Tips for romance writers

Mo Harber-Lamond
16 May 2017

We spoke to Writing Romance course director and bestselling author Heidi Rice about writing sex scenes, plot development and who can benefit from learning to write romantic fiction. Read on for this, and more of Heidi’s tips.

  • 24 books published
  • 2,000,000+ copies sold
  • Three-time RITA finalist
  • Translated into 23 languages
  • So Now You’re Back published February 2016
Heidi Rice

Christina Bunce – I’m here with bestselling author and tutor on our Introduction to Writing Romance online course, Heidi Rice, and I’m going to try to glean from her some advice about writing hot romance, for those of you who’d like to try writing in the genre.

Hello Heidi!

Heidi Rice – Hi Christina!

CB – Firstly, let’s imagine I’m an author who wants to test out this genre. What makes writing hot romance different from writing traditional romantic fiction? Is there a formula? What really makes it tick?

HR – Well, there’s no formula with any romance. Basically, it’s a story of a relationship with a positive outcome, and you work out from there. With hot romance, I guess the difference depends on how hot you want to go, but it’s really about concentrating on the physical connections as well as the emotional connections. The point is, the physical connection should still have a link to the emotional connection.

The characters are going to be more involved with the physical side of the relationship, but that’s really all it is. It’s a sort of balancing act.

CB – As a writer, and as I know a lot of other writers are, the idea of writing intimate scenes can be a little nerve wracking. Have you got any advice on how I could avoid coming across as cheesy, or being eligible for the bad sex award?

HR – I would say to any writer to think about their own comfort zone when writing. You shouldn’t be forcing it. But, at the same time, remember that it’s your characters having sex, not you, so it’s all about imagining yourself in the character’s head, if you like. There’s no reason for you to feel embarrassed about it, but if you do, pull back a bit. Don’t push yourself too far.

Romances are character led in the sense that it’s the story of the relationship.

Heidi Rice

CB – What is intimacy? Is it always sex?

HR – No, not at all. In fact, it can be the opposite of that, in a way. The sex doesn’t necessarily link into the emotional intimacy, but when you’re writing a romance, the sex scenes have to be part of the emotional journey. It doesn’t have to mean that they’re falling in love because of the sex or vice versa, it just means you want it to be part of the journey. Otherwise, it just means it’s not a relevant part of the story.

CB – Is ‘hot romance’ a genre, as such?

HR – Well, no. Romance as a genre is huge, and there are all different levels of ‘heat’ within romance itself, so it’s really about what your characters are dictating for the story, and what you as a writer feel comfortable with. That’s where you’ll decide how hot your couple’s relationship is going to be, if you like.

CB – So it’s definitely more character led than plot led?

HR – Yes. I would say all romances are character led in the sense that it’s the story of the relationship. Obviously, the plot will also depend on what genre you’re writing in. Different things come into consideration if you’re writing, for instance, a sci-fi romance, or a paranormal romance, or a historical romance or any other route you want to take. Different elements of the plot will be relevant to the genre, but your central story will be the story of that relationship.

CB – If I’m a writer who’s not writing a hot romance novel as such, do you think understanding the conventions of and thinking about hot romance will help me more generally with my novel in terms of character development, and other aspects of writing?

HR – Absolutely, because a lot of the same principles apply to hot romance, not-quite-so-hot romance, and many other genres too. Like I said, it’s a sliding spectrum dictated by your characters and you as a writer. All the conventions and skills you need as a romance writer you’ll also need as a hot romance writer, and vice versa.

CB – Thanks very much Heidi, see you in the virtual classroom!

Heidi Rice is a USA Today bestselling author of 26 romantic novels, novellas and short stories. She has sold over 2 million copies of her books worldwide, had her stories translated into 23 languages and has finaled three times in the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA awards which recognise excellence in romance writing. Her first women’s fiction novel, So Now You’re Back, was published in February 2016 by Harlequin Mira UK and described by one Amazon reviewer as ‘a sheer delight’. Her second women’s fiction novel is due out in August 2017 in Harper Collins’ new HQ Stories imprint.

Before becoming a published romance author ten years ago, Heidi worked for twenty years as a film journalist for, among others, Radio Times, What’s on TV and the Daily Mail. She has run numerous library workshops on writing romantic fiction including featuring in Islington Council’s Word Festival in 2013 and has previously worked as a reader for the Romantic Novelists Association’s New Writers Scheme.

Writing Romance

Begins: 16 October 2017