How to Write a Romance Novel
Romance writers often have to face lots of criticism. The highlighted problems are not only genre-related; they are also plot-related which is often called formulaic. Many famous romance writers such as Paula Graves believe in embracing the ideas and executing them the same way.
Others heartily reject it. Authors like Anne Garcia consider formula writing is what brings monotony in the plot. However, Harlequin thinks the format is an essential element for romance writing.
Romance writers who tend to agree with Harlequin often use the formula in a different way. According to them, writing a perfect romance novel requires a certain format. Readers set certain expectations from their favorite authors when picking up the novel. For example, you cannot miss the magic woven touch in the lyrical writing of Sarah Addison. She incorporates it into the everyday story that creates a romantic and fictional world for her readers.
Similarly, the best romance novels of Susanna Kearsley have a wonderful mélange of past and present events. People know that they will get the amazing and vivid details of military life in the novels of Suzzane Brockmann. Hence, the formula, to some extent, is not a bad thing when it comes to writing romance novels.
Before we dive into the details of ‘how to write a romance novel step by step’, let us discuss some important elements of this genre. Romance writing tends to heighten its reader’s expectations by encapsulating the following components.
Despite the fact that it is a love story and all about emotional bonding, it requires some concrete details. You must show that your characters are solicitous enough to admit that they love each other. Demonstrating it in a romantic way can be different. You can make it a monologue, but make sure one of your characters declares it.
Another inevitable aspect of a romance novel is the physical attraction between the protagonists. It is what makes your plot stay true to its genre. Physical attraction must be there in every single interaction of the characters. Not only does it deepen the bond between the main characters, but also changes things for them.
Character’s First Meeting
It may not sound important to you, but ‘the first meeting’ of your main characters really influences the readers. It is one of the things readers anticipate the most from the very first line. So transforming ‘the first meeting’ into something that leaves an impact on the readers is extremely important.
Both of your protagonists must be vehemently involved in the first scene. Make it dramatic, intense yet cute to let your reader fantasize even the subtle details of the scene.
Like every other novel, a romance novel requires an interesting storyline. You need to establish an accurate representation of the events the way society presents them. Bold descriptions and extravagant characters only look real if tied in a series of rising events. In other words, to excite emotions, you need a storyline that comprises of natural scenes.
Now you have learned the must-to-add elements of a romantic novel, here are some writing tips to help you craft a romance novel.
A Guide to How to Write a Romance Novel
Cultivate Interesting Ideas
Writing a romance novel begins with brainstorming engaging and fun ideas. The theme of these ideas entirely depends on the type of your audience. From using romance tropes to inciting emotions, everything requires you to understand the expectations of your readers. For accumulating real ideas, you can:
§ Incorporate a Real Romantic Story as an Inspiration
Nothing can beat the originality and credibility of a real-life romance. This is one of the most tried-and-tested ways to become a successful romantic novelist. Readers are always interested in reading something drawn from a real-life romantic experience. You can also fictionalize a romantic experience, using special moments or a romantic relationship as raw material for your novel.
- You can transform a doomed or passionate relationship of your past. Change settings, real names and other small details to fictionalize them.
- Taking others’ romantic stories as an inspiration is a great way to begin your romance novel. Ask your friends or siblings who may have a passionate and stormy relationship in their past.
§ Take Inspiration from Romantic Movies or Shows
An idea may come up from anywhere. Reimagining the romantic tale you have watched on TV can be a one way to generate an idea for your novel. But make sure to transform it into your own versions.
- Create your own characters, their associations, and setting.
- Your romance novel may also take inspiration from a passionate, romantic book or song.
- Create Main Characters
It is essential to create a relatable main character for your readers. Typically, romantic writers keep the main character and narrator same in their novels. It is a convenient way to make the lead character accessible and welcoming to the audiences. Plus, the one who is playing the chief part should feel interesting and unique to the readers.
- For example, your main character may be a high-profile lawyer. He is passionate and dexterous when it comes to dealing with the subtleties of each case. Your heroine may be a struggling woman, looking for someone to help her solve the mysterious murder of her close friend.
- Select a Particular Type of Romance Novel
With so many types of romance novels out there, you need to choose what fits your story idea the best. You can choose from paranormal romance, historical romance, and young adult romance. Deciding on a particular type of romance will help you adhere to a clear theme. Plus, it will cater to the expectations of the audience you are writing for.
- For example, if you want to narrate a story that is set in the 1930s, you are writing historical romance. On the other hand, if your story revolves around a deep bond that develops between a woman and a supernatural character, it is paranormal romance.
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§ Research on the Contemporary Novels
Good research always pays you back in terms of establishing your understanding of the genre. Try all possible avenues to read popular contemporary novels. You can visit the nearby library, or read online. These are some good examples to start your research with.
- Fifty Shades of Grey written by E.L. James
- The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
§ Bring Novelty to your Storyline
Earlier we talked about formulaic romance writing. Although it is beneficial to have some structural formula, it is equally important to have a new way to present it. You need to approach the story format in a unique way to make it feel standout, engaging and fresh.
- You can make your main characters meet in another universe.
- There can be race, ethnicity and caste differences or clashes
It is all about being creative and how you play around the formula.
§ Choose a Strong Setting
There is no denying that setting is one of the key elements of a successful novel. While devising an outline for your novel, do not forget to choose a strong setting. It must dictate where your characters interact, where they fall in love, how they speak, and how they perceive the world.
- For example, you may choose modern-day Savannah, with your characters having Southern accents. You may add the vivid descriptions of scorching weather of Georgia from time to time. The way people survive there can make your novel more informational and interesting.
§ Create the Main Conflict
To drive the story forward, creating a central conflict is essential. The conflict must be believable. It must be strong enough to keep love interest separated. Make sure to keep it easy and clear so your readers can easily follow the plot.
- Your central conflict may be about testing the love, passion and strength of your main characters. You may create a climax where he/she has to choose between budding romance and his/her professional duties.
- The conflict may be your hero’s illness that prevents the main characters from uniting.
§ Consider Including an Intimate Scene
Although it is not an essential element, authors include it to exaggerate the love relationship between the main characters. You can also include intimate scenes as a part of modern -day romance. All you need to do is to make them vivid and emotional as much as you can. Avoid mechanical descriptions of how ordinary couples have intimacy. Instead, use more passionate and romantic tropes and descriptions to elaborate each physical activity.
- Adding sensory details of the intimacy scenes such as how it feels, looks, sounds or smells is an ideal way to trigger the emotions of your readers.
- Make sure to provide context for all such scenes so your readers can feel the passion.
§ Avoid Clichés
Clichés in romance writing refer to using familiar phrases and descriptions. Some of them have become so common that they do not create any impact on the readers anymore. It is better to avoid them and create an exclusive and unique description that is more specific to your protagonists.
- For example, instead of writingthat he is tall, handsome and dark, you can write, “His looks are stylish in a different kind of way”.
§ Create a Satisfying Ending for Your Novel
A perfect romantic novel has a perfect happy ending. Although the phenomena of ‘happily ever after’ mostly receive criticism, there is no denying that your readers want it. It satisfies them and makes the novel worth spending time on. There is no harm in your readers wanting to see the main characters get their coveted love in the end.
- For instance, it is possible that your main characters finally meet or get married in the end. Or one of them recovers from the illness he or she was suffering from.
Improvise Your Writing
§ Read Your Novel to Yourself
Once you are done with the writing, read the first draft yourself. It is important to go back and see how the novel sounds and feels from the beginning. How the sequence of events follows each other. Highlight the parts, phrases or sentences that sound bizarre, unclear and awkward. Check the flow of events and revise them to make them more fluid and smoother.
- Reading aloud will help you identify faulty grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes.
- Try to read the draft, at least twice, keeping the understanding and expectations of your readers in mind.
§ Consider Taking Peer Reflection
Feedback and reflections greatly help enhance the quality of your novel. Ask peers, colleagues, friends, and family to read the first draft and give their feedback. You can also expand this circle by showing your novel to people who are avid readers of this genre.
Take their opinion regarding the novel length, the flow of events, and how much of it fits into the romantic genre. Ask them how you can make it more engaging.
- Joining various writing forums can help you with that. You will get experienced romantic novel writers who know much about it and can guide you in the right direction.
- Be prepared to receive constructive criticism and use it to improve the quality of your writing.
§ Revise Your Romance Novel
The last phase is all about incorporating the suggestions you have received as feedback. Revise your novel until you feel it is perfect for your readers. It is possible that you may require multiple drafts until you get the refined version of your novel. Remember to keep your readers in mind while revising it.
- Once your novel is ready, you may send it to the publisher so that a wide audience can read it.
Overall, there is no doubt that writing a romance novel is not less than a creative process. Romance readers have certain expectations when they pick up a novel. To craft a winning romance, you require an understanding of those expectations and the basic elements that make a romance novel relevant to its genre.