Want to write a romance novel? It’s a lot harder than you think. When I first got the idea to start writing a romance, never did I realize just how complicated and faceted these babies can be! On the surface, it seems like a very simple formula, but it’s actually tying it all together that makes it difficult and frankly hard to pull off. Romance is the bestselling fiction genre for a reason – when done right, it’s the best damn thing.
Here are my tips for writing your next addictive, can’t-put-down, fanning-your-face-worthy story.
1. Give A Damn.
I mean this in the nicest possible way, but seriously. Do give a damn. Give a lot of, well, love, to your story. As much as I discipline myself to write a certain number of words every day to complete my books, never ever have I finished a draft and thought ‘Yep, it’s ready to publish. Rock on!’ I’m always thinking of ways to improve my story – I’ve even changed my stories the day before hitting that publish button. Heck, I’ve changed it during my pre-order period. Whether it’s a line of dialogue, or rephrasing a sentence, or adding a cute and funny moment, do it. Your readers will love you all the more for it. Those extra little gems are what’s going to make your stories stand out from those that just follow a formula. Which is a perfect segue to my next point…
2. Follow the formula.
As much as I don’t like this piece of advice, it is important and does help guide your story.
In a nutshell, this is what a romance reader expects from a romance:
- A hero she loves and a heroine she sympathizes with – this needs to be in equal measures. I write almost exclusively in first person POV (heroine) so my readers tend to rave about my heroine slightly more.
- A believable conflict. Something has to keep the hero and heroine apart. A legitimate reason. It certainly shouldn’t feel like a high-school drama, nor some sort of convoluted Chinese Whispers situation. “He said he didn’t like my cooking, so that’s why I didn’t want to talk to him for ten years until my best friend confirmed that he DID like that Bolognese I made.” We are trying to write likable/sympathizable (that’s not a word, is it?) characters here!
- A happily-ever-after. The couple doesn’t have to get married or vow undying love, but it should be clear that they’ve resolved their differences and are mutually committed to each another. If for some reason, you absolutely do not believe they should get together at the end of the story but see happiness in their future, you can do so but do make it clear what the cards hold in store for them. Maybe they will have a chance to be together in two years, maybe the world needs to be saved first before they can be in each other’s arms again. Who knows. Frankly, I’m NOT a fan of the HEA or forcing it on a story just to please your readers. It has to feel natural given the events of the story, so my advice is to write an ending that is satisfying.
Again, this is the general formula for romances. If you’re feeling slightly sadistic and wish to cause some emotional harm by not having a happy ending, but want the romance in the story then a love story is what you are after. P.S.: That is something I’m eager to do myself for future projects!
3. Focus on the emotional payoff.
Readers read romance because it is a very visceral experience to them. I can’t tell you the number of times my readers have written to me, telling me the reasons why they read this genre (in abundantly large quantities), before thanking me for writing a story that delivered what they were after. They want the escape, they want the feels, they want the highs and lows.
The easiest way for me to convey this piece of advice is this – what made you love your favourite romance novel? What was it about that particular couple that really got to you? Was it the way they interacted with each other? The things they sacrificed for each other?
If you can pinpoint a few factors, you can use that magic and bring it to your own story. Big fat note, this is not an encouragement to rip off other stories!!
4. Pacing, pacing, pacing.
So important, it’s almost like the unspoken magic that really makes the story come alive. You know the feeling of really being in the story, feeling like you are experiencing it as you follow the words? That’s pacing for you. Your story needs to keep moving along, smoothly, coherently, naturally all the way from beginning to end. As much as emotions are at play, you can’t spend too much time inside a character’s head. You can’t go nuts on the inner monologue. Keep the story going, keep them reading to the end. Which is the perfect lead to my final point…
5. Make it a page turner.
This applies to all authors, not just romance ones. I believe this is the sole job of writers, is to get them itching to turn that page, and the next, and the next until it’s finished and they need to grab that next book from you. I’ve had many instances of readers telling me so. One of my favourite compliments is this: they once went to a café to grab a coffee and happened to start reading my book. They originally planned to just grab the coffee but ended up staying the whole time to finish my story! When you get people hooked on your story, you know you’ve made a connection and that is still the most satisfying thing for me as a writer.
So there you have it, five easy to follow tips that will help you craft your perfect next story. Did these help? Did they not? Let me know!