Monday, September 3, 2012

The Rules of Erotic Romance.

Hello. My name is Mia Downing. I write erotic romance. 

The definition of that, from Wikipedia, is:
Erotic romance novels are stories written about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction.[1] The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn’t be removed without damaging the storyline. 

Yep. That's exactly what I write. There are books out there that blur the rules, and some of those books have become really popular. That makes it hard for us who write to the rules, because the newbies to erotic romance expect everything to fall in line with the book they read and loved, not realizing there's a whole system to the madness, already in place. 

I joke that there aren't many rules, and some of the few include don't love the dead people or pets, harm children or rape people. I'm good with all of those, because that doesn't excite me or my characters, and it's morally wrong. But did you know there are actually quite a few rules I have to follow, if I want to be published? Here is a list of the big rules. 

1) Heat it up, fast!
That's a hard one, because the true readers of erotic romance (and my publisher) want the sizzle right from the get-go. I don't get 30 pages to slow-burn the lust between the characters and let them get to know each other over crumpets and tea. They want it fast, they want impact, they want a connection. That's hard, because if you have characters that are strangers to each other, you have to somehow make the attraction believable. 

2) Lots o' sex!
Yep, the readers and publishers want this, too. Lots of sex, lots of details. I try very hard to show character growth, conflict, or motivation in my sex scenes so it's not just tossed in there for fun and giggles. I do a lot of dialogue and toss story line pieces into the sex, too. It's hard to write sometimes and I'll admit, sometimes I'm like, "really, who would read that?" Usually, that sex scene ends up to be the favorite one of test readers. Who figured? 

In the sex, it's important to note there's a certain level of frank language that's expected. We call those 'buzz words.' So if you've read a book where the heroine might be referring to her delicate bits as 'down there' realize that's not at all par for the genre. In fact, in an erotic romance, the hero would probably demand she call her delicate bits what he calls them. Or vice versa. Do I like using buzz words? Hell no. It makes me cringe sometimes. But quite honestly, when I read books that use something flowery instead of the buzz word, I get a little cranky. 

3) No 'I love you' until the end. 
I never get to write the wedding scene, because in erotic romance, any romance really, once they say I love you, it's definitely over. Some authors don't even get to have characters say that, if they have a happily-for-now ending. Why? That's not what the reader/publisher wants. They want that romance formula, the chase, catch, release, suffer heartache and then resolve formula that works so well. Delving deeper, into a committed relationship or marriage, doesn't happen because usually, they say 'I love you' and the book is done. Unless they have an epilogue, or they're in a series (like my Spy Games series) you get a glimpse of what the future held for favorite characters. 

This is a rule a few books break, because they go into a series that cumulates over the character's relationship. A lot of erotic romance publishers don't take serial/saga books. It will be interesting to see if guidelines change. However, from what I've seen, readers really hate that a book's conflict/romance isn't solved in a book. Hence why my series consists of stand-alone books with characters that cross-over. But each romance gets the happy ending at the end of their book. 

4) Sometimes, you don't have aNY say in story length
It's interesting to see reviewers or readers complain about story length. Sometimes the author just doesn't have a say. If they want in on that series or anthology, an author has to come up with a story that fits the word count specified. That's really hard. I don't like to write short, and had a hard time doing so with Ripped. My Spy Games books are all full-length novels, and if they'd let me, they would have been longer. But you can only do so much sometimes. 

5) Sometimes, the title and cover isn't what you wish it to be
If you want to sell sexy, your title and cover have to reflect that. I am horrible with titles, so I tend to name them after the character then brainstorm with my editor after she reads it. I know the title I pick isn't going to be sexy enough, and I've come to terms with that flaw. I also want a horse on every one of my covers, but I don't get one unless I write a Cowboy Kink. Now, I only have one book with a horse in it, but whatever. I can't complain at all about my covers--they're sexy and hot, and I love them all. But I won't deny that at times, I just want one of those tame covers with scenery and a cottage or something. A horse. If I want that, I have to go to a different genre, because that is not what sells. 

So those are the rules I live with in my genre, erotic romance. Did they surprise you? 

I'm also blogging over at so if you want a chance at free stuff, go there. But a comment here might win you something good...  


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HI Anon! I posted my info on the sidebar of the blog, if you want to chat. My hero in the third Spy Games book uses sensual massage to win his heroine over! Thanks for stopping by!

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