How to write just enough but not too much

Question: When I asked a similar question you said sometimes less is more like with torture or sex scenes. Well in my book I have a sex scene and I was going to do the beginning and after but I'm not sure how to do the beginning. How much am I supposed to do for the beginning? How much am I supposed to describe?

Answer: You know better than I do who your ideal reader is. Put yourself in their shoes. What would they want to read? What would address their interests, feelings, situation, etc. Remember, you are trying to please your reader first, not necessarily their parents, teachers, or clergy. At the same time, don't give them something so graphic they put the book down.

There is no "supposed to" about this. You must be true to the story and speak to the reader. Trust your emotions. If it feels right to you, you can't do any better (at least not in a first draft).

Let it rest for some time, then read it again and make a second draft.

Once you have something that feels right and has been revised a couple of times, consider showing it to someone--a critique partner, someone similar to your ideal reader, a writing group, etc. to get their reaction.

Comments for How to write just enough but not too much

Click here to add your own comments

Jul 08, 2014
Just enough is better than too much
by: Jennifer

Hi there - I just wanted to say that from my perspective "just enough" is way better than "too much." Of course, it does depend on the person, but I don't care for overly descriptive sex scenes. I think the human imagination can come up with things that are far sexier than a blow by blow description from someone else's imagination.

I struggle with this just a bit as well, as I think kissing can be way sexier than the act itself, and I do like to describe kissing in quite a bit of detail - and I don't want to lay it on too thick and then tick the reader off when I stop short.


Click here to add your own comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero