Romance Writers

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Romance Writers
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Welcome to our new Romance Writers Community group!

Are you looking for a community of romance writers with whom to share your work and get feedback on your latest WIP? Do you struggle writing sex scenes? Do you want to learn how to build tension between your romantic heroes?

Regardless of whether you write sweet YA romance, hilarious rom coms, or smutty paranormal sexcapades, we are here to support you on all things romance.

But, considering the nature of the content, we have a few more rules than normal. Please familiarise yourself with these before posting any content:

· Be kind and considerate to others.

· Be constructive with any feedback you give.

· Be generous with your time.

· No sharing of any gratuitous 18+ content.

· No posts or uploading of work depicting rape, sexual abuse, underage sex, bestiality, or sexual violence of any kind.

We welcome frank and open discussions about writing effective sex scenes, along with all other aspects of romance writing, but please remember this is a public forum accessible to all.

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Happy Valentine's Day, Romance Writers! At Jericho Writers, we've had fun coming up with 69 (totally random number) romance-themed writing prompts. Have a look and if you're inspired by any of them, post it in the group! We'd love to see what you come up with - https://jerichowriters.com/69-romance-writing-prompts/

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Anybody else out there writing erotica? Seems to me that most authors in this genre write trilogies or longer series. I myself got seriously addicted to JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series - read one after the other for about three months straight! Looking to self-publish on Amazon by the end of this year. Would love to connect with others writing in this genre. 

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OK, so when looking for a romance, what sort of title font attracts?! And why are nearly all the romance writers women!

Thank you, Natali, a relevant and well-written post. I think it is important to write what one wants to read, and what a writer is comfortable with. I'm mainly a cozy mystery writer, with romantic subplots, but I've written two paranormal romantic mysteries. I'm more comfortable with FTB scenarios, and simple teasers i.e. showing visceral reactions and leaving the rest up to the reader. If it gets too descriptive, too steamy, I tend to flip pages, so I'm better off not writing those scenes! Each to their own, and whatever fits the genre and the comfort level

Hi everyone. I am writing a romance novel with sci-fi and fantastical elements. It has a modern-day setting, and the protagonist travels back in time and experiences soul connections. The story involves soulmates living in different lifetimes and this involves her current-day love interest and the antagonist. The book includes a scenario set in the future.

In my novel, there are sex or lovemaking scenes. This is a natural plot progression and reveals the dynamics of the characters involved. To me, romance and passion go hand in hand, but I hasten to add that in my book, there are no graphic details nor a detailed play-by-play narration (nothing wrong in the right channels).

Diana Gabaldon, a famous and successful author, has written 9 novels with many plot lines. Her time travel books depict the eternal love between the Twentieth Century heroine and her Eighteenth-Century Scotland husband. The sex and rape scenes are well-written and not at all offensive. Diana's books are the source material for the hugely successful "Outlander" TV series, with fandoms spawned not only for her books but for the TV series and the actors. Fans of the TV series know there are many steamy scenes, and a lot of skin displayed.

Natali, I enjoyed your very well-written article.

I believe it’s up to the author to pepper his or her novel with steamy sex scenes, just alluding to the sex and passion, or none. The degree of the details will depend on the author’s comfort level and what is necessary for the storyline.

As you rightly pointed out, “Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.” I am writing a romance novel and will include sex scenes, where appropriate, to reflect the dynamics of the relationship and to progress the plot. To me, sex is part of a healthy relationship. However, none of the scenes in my novel are graphic, nor do they depict a blow-by-blow account. The scenes are relatively tame compared to other novels.

I have heard of peers not wanting to review novels if they include steamy sex scenes! To each his or her own, but it proves the fact that authors need to find the “right” peers to review their work. After all, not everyone appreciates your story genre, writing style, or subject.

Thank you Natali, this is a lovely post - and the comment about  budding writers looking for an agent when they should be looking for a therapist made me laugh out loud! I've come across a few...

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Hi. I have a new and developing website at peterjhill.ac.uk and I recently re-joined Facebook. I can see there are quite a few author groups on Facebook, but I'm wondering which - if any - might be of particular value to Romance writers. Does anyone here have any suggestions?

Also - should I join Twitter? Other Social Media sites?

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Hi everyone, I am joining this group as although my two books are not your typical romance, they have at the core of the story, a romance. WIP has a dysfunctional relationship and desperate measures are planned to retrieve the good times, the first one (debut) is a M/M romance and that is due to be published next year, so if anyone wants to swop words or discuss I am very happy to do so. Secretly I can't wait for people to read it, I want to shock people with its themes, and although it's not mainstream, it's still a story. I am open to reading anyone's story, whatever the sub category. 

Sex scenes I have not tackled, and am more than willing to discuss the level of information you need to tell the reader....does anyone else have the answer to this one? 

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Hi. This sounds interesting. I'm wondering about the final rule: '... or violence of any kind.' Should that be changed to 'sexual violence'. What I mean is that some stories could feature a woman braining her abusive husband with a frying pan (I know - cliched!!), or there might be a punch-up between rivals, etc.  I'm sure you get my drift.

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Blog written by Natali Juste Simmonds, Manager of All-Things-Blogs and Digital Content at Jericho Writers.

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Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. Whether the characters in your book are falling in love or having a wild but instantly-forgettable night of passion, there comes a time in most writers’ careers when they have to bite the bullet and write a sex scene.

I know. It’s hard (sorry, this blog will be full of double entendres – just roll with it). Which is why we, at Jericho Writers, will be with you to help you through the sticky patches. So, where do we start?

We start with you. 

Like with any form of writing, if your heart is not in it, then it will show. If you’re scared, or nervous, or embarrassed – then that is going to affect your writing. So, before you start flicking through the Kama Sutra for inspiration, take a deep breath and ask yourself why writing sex scenes is harder for you than writing any other type of action scene.

I’m a (self-published and traditionally published) author of 6 books and counting, and every single one of my books has a sex scene in it. I don’t write erotica, but I do write romance, and if you’re going to string your readers along with a sweeping tale of forbidden love and eternal longing, then it’s only fair to give them a happy ending. Which means I’ve become a bit of a sexpert on all things steamy – I even lecture of the subject. 

So, here’s a brief overview of everything I’ve learned via a quick Q&A addressing the questions I’m most often asked…

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 1. What if my mother-in-law reads it?

Well, she probably will (especially if she hates you and wants to know how someone like you managed to snag someone as wonderful as her son). But, like with anything you write, you have zero control over who picks up your book and what they think of it. And writing sex is no exception. Most readers realise that what a character gets up to between the pages of your novel has no bearing on what the writer does in real life. And that counts for between the sheets too. Will your mother-in-law think you are a business whiz because your MC is? Will she think you are a serial killer because your villain is? Then I highly doubt she’ll think you are a brazen madam because your main character is at it like two rabbits on an 18-30s holiday. 

When you’re writing sex scenes, try to create a persona that you are writing for. Maybe your sex scenes are passionate and beautiful and in your mind, you are writing for a 50 year old librarian who dreams of meeting her very own hero. Or maybe your audience is a woman in her early 20s who wants a humorous and fast-paced smut-fest. Or maybe it’s a 17-year-old teen who needs a book to help her navigate the ups and downs of first love and all that comes with it.

These are the people you are writing for. Your mother-in-law can deal with her own shame of explaining to her son why she enjoyed your steamy scenes so much.

 2. Do I even need a sex scene in this book?

Not every romance novel needs a sex scene. If you’re not sure, then there’s a strong chance a tasteful ‘fade to black’ scenario will suffice. Sex scenes are no different to any other action scene – they must move the plot forward, and/or help deepen characterisation, or sate the reader’s expectations (if you’re writing erotica, for instance, and don’t give your readers regular sex scenes you won’t have very happy readers).

Think about whether you are adding the sex scenes because everything has been building up to this moment and your readers (and characters) deserve closure…or you just really fancy imagining these two people having sex even though the story works without it. By all means write your own smutty fan fiction, but sex won’t always make every story better. So only add it if it’s necessary.

3. Do I have enough experience to write a good sex scene?

Listen, not everyone who writes sex scenes is a Don Juan. Writing successful sex scenes isn’t about knowing how to satisfy someone in bed, it’s about understanding your characters better. Please, and I can’t stress this enough, remember you are not writing a sex manual. Most adults reading your book will know what sex looks and feels like. You do not have to demonstrate what goes where and for how long and a blow by literal blow that takes as long to read as it does to do. There is nothing remotely sexy or romantic about that.

When a reader is enjoying a scene with a grand sword fight in it, or a big sporting moment, they simply want to see the highlights and how it makes the protagonists feel. It’s the same with your sex scenes. If you write ten books with, with ten sex scenes, involving twenty different MCs, every single sex scene should feel and sound different because every character is different. For instance, if your timid and shy protagonist is suddenly a wild cat in the bedroom, then this has to be you foreshadowing the fact that she’s not all she seems – not because you didn’t realise that a person’s personality is generally the same in most situations. Because if your character is not hiding a big secret, then she will also be shy and timid in the bedroom meaning the sex scene will be slower, more gentle, and more romantic. 

Make sure how, where, and why your characters are having sex match their personalities and motivations.

4. How do I keep readers engaged?

Believe it or not, pleasing your romance readers has little to do with the sex scene and all to do with the build-up. Like any romantic movie, the pacing of your story and the will-they-won’t-they is what keeps viewers on the edge of their sofas. And it’s the same with books. 

Even stranger to believe, this has exactly the same effect whether you are building up to the first time your MCs hold hands, to your protagonist partaking in a wild orgy. Regardless of what they are building up to, the tension and pacing has to be so palpable that the romantic scene is inevitable and can’t be left out of the story.

If you have two characters with no chemistry having sex, then is it even a scene worth reading?

 5. What words do I use?

And finally, the dreaded question: Do I have to use words like ‘pulsating member’ to write good sex scenes? No. You don’t. You really don’t. 

Again, it all depends on your style of writing and genre. If you write amusing rom coms, then make your sex scenes fun and funny. If you write gripping book club novels, then your sex scenes will use the same literary language. And if you are satisfying your ever-growing smutty audience, then drop your overly flowery euphemisms and say it how it is.

The best way to improve the language, flow, and rhythm of your writing is to read lots and lots of sex scenes in your chosen genre. Make a list of words and phrases, if it helps, play about with ideas and styles. If it excites you writing it, chances are it will have the same effect on your readers.

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The most important thing to consider!

 BUT…and this is the biggest butt in sex writing…before you set off to write your sex scene ask yourself this one very important question:

Am I writing this scene because it’s an integral part of the story and vital to the plot or am I just getting off on some literary titillation and maybe I should be writing smutty stuff for my own amusement and not inflicting this on others?

 I may sound flippant here but having worked in the industry for many years I can’t tell you how often I’ve read work by budding writers looking for an agent – when perhaps they should be looking for a therapist. Writing romance (that you expect others to read) is not the place for you to process your trauma, to act out your deepest darkest fantasies, or where you get to be totally gross. There’s a reason why agents feel the need to stipulate that they won’t accept submissions with graphic on-page sexual abuse or gratuitous violence. Things can get very disturbing when it comes to sex in books, and a lot of that does not belong on bookshelves.

 Please try and remember that when you are writing romance novels, your aim is to make your readers swoon and wish they were your characters. They need to feel the love, the passion, the tension your characters are feeling – no reader wants to question a writer’s motives.

So have fun, drop your inhibitions, and let your characters have the time of their life. Because the very best romance novels are the ones where it’s evident from the start that the writer has enjoyed every second of writing it!

 

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Of all the writing habits I have, one of the worst – the worst from good financial sense point of view – is that I like writing LONG books.

My first novel was a spine-breaking 180,000 words. Not one of my novels has ever been less than 110,000 words. The first “short story” I wrote was 8,000 words, which is to say miles too long to be an actual short story. Heck, even this email is likely to be far longer than any other email you get in your inbox today.

Ah well. There are some things you can’t fight, and my addiction to length is one of them.

But that also means that when it comes to short-form copy, I’m at a loss.

I’m not especially good at book blurbs, which want to be about 100-120 words (depending a bit on layouts and where you’re expecting them to appear.) Since titles need to be short and punchy, I’m not especially good at those either.

In a word: I’m pretty damn rubbish when it comes to coming up with titles … and this email is going to tell you how to write them.

Which means if you want to ignore the entire contents of what follows, on the basis that I obviously, obviously, obviously don’t know what I’m talking about, then I have to say that the evidence is very much in your favour.

That said, I think it’s clear enough what a title needs to do. It wants to:

  1. Be highly consistent with your genre
  2. Offer some intrigue – for example, launch a question in the mind of the reader
  3. Ideally, it’ll encapsulate “the promise of the premise” in a few very short words, distilling the essence of your idea down to its very purest form.

The genre-consistency is the most essential, and the easiest to achieve. It matters a lot now that so many books are being bought on Amazon, because book covers – at the title selection stage – are no more than thumbnails. A bit bigger than a phone icon, but really not much. So yes, the cover has to work hard and successfully in thumbnail form, but the title has more work to do now than it did before.

Genre consistency is therefore key. Your title has to say to your target readers, “this is the sort of book that readers like you like”. It has to invite the click through to your book page itself. That’s its task.

The intrigue is harder to do, but also kinda obvious. “Gone Girl” works because of the Go Girl / Gone Girl pun, and those double Gs, and the brevity. But it also works because it launches a question in the mind of the reader: Who is this girl and why has she gone? By contrast, “The Girl on the Train” feels a little flat to me. There are lots of women on lots of trains. There’s nothing particularly evocative or intriguing in the image. I don’t as it happens think that book was much good, but I don’t think the title stood out either. (I think the book sold well because of some pale resemblances between the excellent Gone Girl and its lacklustre sister. The trade, desperate for a follow-up hit to Gone Girl, pounced on whatever it had.)

The third element in a successful title – the “promise of the premise” one – is really hard to do. I’ve not often managed it, and I’ve probably had a slightly less successful career as a result.

So what works? Well, here are some examples of titles that do absolutely nail it:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Brilliant! That title didn’t translate the rather dour and serious Swedish original (Man Som Hatar Kvinnor / Men Who Hate Women). Rather it took the brilliance of the central character and captured her in six words. She was a girl (vulnerable), and she had a tattoo (tough and subversive), and the tattoo was of a dragon (exotic and dangerous). That mixture of terms put the promise of the book’s premise right onto the front cover and propelled the book’s explosive success.

Incidentally, you’ll notice that the title also completely excludes mention of Mikael Blomkvist, who is as central to that first book as Salander is. But no one bought the book for Blomkvist and no one remembers the book for Blomkvist either. So the title cut him out, and did the right thing in doing so.

The Da Vinci Code

Brilliant. Dan Brown is fairly limited as a writer, but it was a stroke of genius to glue together the idea of ancient cultural artefacts with some kind of secret code. Stir those two things up with a bit of Holy Grail myth-making and the result (for his audience) was commercial dynamite.

And – boom! – that dynamite was right there in the title too. The Da Vinci part namechecks the world’s most famous artist. The Code part promises that there are secret codes to be unravelled.

Four words delivering the promise of the premise in full.

I let You Go

This was Clare Mackintosh’s breakout hit, about a mother whose young son was killed in a hit-and-run car accident. The promise of the premise is right there in four very short words … and given a first person twist, which just adds a extra bite to the hook in question. A brilliant bit of title-making.

___

So that’s what a title wants to do. A few last comments to finish off.

One, I think it’s fair to say that it’s quite rare a title alone does much to propel sale success.

Because there are a lot of books out there, and because everyone’s trying to do the same thing, there’s not much chance to be genuinely distinctive. My fifth Fiona Griffiths novel was called The Dead House, but there are at least three other books on Amazon with that title, or something very like it. That didn’t make my title bad, in fact – it did the promise of the premise thing just fine – but I certainly couldn’t say my title was so distinctive it did anything much for sales.

Two, if you’re going for trad publishing, it’s worth remembering that absolutely any title you have in mind at the moment is effectively provisional. If your publishers don’t like it, they’ll ask you to change it. And if they don’t like your title #2, they’ll ask you to come up with some others. In short, if, like me, you’re bad at titles, you just don’t need to worry too much (if you’re going the trad publishing route, that is.) There’s be plenty of opportunity to hone your choice well prior to publication.

Three, you don’t want to think about title in isolation. There should, ideally, be a kind of reverberation between your title and the cover. That reverberation should be oblique rather than direct. Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go had for its cover image a butterfly trapped against a window – a metaphorical reference to the anguish of the book’s premise. If instead it had shown a mother obviously distraught as a car struck her son, the cover – and title – would have seemed painfully clunky and ridiculous.

If you get a great cover image that doesn’t work with your chosen title, then change the title. If you have a superb title and your cover designer’s image is too directly an illustration of it, then change the image. That title/cover pairing is crucial to your sales success, so you can afford no half-measures in getting it right.

That’s all from me.

My kids are making elderflower cordial and singing as they do so. They are also wearing helmets for no reason that I can possibly understand.

Till soon

Harry

PS: Want to know what I think of your title? Then I’ll tell you. Just pop your title (plus short description of your book) in the comments below. I’ll tell you what I think.