A Spotlight On Editing
by Angela Stevens
Why I Changed A Steamy Sexy Bathroom Scene Into A Decorating Scene
If I’m truly honest, I enjoy editing more than writing the first draft.
Because that’s when I discover the nuances in my story, where I refine the characters’ motivations, and where I find the novel’s balance. However, the down side is making the decision about deleting or totally redrafting whole scenes and chapters.
This process is made easier by leaving a long enough gap between Draft 1 and Draft 2. If I leave insufficient time, it is painful and I am less likely to look at my work subjectively.
In my first novel, Lemon Drops and Love, the drafting process was very long and the story went through countless major rewrites. I was new to writing, and frankly I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I did have pretty good instincts, but sometimes it took awhile for me to push the novel in the right direction.
My Cocktail Series is a pretty raunchy set of books. The naughty scenes are peppered throughout the story. In the beginning Lemon Drops and Love was probably the naughtiest of all the books in the series. Now, I like writing and reading sexy scenes, however, the scenes themselves do need to serve a purpose. Each new one advances the story in some way – if they don’t, then the scenes become monotonous or forced, or just plain boring.
In Lemon Drops and Love, I cut around four or five sex scenes from the finished novel because I felt they didn’t move my characters’ relationship forward or because the scenes were not fulfilling the intent they were designed for.
One such scene that took a dramatic new direction was in Chapter 34. This comes close to the end of the book and the scene was to illustrate a pivotal moment for Maya Jenkins. She had suffered at the hands of her former boyfriend (Carl Frasier), been raped, kidnapped, and left tied up in her bathroom. When she returns to her home after this event, Maya decides to take control of her fears and move on from what Carl has done to her.
Below is the original scene- warts and bad grammar, and all!
Eventually everyone left and Jude locked the door and set the alarm. He pulled Maya to the sofa and they curled up together. They sat for ages wrapped in each other’s arms, taking comfort from each other’s closeness.
“You ok?” he whispered.
“Yeah, I think I am, Jude.”
He tried to weigh up just how okay she might be.
Maya jumped to her feet and pulled him to his. “You know what I want to do?”
Jude was taken by surprise and shook his head.
“I want to take a bath with you.” She grinned and brought his fingers to her mouth, kissing them gently.
“You sure, I mean, the bath…”
“Yes, this is ridiculous, Jude. He thinks he’s gonna scare me and break us apart, but I’m not going to let him do that. I said it before. He is not going to take any more time from me. I will not live in fear in my own house. Besides, it will give me a nicer memory to latch on to, help with banishing what Carl left me with.”
Jude smiled and bent to kiss her. Maya was a lot stronger than she looked. He was beginning to think he’d got her shyness all-wrong. He suspected she had a feisty side.
“Okay.Why don’t you run the bath and I’ll pour us some wine.”
Maya nodded and headed off to the bathroom. Jude noted she didn’t hesitate at the door. Seconds later he heard the tub filling up. Jude poured a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and wandered into the bedroom, kicking the door closed behind him.
The warm flickering glow of candles spilled out of the bathroom door. Inside, she’d filled the tub high and a mountain of bubbles frothed on its surface. Three candles were lined up on the shelf over the sink, the dancing flames multiplied in the mirror. On the corners of the tub up against the wall two more candles glowed.
Jude handed Maya a glass and stripped. Climbing into the tub behind her, he pulled her towards him so she lay with her back to his front. The water was hot, the bubbles scented. As he sunk down, Maya leaned against his chest, her hips and legs between his. It felt good to surround her whole body with his. As the stresses of the day melted away, Jude became aware of only Maya.
The fragrant warmth lapped around them, as he wrapped his arms around her. Pushing her hair away from her neck with his nose he stroked his lips across her sensitive skin just below the hairline on the back of her neck. She shivered in response, at that sent a shiver that pulsed back through him, down his torso and into his groin.
Maya took his glass from him and placedit on the floor with hers. She turned her face to him so it was easier for him to reach down and kiss her.
As Jude took her mouth, he slid his long arms slowly down over her warm wet body. He paused to cup her breasts in both his hands before he continued trailing the fingers of one hand down across her abdomen. As his hand brushed the top of her pubic bone, he felt the small flutters they created in Maya. His fingers trailed further, seeking out the soft silk between her legs. As he pushed into her, he felt her groan caress his tongue.
Maya slowly rolled her hips as he began to move his fingers in delicious circles within her. Her breathing became shallow and her heartbeat quickened. Jude withdrew his fingers and she gasped, at his denial. Taking her hand, he guided hers to her sex. Putting his mouth to her ear he whispered,“Touch yourself, babe.”
Maya hesitated. She’d never touched herself in front of someone else before. Jude positioned his long fingers over hers and began to manipulate her hand. Taking his lead she began to rub herself, making slow firm circles with her middle finger against her clit.
As she played with herself Jude slid his hands back to her breasts. She could feel his eyes on her and felt her cheeks burn. But despite part of her feeling embarrassed another part of her had never been so turned on. Knowing she was close, she removed her hand but Jude caught her by the wrist and placed it back between her legs.
“Oh no, Angel, I want to watch you make yourself come.”
His words were her undoing and as her fingers only made a few more rotations before she felt that unmistakable lurch deep inside. Her belly cramped, her breath hitched, and the heat between her legs exploded in an intense orgasm. As she came, Jude groaned deep within his throat.
Panting, shocked at what she had just done,Maya twisted around to face Jude. He clasped her face with his hands, pulling her over him, kissing her until she thought she would never breathe again.
Pulling away, gasping for air all she could say was,“Oh, God Jude!”
Jude allowed her no time for recovery.He pushed his hand down her front, seeking out that warm wet place between her thighs, and once more pushed his fingers inside her. Lying front to front, his hand between her legs, she tried to take him in her hand but Jude caught her wrist with his free hand and gently bent her arm behind her back.He held her still while he continued to work her with his fingers.
“Oh no you don’t.” He murmured. “I want to watch you come again, Angel, you look so fucking great when you come.”
Maya blushed but she was already too close to prevent the inevitable and as Jude pushed his thumb against her clit he ignited something deep within her and within moments she felt her orgasm explode through her once more.
Removing his fingers he grasped her under her arms and pulled her to his lap. Her knees bent either side of him she lowered herself on to his waiting erection. Still breathing heavily, her sex swollen and still pulsing from her climax, she took him inside her. Whispering her name into her ear Jude held her tight against himself as he bucked his hips. With a strangled moan he grasped her thighs tightly as he found his own release.
They lay joined together while the water-cooled and their breathing returned to normal. Eventually she sat up and kissed him tenderly. Wincing slightly she released him from her and climbed out of the bath. Jude followed, wrapping her in a warm fluffy towel plucked from the heated towel rail. Then wrapping a second towel around himself he picked up the wine glasses and followed her into the bedroom. Lying down on the bed next to her, he handed her a glass.
“Do you think that will give you nice enough memories to erase Carl from your bathroom?” Jude grinned wickedly as she nodded enthusiastically.
Why didn’t this scene work?
- It was from Jude’s POV but it was Maya’s pivotal moment. The wrong POV thus took away its importance.
- This sex scene brought nothing new to table – it was also similar to a previous scene so was in danger of sounding repetitive or boring – and no one wants a boring sex scene.
- The sex distracted the reader from Maya’s monumental step forward.
- Maya’s show of strength is hidden because in the scene she is submitting to Jude.
So a rethink was in order.
- I needed to change up the scene to give Maya the power and show her strength.
- Inject a bit of humor to add some shades of ‘light’ to the story (previous chapters had been heavy and very dark).
- Find a way to keep a bit of flirty/sexiness without the whole scene being given over to it.
- Give the scene a change of pace.
The following is the scene as it eventually appeared in the final story…
The house seemed ominously quiet now that they were on their own. Jude locked the door and set the alarm. He joined Maya on the couch and they curled up together. They sat for ages wrapped in each other’s arms, taking comfort from each other’s closeness. “You okay?” he whispered.
“Yeah, I think I am.”
He looked at her, trying to weigh up how okay she might be. Maya jumped to her feet and pulled Jude to his. “You know what I want to do?” she said.
“I want to make some changes.”
“Yeah, big changes.” She marched off into the bedroom. Jude followed behind. When he arrived she was standing in the bath unhooking the shower curtain.
“Maya, what are you doing?”
“I told you. I’m making changes. I’m gonna get rid of everything that reminds me of him.” She wobbled as she stood on the edge of the tub stretching to flip the curtain hooks.
“Here, let me.” He stepped forwards, easily reaching the rail. Within seconds, he handed her the curtain.
“Go and get some trash bags, and in the laundry there are some cartons, bring me one.”
Jude did as he was told. When he returned, Maya began piling things into the trash bag. In went the shower curtain, soap, and half used shampoo bottles. She methodically worked her way around the surfaces.
“Is there anything I can do?” He thought he’d humor her.
“Yes, take down the rail and the blind. I always hated them. Carl picked them out. Tools are in the laundry.”
As Jude worked on his tasks, Maya began packing up items into the boxes until the bathroom was empty except for the toilet roll, which she balanced on the cistern. She’d unscrewed the holder, the towel rail, and the mirror; the place looked bare.
She stood back, looking satisfied. She picked up the boxes and carried them through to the lounge. Jude followed behind her hauling the trash bag. “Where do you want this?”
He sighed and disappeared. On his way back to the condo, Jay’s door opened. “Here,” Jay said, depositing a box in his arms. “Tell her to keep it as long as she wants, I know where she is if I need it back.”
Jude carried it back to Maya’s. The alarm beeped as he walked back in, he keyed in the code and reset. “Maya, Jay gave me this.”
“That was quick. I only just called him.” She appeared wearing old yoga pants and a well-worn huge looking tee. Oh shit, did he miss some signs? Was she collapsing in on herself again? She’d seemed fine when he left her a few minutes ago. “You might wanna go find something more suitable to wear.” She absentmindedly took the box from Jude and began rummaging around in it.
“Yeah, it’s gonna get messy.”
Maya wasn’t wrong. Three hours later they were covered in a fine dust and Maya had smudges of white paint on her forehead and another on her chin. Jude had more than a smudge. His shirt was speckled, his face and arms plastered.
“There, that’s better.” She reached up and gave him a peck on the cheek before stepping back to admire their handiwork. Jude wrapped his arms around her. It was nearly ten. They’d worked all through the evening but now the baseboards were sanded and the walls were all a patchy white.
“I think we might have to have another go at these walls. They haven’t covered very well.”
Maya laughed at him and gathered up all their paintbrushes. “That’s just the primer. It doesn’t have to look good. We’ll add the color tomorrow.”
Jude was about to ask what primer was but thought better of it. “Oh, I thought you were painting it white.”
“No, we need to put on the undercoat, and then we’ll put the color on top.” He pulled her in for a kiss. He wasn’t that interested in the process but he liked how animated it made her.
“You done this before?”
“Uh huh, nope.” He grinned wickedly, “I’m a virgin.”
Maya draped her arms around his neck and raised an eyebrow. “So I get the chance to take your virginity?” He lifted her up and she tucked her legs around his waist. “You sure do.” He walked her through to the bedroom and dropped her on the bed. “And I think I am looking forward to that.” He pulled off his paint-splattered shirt and dropped it to the floor.
“Aren’t you gonna clean up first?” she said grinning at him.
He pushed her back onto the bed, putting a knee between her thighs, and leaned over her. “There’s something you should know about me.” She kissed him and he ran his hands through her hair. “I like dirty sex.”
And there you have it. Jude and Maya went from having sex to decorating the bathroom. In the scheme of the whole novel, I found this worked well. At the time I went back and forth several times between the two versions. I liked the original and was concerned that my sexy novel might not have enough sex scenes in it. In the end I went with the attitude, less is more and plumped for the redecorating. Along with the other three or four deleted sex scenes I found the story never missed them, which is always a good sign that I made the right decision.
Angela is British born but moved to the United States a decade ago. Always a keen traveler, she has enjoyed spending time living outside of her native country. She is an ex-teacher and the mother of two children. When empty nest syndrome threatened, Angela turned to writing novels to fill her growing free time. As her hobby grew, she found storytelling began to fill her waking hours.
Her debut novel, Lemon Drops and Love grew out of her voracious appetite for reading. After one particularly momentous year, where she consumed over one hundred paper backs, Angela Stevens decided to attempt her own. The story is set in her local town and the setting for her love story was partly inspired by her passion for ice hockey.
“I discovered ice hockey when I first moved to America. We went first to see an Anaheim Ducks game when I was visiting L.A. We all loved it so much when we came home we went to watch our local team. Now I’m a rabid Washington Capitals fan, and can often be found ‘rocking the red’ at the Verizon center supporting the Washington Capitals.”
Find Angela here:
Get Lemon Drops and Love for FREE:
If you want to know more about Angela, read the interview she gave me last year; if you are interested in her books, check out my reviews on:
- Dark and Stormy (Cocktail Series, aimed at adults)
- The Wolf You Feed (Vargr Clan Trilogy, aimed at YA and adults)
- Mariquita (children’s book)
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For more tips on editing, check out:
- Tuesday Tiny Writing Tip #9 – Editing – Guest Tip by Johana Hefer
- Tuesday Tiny Writing Tip #20 – Editing and Your Readers