How to Write Erotic Romance

Writing erotica requires an acute awareness of your readership and their libido. It can’t be all show and no tell, or sex will seem flat and uninteresting.

People who search for erotica on Amazon often have a specific kink in mind. That’s why it’s important to choose a theme and write scenes that reflect it.

1. Character Development

When you write an erotic romance, you must develop your main character to create tension and build a sexual relationship that leads to the end of the story. This isn’t the same as a romance novel where the plot focuses on love, but rather one person’s journey toward their HEA (although in some erotic novels that end is not always a traditional HEA).

The beginning of an erotic romance typically introduces your character’s world before they encounter the kink of the story. The middle of the story usually focuses on exploring that kink with ups and downs and positive and negative story consequences specific to your characters.

Creating an effective erotic scene requires creativity. The goal is to get readers into your character’s skin by showing internal reactions such as heart palpitations and blushing cheeks. It’s best to avoid over-using physical descriptors like “gazing into eyes” and “heart beating faster” as these can become corny or cliché. Instead, show the reader how your character feels with their actions and their reaction to the kink of the story.

2. Plot

From the pandemonium that ensued after 50 Shades of Grey to suburban mums swooning over Mills & Boon paperbacks, we are constantly told that erotic fiction sells. But writing a sexy, steamy story isn’t just about sex scenes, it’s also about plotting and creating compelling characters and conflict.

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Unlike some genres, an erotic romance is not a genre in itself, it’s the bastard love child of romance and erotica. While explicit sex scenes often bump a romance into erotica, an erotic romance is still the story of how main characters fall in love.

When it comes to plotting an erotic romance, the oft-repeated writing advice “start with the action” is particularly pertinent. However, in erotica, the sex or anticipation of sex is THE action, so you may want to start right before the kink.

Be aware of common erotica plot tropes, such as women as helpless creatures waiting for prince charming to save them and men as natural heroes whose Navy Seal training ensures they can always win. Working positively with these tropes is possible, but you need to be creative to surprise your readers.

3. Sex

If you’re writing erotic fiction, sexuality is the core. It’s the thing that most readers are looking for, and it’s the reason they’ve picked up your book.

But that’s not all sex is about. Sex needs foreplay, and you need to give your readers a taste of what they’re about to experience. It’s all about arousal, anticipation, and the build-up to the climax. It’s the set piece of an erotic novel just like a big fight scene might be in a thriller or romance scenes in a romantic comedy.

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When it comes to sex, you need to be aware of the pitfalls. For example, if you’re writing in first person it’s important to stick with one character’s perspective for the sex scene – don’t switch between them. Otherwise, the reader will be confused and their immersion could be damaged. Also, try to avoid sex-no-no’s and be respectful of your readers’ boundaries. Think about the characters, their emotions and what’s going to make them want sex. Imagining yourself in the story will help you get there.

4. Vignettes

The vignette is a short piece of film or writing that shows, rather than tells. In literature, vignettes are used to create a portrait of a character or theme. They can also be part of a larger story. In movies, vignettes are often used to build scenes and develop characters.

A vignette can be used to awaken the reader’s senses, bringing them into a scene through detailed descriptions. It can also be used to show a moment of tension or emotion. Vignettes are often used in erotic romances to increase the emotional intensity of a scene.

To write well-written erotic fiction, you need to be familiar with the genre and its conventions. Read high-quality erotica and join groups for writers and readers of erotica. Practice writing erotic fiction for yourself (and share only if you want to). Then, start looking into publishing your work. Indie publishing is kinder to authors than legacy publishers. With the right attitude, quality books, and some luck, you can make a decent living from your erotic novels. Just be sure to keep the sex clean.

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5. Ending

The most important thing to remember is that erotic romance isn’t just about the sex. Just like any other genre, there needs to be an exciting plot that allows the characters to change and grow. Sex is just a vehicle for that change, the same way that big fight scenes are the set pieces of thrillers, love scenes are in romance, and humor is in comedy.

If you do this well, your readers will be happy. If not, you’ll end up with a book that feels contrived and unearned. The best way to learn how to finish is to read a lot of the bestsellers in your subgenre and note what kind of endings they have.

Another good idea is to read some of the one-star reviews to get ideas about what kind of endings don’t work and what kind of endings do. This will help you avoid some of the pitfalls that new writers fall into, including the all too common mistake of thinking they can just write steamy scenes for the sake of it, rather than threading them together with a plausible plot.

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