The Cheater’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance

Step by step How-To instructions on: Building Characters, Building a Plot, Writing Action Scenes, and Writing Sex Scenes.

There are lots of Creative Writing books out there.
This isn’t one of them.

There is very little that is actually creative about writing for profit. The trick to not getting burned-out writing professionally is by figuring out what the market is asking for then Bending the Rules to make YOUR vision come through anyway. That’s what this little volume is all about – bending the rules to suit yourself, while satisfying your bank account.

The difference between  Fiction and Reality?
Fiction has to make Sense.

Tom Clancey


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Praise for:
The Cheater’s Guide to
Writing Erotic Romance

“This is an excellent guide to looking at writing effectively to a commercial market. The title is about erotic romance, but that is just one genre. Most of what is in this book could apply to any kind of fiction. VERY well worth the time for any aspiring author.”
— Brian Groover —

“The best part about this book is—it’s NOT boring! A lot of how-to-write books are, but this one gets right down to the nitty gritty. No long-winded “history of erotica” or other filler that most people skip right over. Everything in this book is there for a reason. It takes all the good tips and advice that you’d get from a dozen or more other writing books, and puts it all in one place. It’s definitely nothing but “good parts.”
— DesertBlossom —

“If you can only buy one book on writing, make it this one.”
— Deborah Brent —

“Morgan Hawke is magic. She takes the art of writing an exciting, readable, sellable novella to the bare bones and makes the process not only understandable but easy. This book should be read by anyone who has ever written a book or even thought about writing a book.”
— Janus Susan May —

“Professional writers will appreciate this no-nonsense start to finish guide that makes writing erotic romance as easy as paint by numbers.”
— Lena Austin —



0 Introducing – Erotic Romance

Part One:
Making Characters HAPPEN

1 The Beginning Writer’s Pitfall – MARY SUE 
2 The Semi-Pro Writer’s Pitfall – Too Many CHARACTERS
3 Quick Character Creation – The Cheat-Technique
4 The Three Main Characters  & their Drives – Action – Motive – Emotion
5 Adversary, Proponent, and Ally – A Different View
6 ACTION – MOTIVE – EMOTION – Adversary, Proponent and Ally – Whose DRIVE?
7 Character Drive COMPLICATIONS – The SUBPLOT Situation
8 Pesky Point of View – Problems & Cures
9 CONFLICT! Sweet Selfish Agony!
10 Making Characters – Cheating = The End Justifies the Means

Part Two:
BUILDING the Story’s ARCs

11 WHY Plot? “Can’t I just…write it?”
12 The Mysterious and Maddening PREMISE!
13 Premise and CHARACTER
14 The Evil Nasty Vicious Premise STATEMENT
15 The CHARACTER ARC – The Stages of Grief
16 The PLOT ARC – Fast PLOTTING – for Cheaters
17 THOROUGH Plotting
18 The Plot Arc ~ In Detail
19 Action & Drama – Character Arc & Plot Arc
20 Novella to Novel – Novel = THREE WHOLE NOVELLAS
21 Writing Serialized Fiction ~ Not just another Novel Idea

Part Three:
For the Erotic Romance

22 ACTION and ADVENTURE – The Heart and Soul of Erotic Romance!
23 ACTION Scenes = Chronological Order
24 Action Sequences – & How they WORK
25 The Chronological Order of INTERNAL CONFLICT!!!
26 Making MOOD – Description in Your Fiction

Part Four:
Making Love & Adventure!
Sex in your Fiction

27 Neither Erotica, nor Romance? Erotic Romance – When the Plot Thickens!
28 Sustaining Excitement! The Trick is ANTICIPATION. The Catch is DELIVERY.
29 Erotic Romance = Romance + Adventure + SEX
30 Erotic Romance – Not just a story with Sex in it.
31 What is EROTICA?
32 Making Romance HAPPEN – From TRUST to Intimacy
33 Writing Sex – Technique & Structure – Having Sex on Paper

Part Five:
The Professional Author

35 FIXING Writer’s Block – The Case of: THE MISSING IMAGINATION
36 Writing for Profit – Not just an Adventure – It’s a JOB
37 Ebooks & NY Print Publication – Writing is an Art. Publishing is a BUSINESS
38 A Question of Royalties

Recommended Reads



Introducing ~ Erotic Romance:

Sex and Romance. Sounds simple, even easy, doesn’t it? Well, there’s just one little hitch…

Erotic Romance Is NOT True Romance
Nor True Erotica

Adding Sex to a Romance, or Romance to an Erotica tale, will not make an Erotic Romance.  Sex with Romance, is not what these stories are about, though Erotic Romance contains both elements. Erotic Romance is a whole different story – literally.

To create any story, you need interesting characters, things that Happen to those characters and a logical conclusion. Erotic Romance is no different. However, Erotic Romance has some very special needs, such as graphically detailed and action-packed Sex, a strong “happily every after” Romance, and last but not least ~ a strong Adventure plot.

Yes, I said: ADVENTURE.

Erotic Romances are honest and for true, Action-Adventure stories!

And so Women’s Adult Adventure Fiction was born – cleverly disguised as: Erotic Romance.

The Main Ingredients:

The Characters

The Heroine must be able to stand toe to toe with the Hero, and the Hero must be written in such a way as to have the readers fall in love with him. The Villain must actually be Villainous. A weak Villain makes for a weak plot.

Realistic behavior and dialogue are the keys to strong characters.


Love Scenes have to be as descriptively detailed, and well-choreographed, as a swordfight in an Adventure, as emotionally powerful as a stolen kiss in a Romance, and as much part of the plot as the murder weapon in a Mystery!

The Plot

Something happens to fling the Hero and Heroine together. While dealing with the unusual circumstances, they fall violently in lust. Shortly before the main climax, they both realize that it’s not just lust, its love. During a life or death climactic scene they admit their love. They finish out the story by straightening out all the rest of the story’s loose ends and close the book with an all or nothing final sex scene that cements their relationship.

Happily Ever After

To make a Happily Ever After, the Hero and the Heroine end up In Love and Together ~ preferably in bed!

Shall we begin?


Chapter 1
The Beginning Writer’s Pitfall

A writer’s memories allow them to write what their Characters are experiencing in a convincing manner; but a character that is so perfect in every way that everyone loves them, and/or want to sleep with them, makes a story fall flat on its face.

Perfection is the ENEMY of Good Fiction.

A character without realistic human flaws is a character no reader can identify with, because no one is perfect. These characters also tend to be boring – because the author simply cannot bring themselves to put them through real emotional trauma nor do them real harm. Glorious Death scenes don’t count as harm, as the Glorious Death immortalizes the character. At least in the author’s mind.

The real culprit:

Characters based on who the author wants to be, having adventures the author want to have, are known as Mary Sue’s, and Harry Stu’s.

Think of all the times as a child you pretended to be a character in your favorite cartoon; you know, the one where you saved the day? That was a Mary Sue / Harry Stu adventure. For most, the Mary Sue adventure is a writer’s first experiment in figuring out the motivations, goal and drives of the cartoon characters they are Making Pretend with. “So, why does the vampire want to get me anyway?”

Mary Sue is a good way to practice – but a bad way to get published.

Nowhere is the Mary-Sue character more prevalent than in
Fan-Fiction & Erotic Fiction.

Fan-fiction and Erotica are, more often than not, a writer’s first attempt at actually writing a story.

Fan-Fiction is inspired by a TV series or a movie. The author invents a character to represent themselves and inserts the character into the story. The term “Mary Sue” comes from a particularly virulent author-insertion character made infamous in Star Trek fan-fiction: Marissa Amber Flores Picard, God Empress of the Universe.

Ever hear that a Romance author is in love with their hero? When more than half of a story told from the Hero’s perspective, (POV,) it’s a sure sign that author is in love with her Hero. Unfortunately, a story written with the focus on the beloved Hero, tends to make for a weak Heroine, a Heroine that is TSTL: “Too Stupid To Live,” and a weaker Villain – if there is a Villain at all!

Mary Sue is a way for the author to have ‘their perfect man’. Alas, perfection is the ENEMY of Good Fiction. 

This becomes a real problem when an editor starts asking the author to cut back on the hero’s involvement and strengthen the other characters participation in the plot, (if there is a plot.)

Changing one character’s involvement in a plot is a LOT of work. Changing all three main characters; Hero, Heroine and Villain is a monumental task. In many cases, the entire story has to be reworked from beginning to end.

Additionally, Mary-Sue authors are often extremely resistant to making ANY changes to their Beloved Heroes.

THIS is why when an obvious Mary Sue story is involved, many editors will refuse the manuscript rather than battle the author over necessary changes.

Mary Sue is NOT always bad!

A good Mary Sue idea can become a fabulous story! As long as the author remembers to keep their Leading Heroine in the lead, the Villain actually villainous, and their Hero, less than perfect.


Chapter 2
The Semi-Pro Writer’s Pitfall:

The key to writing a novella-length story, or a short story, is a SMALL CAST. When you have the essential characters whittled down to three, or possibly four, you don’t have subplots creeping in and your word-count stays manageable!

Think: SLACKER – and your writing life will go so much easier.

Every Subplot must CONCLUDE to fulfill a Story’s Resolution.

Each main character, HERO, ALLY (or Heroine) and VILLAIN, has a personal Character Arc – an individual Subplot – in addition to the main plot arc. Each main character must COMPLETE their individual character arc to conclude a story.

The readers see an unfinished Character Arc as an Unfinished Story, a dangling Plot Thread. The readers will let you have it with a mail-box full of “But what happened with…?” if you don’t wrap them up. (Guess how I found out?)

Viewpoint Characters:
The Larger the Cast – the Longer the Story

Every viewpoint character chosen — in addition to your three main characters, becomes the Lead of their individual story with their own character arc – their own SUBPLOT.

By presenting a character that is NOT one of the main three: HERO, ALLY (or Heroine) and VILLAIN, a point of view, you have, in effect, made them: Major Characters. Their character arcs (subplots,) must ALSO conclude to fulfill a story’s resolution — in addition to your three main characters.

What about Secondary Characters?
The Characters that you are setting up for a book of their own later in the series?

Popping secondary characters into a book for the express purpose of luring readers into the next book, is a cheap marketing trick. Unfortunately it’s also a popular marketing trick in the Romance genre — but it’s still a TRICK .

A strong secondary character takes time away from the primary characters and diverts the plot away from them, by offering an interesting subplot – without delivering. The reader has to get the next book to finish that character’s story – only to be teased with yet another character, and their subplot.

As a marketing trick, it works, but only in the short term. Sooner or later, the reader will realize that they are being cheated in story after story.  

“But isn’t that how a Series is done?”


A Series is a group of Stand-Alone Stories taking place in a common universe.

A Series may have overlapping characters, but the key to a Series is that each story Stands Alone.
Forbidden Realms” is a series of novels.

You don’t need to read the previous stories to understand the motives and drives of ALL the characters in any of the books, and you don’t need to read more books for the main plotline’s conclusion. A true Series book delivers, and concludes, the ENTIRE story.

A Series does NOT tease the reader with glimpses of an interesting character with an unfinished subplot, a half-told story, to be featured in a future story.

A true Series book delivers on ALL their subplots.

A collection of stories featuring unfinished subplots
— is a Serial.

A true Serial is one huge story that takes an entire collection of books —anywhere from 3 to 30— to conclude.

Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” is a Serial of novels. He uses the same characters throughout his entire set of books, with one enormous plotline stretching across them all.

Serial novels are very popular with publishing houses, because they are guaranteed sales. To keep track of all the different characters’ plotlines, the reader is forced to read ALL the previous books to understand what is happening. Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files”, Laurell K Hamilton’s “Anita Blake” and “Merry Gentry” books, Charlaine Harris’s “Dead in Dixie” books, are all Serials. The better crafted Romance books labeled as Series, are in fact Serials

Serials, however, are far more involved than one overlapping (teasing,) character with an unfinished subplot.

Note: To write an actual Serial, read Chapter 21, Writing Serialized Fiction.

Picking the POV Character

In a novel you have room for several viewpoints. In a Novella you DON’T. You do not have room for more than two – the Hero and the Heroine. POV should be either even between the H/H, or Heroine ¾ and Hero ¼.

Why heavier on the Heroine’s side?

Because the Erotic Romance reader is usually FEMALE. The reader will never emotionally connect with your Heroine if you don’t weight your story in the Heroine’s direction. Without an emotional connection, the reader will not see the Heroine as a proxy for herself – a costume that she gets to wear for the story. Instead, the reader sees the Heroine as competition for the Hero’s affections: interference.

I normally use only one POV: the Heroine.

Technical Note: Chapter or Section breaks are the ONLY places you should switch POV. Switching from Viewpoint to Viewpoint can get very frustrating to the reader who has to keep track of each of those different story threads. And then there’s the Fatal Flaw of: Head Hopping.

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