If you decide to write a holiday-themed romance, the first thing you need to do is decide if you want to self-publish it or if you want to go the traditional route. Traditional publishers (the big five: Penguin/Random House, Hachette, Simon and Schuster, Macmillan, and Harper Collins) decide their holiday lineup in June, with the intention of publishing in late October, early November.
What makes your holiday romance different from any other romance is your book is expected to hit the heart strings something fierce. They are more emotional books and are harder to write because you need to touch deep feelings in your readers. Ideally, you want your readers to cry and laugh along with your characters.
Everyone has nostalgia and emotional baggage around the holidays. Whether it is a fond memory of someone who is no longer with us or a time when everything went wrong, a holiday romance makes the reader experience those feelings again, but always has a happy resolution. Traditions and family play a great part of a holiday romance and can add to the tension in the story. But these stories also have to be filled with hope and goodwill. The reader should close your book and feel like they’ve experienced a range of emotions and have come out feeling better about themselves and their current situation.
The magic of Christmas in an inspirational holiday romance is finding peace and the meaning of the season through the traditions and belief in a higher power. A Yule romance takes place during the Wiccan winter solstice and could have paranormal aspects of a witch coven experiencing the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. A Hanukkah romance could take place over eight nights and concentrate on dedication to family and traditions with a surprise miracle at the end. A Kwanzaa romance would concentrate on heritage, unity, and faith.
Hitting the readers’ emotions means you need to dig deep into your own experiences or ones that you’ve heard about that have affected you personally. Holiday commercials are a good example of how to touch someone fast. Hallmark commercials hit the right notes of nostalgia, tradition, and family. The Coca Cola bears sharing their soda and the Hershey kisses ringing bells get people in the holiday mood with the festive music and scenery. The Campbell’s soup commercial where a snowman comes inside and after eating soup turns into a boy and the M&M’s meeting Santa are funny and heartwarming at the same time.
One of the commercials that have stuck with me tells a story. It’s a Folger’s commercial where a soldier is coming home for the holidays and he gets in before the family wakes up and starts a pot of coffee. His mother smells coffee brewing and goes downstairs and hugs her son. Why do I remember it? Because I empathize with both the soldier coming home and the mother seeing her son again. Another one that moves me is not a holiday commercial, but it’s still memorable. It’s the ASPCA commercial featuring Sarah McLachlan singing her song, “Angel.” That one guarantees I’m crying like Niagara Falls. Why? Because it touches on my love for animals.
Children, pets, and grandparents are all ways to evoke emotion in a holiday romance. Past hurts seem to sting more during the holidays, so that’s another way to get your readers’ empathy. While the couple is falling in love, there must be some serious holiday drama and expectations going on. You want to have the couple’s emotional journey tied to the traditions and faith of the holiday. Your hero could be a Scrooge, or he could have been like Tiny Tim. Your heroine could be the person who traditionally cooks the Kwanzaa family dinner every year. Only, the day before they’re all due to come over, her stove breaks. The hero not only buys her a new stove (or fixes her old one), but cooks dinner for her and her family.
Don’t forget to taper the sadness with joy, because that is also an integral part of the holiday season as well. In addition to the pressures of shopping and decorating, there’s also the perfect gift or the holiday ornament that you only see once a year. Use the five senses when writing an emotional holiday scene. The reader wants to smell the baking cookies, hear the crackling fire, taste the peppermint stick, feel the flannel shirt the hero is wearing, and see the dreidel spinning and the foil wrapped chocolate gelt in the mesh bag.
Are you ready to practice your holiday writing skills? The Institute for Writers is holding a contest challenging you to write an emotional scene with a winter holiday twist. This scene can take place anywhere in your book, but it can be no longer than 1,000 words. Submit a touching, funny, or sad moment between two romantic interests during a holiday season. It can be sexy or sweet, but it has to be emotional and the emotion must come from what they’re experiencing during any winter holiday. The contest is open now and the deadline is December 4, 2020. Click here to find out more: IFW Holiday Romance Contest
USA Today bestselling author, Jamie K. Schmidt, writes erotic contemporary love stories and paranormal romances. Her steamy, romantic comedy, Life’s a Beach, reached #65 on USA Today, #2 on Barnes & Noble and #9 on Amazon and iBooks. Her Club Inferno series from Random House’s Loveswept line has hit both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble top one hundred lists. The first book in the series, Heat, put her on the USA Today bestseller list for the first time, and is a #1 Amazon bestseller. Her book Stud was a 2018 Romance Writers of America Rita® Finalist in Erotica. Her dragon paranormal romance series has been called “fun and quirky” and “endearing.” Partnered with New York Times bestselling author and actress, Jenna Jameson, Jamie’s hardcover debut, SPICE, continues Jenna’s FATE trilogy.