Welcome to Vanilla Grass’s romance How to Write a Romance Series! This week’s focus? Understanding Romance Steam Levels.
Carolyn is a successful ghostwriter for published romance novels and is presenting this series to pull back the curtain on everything writers need to know to write a romance. If you’re just starting, make sure you check out the first in the series: How to write a romance novel: #1 Understanding Steam Levels. And be sure to subscribe to get the newest articles in the series!
And if you’re in love with a romance writer (or writer in general) be sure to check out our post on what you need to know if you love a writer!
How to Write a Romance Novel Series #1: Understanding Romance Steam Levels
If you asked a group of people “what makes a romance novel?” something different is going to pop into each of their heads. Some will think short, sweet stories that involve Christmas time and pies, others will think of rom coms and saucy chick flicks, and others, yet, will dive right into the heavy stuff.
So when writing a romance novel, how do you know which of these people to market your book to? Or, if writing a romance novel for market, which steaminess level you should reach for?
For our first post in the How to Write a Romance Novel Series, let’s take a look at the various steam levels found in romance novels. I am going to put chili peppers next to each so you know just how spicy I’m talking about. And frankly, I think Amazon should take a hint.
What are Romance Steam Levels?
Here are the four common steam levels found in romance novels:
- G-Rated or Clean Romances
- Moderate Level Romances
- Sensual/Steamy Romances
- Erotic Romances (Erotica)
1. G-Rated / Squeaky-Clean / Sweet Romance Novels
- These are your hallmark, Christian, Middle-grade (for sure), and often Young Adult romances that don’t mention sex or lovemaking or pass over that it happened with no details. They leave almost everything up to the imagination or don’t ask the reader to imagine it at all. These romances are also usually whirlwind love stories with light emotional relationships and external problems.
- Sweet Romances usually have their penultimate moment when the romance partners hold hands, kiss, or commit to one another.
2. Moderate Romance Novels
- These romance novels often have another layer of emotional depth (though not always), and put a greater emphasis on sensuality, though not necessarily the sex and love-making in a story. The heat and steam levels are turned up a little and you see a lot more physicality without actually describing the scene or the physical actions involved. Quite a bit is still left to your imagination but it is not graphic. Instead, there is a heavy sense of romance and a whole lot of yearning.
- Moderate Romances usually have their penultimate moment when the romance partners have a very sensual scene, whether that ends in sex mostly off-page or a breathy commital of deep emotions and physical yearning.
3. Sensual / Steamy Romance Novels
- These are the romances that you might feel a little self-conscious reading in a public place. The sex and love-making scenes are more explicit, use graphic language and have a lot more details. The actual love-making scene can be described through its entirety, or partially described before jumping to the end. The hot, steamy scenes also occur more frequently throughout the novel than the milder romances.
- A Steamy Romance reaches its penultimate moment either when the characters make love around a tense emotional bonding or just before or after a falling-apart.
4. Erotic Romance Novels / Erotica
- Unlike Steamy Romance Novels, which use physical intimacy and sensuality to enhance the emotional turmoil of the book, erotica focuses more on the actual acts and feelings of raw lust rather than on the emotional development of the characters. Sex and love-making are frequent, gratuitous, and graphic. There are often more fringe elements found in this type of romance as well.
- These romance novels have a constant building of internal pressure between main characters while external threats and conflicting desires rage around them. Fights are common, as are one character finally fully yielding to another.
Why Steam Levels Matter When Writing a Romance Novel
Now that you have a basic understanding of what each level of steaminess means for a romance novel, you may be asking “how much does the steaminess level matter in a romance?”
Because while romance readers are some of the most avid and loyal readers around, they also have clear expectations. A clean romance reader can be easily offended if you make false promises in your book and shower them with scenes they don’t want to read. While a steamy romance reader may toss your book to the side in boredom if it’s a little dry.
That’s why many online bookstores give readers the option to browse romance novels based on their steam levels.
In other words, writing and rating the appropriate steaminess levels for your romance novels will help you gain loyal readers and build trust with your fans.
Ready to jump in and get writing but don’t know where to start?
Be sure to read our next post in the series: How to Write a Romance: Sub-Genres, Themes and Tropes.