Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s such a lovey holiday, and thinking of it makes me think of first love which is so often found in YA these days. And sure, some stories have romance, and some stories HAVE ROMANCE!

What makes these different? What sets them apart?

Well, we here at THE PLACE (being K. A. Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson , E. Kristin Anderson, Madeline Smoot, Mari Mancusi, and sometimes member Jenny Ziegler) offer up 10 amazing ways to make the romance sizzle in your manuscript. So read up and get ready to revise!

We give you…


1) Have stuff happen off-screen.
It’s amazing how much your reader will fill in on their own.
(For example, did Aerin and Luthe have sex in The Hero & the Crown? It’s a midgrade Newbery Medal winner, and nothing happens on the page, but I sure thought so. –Madeline)

2) Make the romance forbidden.
And make the roadblock believable. Because if that roadblock can be torn away with one flick of the wrist, I’m not buying it as a roadblock in the first place. It really has to stand in their way.

I want real consequences.

3) Build tension leading up to the first kiss.
Even if this means you REALLY, REALLY want your characters to kiss. Don’t let them. Keep the kiss away from them for just one more scene. One. More. Scene.

4) Pining. Lots of pining.

5) Find a picture (Calvin Klein magazine ad, yearbook photo of school crush, pin-up of hunky movie star) and “cast” him as your male romantic lead.
Keep pic close by as you write. Squeegee off lipstick marks as necessary.

6) Ask a friend who writes erotica for tips.
Scale it back ten notches.
Then increase it forward by two.

(there is no picture I can think of to keep it clean here.)

7) Watch John Hughes movies for inspiration.
(I have a forever crush on John Bender. Oh yeah. –Emily)

8 ) Make a playlist with your characters’ favorite love songs to listen to while writing their romance scenes.
Feel free to date yourself with these songs. “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” is perfectly acceptable if it puts you in the right writing mood. Ditto “Open Arms.”

Remember slow dancing.

9) Treat yourself to a date night with your honey.
And, since you write YA, make it super fun and retro: burgers, ice cream, and a movie (see above for movie recommendations). Thinking of his/her kisses will definitely steam up your love scenes.

10) Emotions
Did I mention those? Because no matter how functional he may be, without emotions, it’s just not going to work out.


PJ Hoover is up for some serious romantic revising!


Filed under P. J. Hoover

6 responses to “Writing from the Place: TEN WAYS TO MAKE ROMANCE SIZZLE IN YOUR MANUSCRIPT

  1. Your reference to “Hard to say I’m Sorry” and “Open Arms” made me giggle. I wrote a lot of Nexus Point to Air Supply songs. Yep, I’m that old.

    Good suggestions. Thanks!

  2. Great list! For me, the John Hughes reference is the best. LOVE his movies :)

  3. Natalie Aguirre

    I loved the “Pass, You shall not pass!” picture. And great advice that there must be consequences and lots of pining or teasing before “the kiss.”

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