Romance or not romance?

IWSGIt’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group

For the past month, I have been writing a new genre and a new form for me – a Regency romance novella. I have already finished the entire story and am now in the process of revising. I’ve been posting the revised chapters on Wattpad, one by one. Seven chapters are in, with a few more to go, but I’ve been wondering. Is it really romance? Or should I attach another label to it?

You see, my story doesn’t include sex scenes, only a few kisses. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude. I like romance novels and read them, and I know that in all of them, sex is a requirement for writers. If you write romance, be prepared to write smut, right?

But I don’t want to. When I read romance, I skip sex scenes. Not because I’m too prim and proper or for some religious reason but simply because they bore me. They are all the same. After reading the first dozen of them, I know exactly what will happen in each one – the silken thighs, the nub of feminine desire, the over-the-moon climax – so I just page through until I come to the end of the scene, and the action resumes.

That’s right: sex scenes stop the action. In my view as a writer, that’s an unforgivable sin. Georgette Heyer, the founder of the romance genre and one of my all-time favorite authors, didn’t have sex scenes in any of her novels, and they’ve been selling steadily since her first one came out over 90 years ago. Could I follow in her venerated footsteps and call my novella a romance? Or is it mainstream?

It’s clearly a love story with a bit of suspense, formulaic like any other romance, and I wouldn’t bother with definitions, if the readers didn’t require them. When I’m done with it on wattpad, hopefully with some feedback from the readers, I’m going to yank it out and self-publish it as an ebook, but wherever I publish it, be it wattpad or amazon, I have to fill out a ‘Category’.

So, romance or not romance?

For those curious enough to judge for themselves, you can read it here.


This entry was posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Novella, Olga Godim, Regency, Romance, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Romance or not romance?

  1. James Pailly says:

    I’ve heard other romance fans complain about sex scenes. I think there are probably a lot of people who’d appreciate your leaving them out. Romance doesn’t have to be erotica.

  2. Lidy says:

    I consider romance as the development of love, friendship and trust between two characters as they build their love relationship. I know some readers expect sex scene(s), but that doesn’t mean a romance isn’t without one. If you don’t want to, then you don’t have to. And if you must, you can imply it and go straight to the action.

  3. eclecticalli says:

    Interesting question… I’m curious to hear what other people have to say. For me there are all sorts of different kinds of romance, some of which don’t involve sex-scenes…. but I am far from knowledgeable about the expectations in the genre

  4. Nick Wilford says:

    I don’t see why a romance has to include sex scenes. The best advice I read about them is to treat them like every other scene in the story. Is it moving the story forward? Is there character development? If not, then drop it. It shouldn’t be gratuitous!

  5. Olga, the market is certainly split on sex or no sex. I figure it like Nick does. If the sex scene is necessary for the plot, leave it in. If it doesn’t add anything to move the story along, then out it goes. That’s the way I write crime novels. If there is a sex scene, something should happen in that scene that is important to the story. Somebody must say something or think something that is important for motivation, for instance. Good post.

  6. Liz Blocker says:

    I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure not all romance novels have sex scenes in them. The explicit ones do, yes, but some of them just do the ‘fade to black’ things that other non-explicit genres do. I’ve read plenty of books that are clearly love stories that don’t have sex scenes. That being said, I’ve always thought that one of the biggest and best rules of writing sex is to ONLY write it if it furthers the plot or the characters. (unless you’re writing erotica, of course 🙂 ) It sounds like WAAAAY too many books don’t do that, which is why you – and I – skip those scenes. So you could also write a sex scene that furthers the plot, and change that.

  7. Since I don’t read the genre, I’m not qualified to comment. However, I’m with you on the sex scenes. The term “vintage romance” comes to mind (just something I made up). I’m willing to bet there would be a big market for that. My grandma loved romance novels and would sit up late at night to read them, but she didn’t like “all that sex stuff.”

  8. Olga Godim says:

    Thanks for reading my blog and commenting, people. I’m glad that the prevalent opinion coincides with my own. And I love (LOVE) the term ‘vintage romance’. Thanks, Nadine. I’ll use it somewhere. Maybe I’ll add the tag ‘vintage romance’ to my story on wattpad. It’s unusual enough to spark some interest, I hope.

  9. doreenb8 says:

    I think romance is much more about the action and the intimacy before the sex. I skim over them too. I think you could imply sex and kind of leave it behind closed doors without actually spelling it out. Christian romance writers do a pretty good job with that. Good luck with it!

  10. I don’t think romance means sex at all. My latest book has no sex in it, and I consider it the best romantic story I’ve ever told. Lot’s of folks agree with you, as we’ve both seen reading your comments. Write the story you want to write – don’t go with the crowd, that never feels as good as it seems it will. Be true to you, and your characters.
    Thanks for signing up for the WEP!

  11. Denise Covey says:

    Hi Olga! Lovely to meet you. I’m coming across after seeing you sign up for the WEP first challenge. Great to have you! I write romance myself, and often it can be more alluring to keep some mystery. But no getting away from it that sex sells. Many romance publishers openly prefer erotica now. Hmm. That’s what selling!

    I’m on wattpad too. When I have a moment I’ll come by and try to find you and have a read. At the moment I’m busy with family.

    So looking forward to see what you come up with for Spectacular Settings.

    Denise 🙂

  12. I love Regency romance— even though I don’t like romance novels! And I don’t care for sex scenes in my fiction. Never did. It’s a distraction. Plus a large part of the reading audience is Christian or other type of religious person that may reject the novelist who writes sex scenes on moral grounds even if they love the rest of the novel.

    If great writers like Charles Dickens and Jane Austin could get by without sex scenes, so can we, that’s what I think.

    I hope you have great success with your Regency romance. I think I will read it when I have a moment.

  13. Nicki Elson says:

    I absolutely don’t think it has to have sex to be considered a romance. Chances are you might get a few readers complaining about the lack of sex, but you’ll get a few complainers no matter which way you go.

  14. ahtdoucette says:

    I can’t think where I saw this, or the exact terms, but they have different grades of romance depending on how steamy they are (kind of like how there are different grades of horror fiction.) Jane Austen is drawing room romance for example. But even contemporary novels, it doesn’t need to be that way. The paranormal romance short story I had published almost a year ago, for example, the publisher specifically asked for NO explicit scenes. But it was romance. So, yeah. I agree, sex scenes tend to be very been-there, done-that.

  15. cheriereich says:

    I’ve always thought of romance in general as a love story where the main characters end up together, either happily ever after or happy for now. Sex isn’t required. There are sweet romances that have kissing and perhaps the one or two closed door sex scenes. Others go full out, of course, but you can write a romance without sex as long as it is focused on the couple getting their happily ever after.

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