thank you, Barbara! I couldn’t agree more. Sexual tension is absolutely delicious and it MAKES the book, at least in my humble opinion, lol. Thank you for your comment!