How to Write a Romance Novel
Romance literature is one of the biggest markets making over a billion dollars every year. Considering that most successful romance movies are based on books, writing romance novels has the potential to make a good career description. Becoming a reputable romance writer starts at this exact spot, figuring out how to write a romance novel for the first time, at least in the right way. Every romance writer ever started their first romance novel in this place. Let's pave your way from here to becoming the author of a successful romance novel that people will love.
Romance is Fiction
Romance is a major genre of fiction literature. According to Romance Writers of America, a romance novel has two essential elements:
- a central love story
- an emotionally satisfying ending
Deep down, all romance readers want a love story that has a happy ending. As writers, we think there shouldn't be any limitations to the creativity of a writer. But the truth is that the readers have expectations. They are always rooting for the couple to end up together in a happily ever after. There is a sweet satisfaction at the end of a well-written romance novel when two people fall in love with each other and, against all odds, pushing through life and facing the difficulties they do, finally end up together.
That doesn't mean you can't break the stereotypes and write a successful novel that ends in a tragedy. You would notice we mentioned an emotionally satisfying ending, which is not exactly the same as a happily ever after. There can be a few instances where the couple does not end up together, yet the novel is widely accepted as romance. You can even find a romance novel in the New York Times bestsellers' list that does not follow the rule of a happy ending.
That being said, it is recommended that the first romance novel you write should not be testing the limits of the whole romance genre.
Select a Subgenre
Romance is a very diverse genre. It is further divided into several subgenres, with each subgenre having its own flavour. The central theme of each, however, remains the same. Even for a very niche romance story or a book that is heavily infused with elements of fiction like magic or other supernatural abilities, if the centre of the story is a love interest between two characters and the story is developed around that love interest, then it is called a romance story.
- Young Adult
These are to name a few. Like we mentioned before, there should not be barriers in the way of creativity. If you already have a story in your head and can't figure out which subgenre it belongs to, don't stop to think for a second. You don't have to fit in a subgenre. Skip to the next heading.
But if you don't have a set story clearly outlined in your imagination, then the first thing you need to do is find a subgenre you can resonate with the most. Try to imagine your story's basic idea and how it changes if it's told as a story of each subgenre. See what changes about the story and how comfortable you are with the idea. When you retell the basic concept of your story from the perspective of a different subgenre each time, one of those ideas is going to light a spark in your heart that will make you want to start taking notes. That's the niche you want to write in.
Test Your Ideas Out
A great way to test the writeability of a book is to actually write. Write a summary or perhaps one important scene from the book and let yourself loose. When you get in the writing mindset, your capacity will uncover itself in front of you. As you let your mind loose amidst the words, you will find out about your proclivity as you start leaning towards one idea over the other. When you stop to think which exterior force will put your main characters in a tight spot and how you would like them to make their way out of it, you will slowly discover your own interest in one subgenre more than the others.
Read Other Romance Writers
Once you've found your niche, start acquainting yourself with the market. Everyone has read classics like Pride and Prejudice, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, It Ends With Us, etc. But if you want to write a romance novel, you have to dig deeper than that - deeper in your subgenre. If Pride and Prejudice or The Notebook or any other classic lies in your subgenre, then go back to them and read them all over again if you will. But on top of that, read other romance books in your category too. Don't limit yourself to the must-reads, instead read a variety of them. Look up some self-publishing romance novelists, especially in the young adult genre. Read their reviews too. This will help you in the following ways:
- Open doors to more story ideas and serve as inspiration for your book.
- You will find out what kind of books are a success among the readers.
- No better way to get the reader's insights than being the reader yourself.
- The best way to find tips for writing love scenes (more on that later).
Plot Devices in Romance Novels
Reading the romance books that you have in your competition will yield one thing. You will find that every romance novel has more or less the same underlying structure. These are called plot devices or tropes. They are the recurring plotlines in romance books that define the romance genre.
Although useful because they've been around forever and continue to exceed to this day, plot devices are just tools to help you with the groundwork. What you build upon those is entirely up to you. You can twist and test those ideas, bend the lines here and there, break a stereotype, or anything else that is not conventional to make sure your book is not the same bland fairytale in disguise.
Plot devices are formulae that have passed the test of time in romance writing. Romance writers have been following these tropes for decades and succeeding. The devices are not the only thing common in romance books; there is something common among romance readers. They're predominantly female. This fact helps romance authors draw up the scope of their novel because they know who to target. So there is some assistance for romance authors there.
But the point of a plot device is to guide the writer in the overarching direction of the story. Don't copy-paste the typical fairytale in your book. Be creative, read some new-age romance to get tips for writing, and put your own stamp on the love story to make it original.
Create a Setting
The setting is a key element in romance novels. The subgenre you've selected in the previous step influences the setting of the novel. And the setting ultimately influences the story. It will enhance some sides of the story and push the writer towards certain possibilities. It can also close the doors on story ideas that you might have in your head at the time of planning.
Before deciding on a setting, think it through. Make a list of all the critical points of the story and how the setting played a role in it. A good setting is important in a romance book because it helps the author set the mood. It may even develop the brand of your novel, or perhaps, a series of books.
A Strong setting is a key player in the novel.
The setting can be a key player in your plot. Even if it's not the centre of focus, it has to affect the story in some way or the other. If you can change the setting without affecting the story, then your setting is not strong enough.
Explore your setting in detail. Make the readers feel like they're there. But don't get too crazy about the descriptions. Lengthy descriptions that span over pages quickly lose the reader's interest in the story. So don't tell them what the location is like. Show them what it looks like, what it smells like, what are the sounds in the environment, and what it feels like. Moreover, mention the time of the year, what's the weather like, the state of affairs in that part of the planet (or universe) like the economy, politics, social ethos, and everything else that helps the reader really feel like they're a part of that place.
Romance readers, or better yet, readers in general, love to get lost in the book they're reading. It is their escape far away from real life to another world. They enjoy those little things. It enriches their experience. But make sure that the same descriptions that are supposed to enhance reader engagement don't end up losing their focus. So steer clear from extravagant descriptions, vague adjectives, and redundant phrases.
Loveable Main Couple
The first essential introduction of love in romance writing is the reader's love for the main couple. Without it, you can't write romance novels that make it to the New York Times and other bestseller lists. You want your readers to fall in love with the hero and the heroine so they can root for them. If your readers love the heroine but don't think that the hero is worth struggling for, they will not enjoy the story.
Identify Bad Romance and Avoid it.
But the problem is that a lot of bad romance writing has confused new writers. They think that the hero must be a perfect prince charming for the heroine to fall for them. Otherwise, they won't be good enough to be the main character. But if the hero is a flawed human who makes mistakes, they have to sacrifice so much to earn the heroine that it is pushed to the point of unrealistic expectations and toxicity. Similarly, the heroine is only worthy of unconditional love if she's physically attractive. She can not be emotionally strong and has to be a victim who can't save herself.
These are just to name a few. Writers have been writing romance in the wrong way for quite some time now. For new writers, it's a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that new authors have less competition if they choose to write an emotionally nourishing love story. They can offer a fresh perspective to all the readers who are tired of the destructive traditional stories.
The characters of a romance novel are the centre of attention. There is a structure for fiction stories in which there is a conflict that needs to be settled. A challenge that must be fulfilled by the main character or characters. In romance, that challenge is the love interest between the two main characters, i.e., the hero and the heroine. They need to learn from each other and grow together to overcome the hurdles that are keeping them apart.
The main challenge and all the other conflicts that make it difficult for the characters to move forward keep the readers hooked to the story. It sustains a level of tension that is necessary to keep the readers engaged until the end. Character development is necessary for all stories, and it remains important in romance as well.
None of the characters should be inherently perfect. Write such characters who are human. Give them flaws and incapacities, and make them grow through the conflicts until they are able to overcome their challenge, the very challenge which is the motivation behind their struggle. The love interest. Their strong and deep desire to be together.
Speaking of desire, let's break the ice and talk about the one thing in a romance novel that can either help you make it or break it. Love scenes are central in romance. They're the epitome of romance and love between the characters. You need them to show the readers that the characters are actually as much in love with each other as you are claiming them to be. You have to show the readers, not tell them.
Don't Force Them
Make sure the sex scenes you are writing don't feel forced. They should flow naturally into the story. They should feel like they're part of the story. If you can skip a sex scene and it would make no difference in the outcome, then maybe you should skip it.
Sex scenes have the potential to make a relatively boring relationship turn into a hot romance. Make each character invest in it just as emotionally as you make them physically. In fact, if you don't focus on the physical at all, the sex scene would still work. But if you miss the feelings, then the sex scene ruins the whole experience for everybody.
Minimize sex scenes as much as you can. Not because they're not important, but because they are so important, they have to have a certain level of impact to make it work. Make your words count, and make your sex scenes count as well.
All Interactions are Important
Moments like the first time the characters meet, their first kiss, their conversations when they're alone. All of them are love scenes and subject to the same focus. Remember that the reader doesn't know what happens next, but they're rooting for the couple. Use their anticipation to your advantage. Make the couple as well as the reader work for it. Choose the right words, craft the scenes carefully, and make sure that it all counts in the end. Some character development should always be involved in all the love scenes, no matter how big or small.
Love scenes are when the two characters are the most vulnerable in front of each other. Use this feeling of being emotionally bare-naked in front of each other to ensure some development in the plot. Whether it is something new that they learn about one another or a secret that is uncovered. These moments are when they are at the highest of their emotions, and so is the reader. Be very
The advice for the main couple and the side characters remains the same. All of your characters should be flawed humans, not perfect superbeings. This remains true for side characters too.
Uneven Love Triangles
Be careful writing side characters that are too flawed unless it's part of the plot. This is a mistake that a beginner writer is likely to make when they write a romance novel for the first time. Especially in the case of a love triangle, don't make it obvious who the hero or the heroine is. The hero/heroine should end up with each other not because they're less flawed but because of the choices that they've made in their relationship with each other.
Don't make it seem like the couple is only meant to be together because the third character is not good enough. It should be their choices that define that, not their inherent nature.
Tougher Choices = Sweeter Rewards
If done right, you can take care of one of the biggest problems of romance writing. You can figure out how to write a romance novel that is not too far away from real life. Each character is human unless, of course, they are some perfect beings like robots. Although, we suggest you still give them the ability to make the wrong choices. So that when they do make the right choice, it matters.
Avoid Useless Interactions
Building upon the topic of figuring out how to write a romance novel that doesn't disappear in the ocean of romance media, one thing is important. Story progression and interactions of the characters. After all, the whole point of the side characters in a romance novel is to support the plot.
Don't write a romance novel that involves that one side character more than necessary. You can probably think of a few cases in your head as you read this. Sure, each side character has to have an influence on the main characters, but scenes that do not help move the plot or affect the main characters in any way should be removed.
The only valid instance when they can be included is if they hint towards the next sequel of the novel. Side characters are great resources when it comes to sequels. It helps a lot in the long run if you can plan in advance which character (or characters) will become the focus of the next novel in your series. This way, you can start setting the scenes in a way that facilitates the next instalment.
Even then, keep your focus on the main couple. The side characters are, well, side characters in the novel at hand.
Other than the love interest, the second essential ingredient that defines the romance genre is the emotional satisfaction at the end. If the author knows how to write a romance novel that appeals to its audience, they will give the readers the contentment of having read the book till the end.
When the story is concluded, there shouldn't be any loose ends hanging around. All of the conflicts should be resolved, and the tension should be released, giving the reader that sweet satisfaction of having been there with the couple through their journey.
The worst thing that you can do is forgetting to resolve a conflict. There can be many causes for leaving a conflict unresolved. The writer might forget it. That's an honest mistake that can be caught during editing. But other mistakes that you might miss as a writer, will most definitely be caught by the readers. Readers and critics remember small details. They keep track of all the important scenes and stay thirsty until it is quenched and the problem is resolved. Leaving an issue as is without giving the readers a conclusion is a big no.
The denouement is an essential part of fiction writing. Since the romance genre lies under the umbrella of fiction, the same storytelling rules apply to romance as well.
The release of tension is the reader's reward at the end of the book. This is the moment where you can plug in your brand of values and morals that helped the couple stay together with each other through their agony and struggle and leave a sweet message for the readers that they will carry with them in their lives.
If there's a sequel to your novel, this message will play some role in the coming books. Use the message to further reward the readers who have been with you throughout the journey. Moreover, if a reader has just joined your reader-base from the second, third or fourth book, they will have a reason to go back and read the previous books.
If you still can't figure out the writing part and have a love story in your mind that you would want to share with the whole world, fear not. You can always hire a professional ghostwriter, someone who knows how to write a romance novel from years of experience in novel writing and publishing in the genre of romance.
Moreover, you can always give us a call for any assistance. We are always willing to help and support new and upcoming writers in their journeys.