Romance Writing: How to Fix the Sizzle in Your Book

One of my Romance writing mentors was a multi-published Harlequin author. She gave me this advice:

“You can’t assume you know how to write a novel just because you’ve completed one book. Or 10 books. Or 20 books. The more you write Romance, the more you’ll realize that no two books have the same writing problem.”

Was my Mentor Freaking PSYCHIC?!

I never have trouble writing sexual tension. Never, never, NEVER.

Of course, that was before I started my new adventure: switching from the Historical Genre to the Contemporary Genre. 

Naturally, I didn’t discover that my new, Christmas Romance had a humongous problem (aka: NO SEXUAL TENSION) until I reached the middle of my book. Imagine me in all my smugness, pouring a glass of Zinfandel and settling in my favorite chair to enjoy the masterpiece that I’d written so far…

Adrienne’s Informal Romance Writing Checklist

Endearing hero & heroine? Yep!
Adorable Animal / Kid Characters? Huzzah!
Plenty of Humor? Bueno!
Escalating Sexual Tension Between the Hero & Heroine? Uh…

 

Make Money While Romance Writing

As a Romance-writing coach, I am often contacted by self-published authors, who aren’t happy with their reviews. These authors want to understand how to earn more 4-star ratings and make money writing Romance.

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After a careful analysis of their books, I often uncover a fundamental flaw. The love story took a backseat to the mystery, the time travel, or some other non-romantic subplot.

My own work-in-progress was showing signs of this Romance-writing flaw. The story focused on the subplot (training pets as therapy animals.) The love story was taking a back seat to all the cute kids and adorable animals.

On some intuitive level, I must have sensed that my Hero and Heroine lacked sexual chemistry. Subconsciously, I tried to make up for that missing spark with Anger Scenes.

However, no sane woman would find a man sexy (much less lovable,) while he’s barking orders at her; questioning her integrity; or threatening her freedom. My Hero, who’s a security officer, is guilty of these behaviors in mid-book, when he thinks the Heroine has stolen something.

A Romance author’s overarching story goal is to show the Hero and Heroine falling in love. When you rely on Anger as an emotional hook, you sabotage that goal (a common Newbie Fail.)

So how did I fix this hot mess? 

How to Fix the Sizzle in Your Romance Novel

Emotional tension has to escalate by increments (sentence by sentence) so the Heroine’s attraction to the Hero makes sense. A steady burn can’t be achieved by slapping a Band Aid on an Anger Scene.

In other words, no reader will believe your Hail-Mary one-liner: “Despite all his yelling, he was really turning her on.”  

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To fix my story, I had to find ways to drip sexual tension onto the page (slow the pace) without destroying the integrity of the Anger Scenes (which require fast pacing.)

But the greatest challenge wasn’t the pacing; it was the characterization. I had to prevent my Hero from reading like a tyrant, and my Heroine from reading like a half-starved sex kitten.

The good news? This challenge inspired me to help other Romance writers!

If you’re struggling to write believable emotion between your Hero and Heroine, check out my on-demand video course, 50 Ways to Give Your Hero Sex Appeal. As a special feature, I workshop kiss scenes and seduction scenes, so you can see, step-by-step, how bestselling authors turn feuding protagonists into believable lovers.

Click here to view a lesson sample.


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