Lisa Burstein

This Be Where I Blog

SEX IN NA? Is it required?

on April 29, 2014

I think a lot of you will be happy to know I’m working on edits for BEN & CASSIE’s Novella right now <3. The Possibility of Us 



For those of you who don’t know Ben & Cassie, their story started in Dear Cassie

Dear Cassie tore my heart out when I wrote it. Cassie had an abortion just before that book began and was dealing with the aftermath of it during the whole of the novel. By the end she had found some closure, some forgiveness and a new relationship with Ben. It ts an upper-YA book with very strong language, sex, and sexual situations, but Ben and Cassie did not have sex in the book.

Cassie was not ready to be in a relationship again, let alone be that intimate with someone. Kissing was as far as they went, even though both of them had been sexually active before.

Fast forward six months after Dear Cassie ends to The Possibility of Us. This novella is New Adult because now they are both 18, out of high school and trying to decide what to do about their lives and each other. Their relationship has gotten more serious and toward the end of the book they have sex for the first time. They are finally ready to really commit to each other and finally ready to trust in their love physically.

Because their relationship has been so delicate, so filled with Cassie’s baggage I wrote the sex scene as closed door; meaning you know they are about to have sex, but I don’t put it on the page. It feels right for them, like they almost deserve to have this as something no one else can share, literally. BUT, then there’s the expectations of writing a New Adult book. My last book Sneaking Candy was FILLED with sex and sexual innuendo. It was a romantic comedy, a very different kind of book, but I still wonder if leaving sex out this time will hurt me when it comes to readers.

Will The Possibility of Us be less well received if I don’t give readers a glimpse into Cassie and Ben’s bedroom?

I’m going to admit something and maybe this admission has gone unspoken by other NA writers, but I feel pressure to live up to a certain heat level.

Perhaps it’s a little how teen girls feel when guys pressure them to have sex before they are ready. He won’t like me anymore if I don’t do what he wants. I am feeling the same way about readers. Will they still like me if I keep Cassie and Ben’s sex-life implied and not explained?

Genres have expectations, there is nothing wrong with that. I guess I’m concerned that one expectation of New Adult has become for the most part explicit sex.

My edits are due Friday and I will be going back and forth on what to do until then I’m sure. For right now, I’m sticking with what feels right for my characters, even if the market is pushing me to believe it is wrong.



10 responses to “SEX IN NA? Is it required?

  1. Sex scenes are fun to write, but tricky. I’m 3/4 through a YA romance and knew sex was going to happen at some point. My characters grabbed me by the throat last night, dragged all three of us into the bedroom and treated me to a stellar, unexpected and ‘perfect for the moment in the book’ experience. Will readers like it? I hope so, but it came out a hell of a lot better than what I had been planning for them. Sometimes characters are smarter than authors.

  2. love2dazzle says:

    I just wrote an entire post so if this is moderated ignore this one. Just in case it isn’t I’ll start over because my phone glitches out in me.

    I don’t think a New Adult books needs to be filled with sex or even explicit sex. Genres are not like movie ratings. New adult is not a rating like G, PG, PG13, Rated R, or NR. There are plenty of adult fiction books out there that don’t have sex scenes in them. New Adult is about subject matter and the audiences it shouldn’t be the new erotica. I will be disappointed if it becomes the new erotica. New Adult is supposed to be thAt inbetween area, so I think it is good to have books without sex too. I would actually prefer less sex scenes even though I am a huge fan of “Sneaking Candy.” I thought it was very cute and had a lot of great points even though there was a lot of sex talk but I don’t want every book I read to be like “Sneaking Candy.” I think Ben and Cassie need the privacy of their moment. Especially with everything that Cassie has been through, I think it would be perfect for them. New Adult should not be controlled by sex, that is what erotica is for. I think there should be more New Adult books that have less sex in them because I feel like you get more substance that way. I have to say I am praying and hoping I get and eARC of “The Possibility of Us” like I did with all the other ones because I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to find out what happens with Cassie and Ben.

  3. S. J. Pajonas (spajonas) says:

    Your fear of these expectations is not unfounded and you are not the only one feeling this pressure, rest assured. A lot of us that write NA out of contemporary romance feel this way about NA. A few of us have been coming up with tagging ideas for romance outside of the steamy, right-on-the-page sex. I believe we’re going to talk about it on #NALitChat soon, so stop by some Thursday night and give us your thoughts.

  4. Tabitha says:

    I don’t think explicit sex in necessary for NA. For me, the whole concept of NA is deciding what to do with your life after high school or in college and while sex plays a big role in many young peoples lives, it’s not all there is. Easy by Tammara Webber is probably my favorite NA and it’s on the low end of the explicit sex scale.

  5. I got really excited when I read this post. I had to get to a computer pronto to leave my comments. 🙂

    First of all, I want to say good for you for not doing what the industry demands. Writing, first and foremost, is for the author, not the readers. I think that gets lost in all of the “review” madness.

    The fact that NA is being treated like a raunchy free for all is the reason I’ve had trouble getting into the genre. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some sex in books. I don’t care what genre it is. If two consenting characters want to have sex. Awesome. Do I care about them? Perfect. Is it descriptive? Awesome.

    However, I’ve only read a handful of NA books because there is SEX EVERYWHERE. If it’s not adding to the story, I don’t really care about it. I don’t want to read about nipples every page if there isn’t a reason. The very first thing I look for in a book is the story. I need to be engaged. I need to fall in love with the characters. I have no issue with romance, as long as you give me a healthy plot to go along with it.

    Now on to your thoughts. Feasibly, if you feel that the sex holds up off the page, the leave it off the page. You are not doing your characters any favors if it comes off as forced, anyway, right? If writing the sex scene on page doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. The fact that your concerned with what the readers will think just proves what a giant mess authors have become because of negative feedback. I hate hate hate that we can’t just write what feels right without having readers whispering in our ears. Of course, I love my readers, where would I be as an author without them? But I refuse to write something just because I think it’ll get me a reader.

    That being said, I’m facing a similar issue that I’m hesitant to spoil all over your page, but I’m REALLY tempted. Maybe I’ll message you on facebook or something.


    So I guess my thoughts are, do what feels right. You write for you. I think you’re a very smart lady who has worked hard to earn her following. Be true to yourself and your characters. In the end, it’s about how the story works for you, not how it works for everyone else.

  6. JenMcConnel says:

    Great post, and a question I think all NA writers are trying to answer. Personally, sex doesn’t make a book NA or YA, and neither does the absence of sex. Your twenties are about a lot more than hooking up, and I think we’re doing the age a disservice if we point to less sexy NA and say it doesn’t fit the genre. Bravo for doing what is true to your characters and your story!

  7. LizLong says:

    I personally don’t like writing sex scenes. I’m a big fan of fade to black scenes that let the imagination interpret. That being said, I absolutely feel pressure from readers (and even other authors) that want to include sex in all the NA and Adult books (even if it doesn’t necessarily add to the story). But if I’m not comfortable writing it, I feel certain that it would show in the story, and I don’t want it to sound forced. I’ve decided to stick to what I know and while sex isn’t BAD, it’s not something I want to go into detail on – and that’s ok!

  8. This blog post was INCREDIBLY needed. Thank you for voicing your trepidation—I think a lot of us NA writers are grappling with this conundrum. With a genre built on explicit sex, more or less, are we somehow failing our readers’ expectations by not including it?

    My NA, The Sound of Us, has one sex scene in it–and it isn’t even between the MC and the LI, and it’s mostly closed-door. I feel, because NA is full of explicit sex, it doesn’t live up to the “New Adult Standards” because of how it is written. And it has somewhat shown in the sales. If it had more heated sex, would it be more widely-read? Perhaps.

    The evolution of NA is slow, and maybe we’re a little ahead of the curb, but if we do not put out NA that can hold its own without explicit sex, then there WILL be no evolution.

    • Yes. So much yes. And I don’t even write NA (yet). However, this is the NA I want to READ. There are plenty of books available with detailed sex on every page. I want to read a story. Not porn.

  9. Ashley says:

    Two of my favorite NA’s do not have explicit sex, or even sex at all. Tammara Webber’s Easy, and Allie Everhart’s Choosing You both are fantastic NA’s and Easy’s sex scenes just fade to black and lets the reader imagine what’s going on. Choosing You doesn’t have anything besides kissing, if I recall correctly. It was nice and let the plots work more than having to constantly make room for sex.

    While I do enjoy a good sex scene, not every book I read needs them. If it works in the story, and the build up is there, great. If you think it might detract from the plot and overall story, don’t show it.

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