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If you’ve ever considered writing a romance novel of your own, I’ve put together seven simple steps that anyone can follow to get started.
1) READ romance.
I can’t tell you how many people want to write a romance because they think they can do it better than its being done now…but they have never even picked up a romance novel! You need to read the best—and the worst—of a genre to really understand it. Read the books that sell well as well as books that interest you but which may not be bestsellers. If you’re not sure what a romance novel is, see my post on what a romance is/is not.
2) Read more romance. But this time, read to learn.
Once you’ve read some romance, pick just 2-3 books that you really enjoyed. Read those books again, but this time, read them and look at the work critically. Why is the action on page one important to have on page one? Why does the first kiss/touch/intimate scene happen when and how it does? Like all genres, romance has specific rules and you will understand them better the more romance novels you read.
3) Start with high stakes, characters with problems, and make sure the plot is dynamic.
Remember that a novel is not just a story… like how your parents met. That is a “love story.” But a novel has parts (structure) and essential elements (your story building blocks). Create urgency for the characters so the story matters. Muddy up the journey to love with obstacles that force your characters to grow and change as they work toward their goals. And make sure the ending is not just a conclusion—it needs to be a true resolution of the characters’ issues!
4) Make things hard on your characters. And then make things harder.
Yes, friends, pun fully intended. But in all seriousness, obstacles in the way of love are the key to a dynamic and engaging romance novel. Without obstacles, you won’t have a novel. (Even if you do have a “love story.”)
5) Study craft.
If you don’t know the correct structure of a romance novel (three-acts) and you don’t understand character beats and arc, how to test the strength of your plot, take a course, read a book, and/or participate in a writing workshop. There is no better investment in your romance novel than understanding craft! We offer one-on-one consultations to assist you at any point in your writing process—especially if you’re focused on learning to write your first romance novel.
6) Get feedback on your work
From someone who doesn’t just like you… ask an expert! Lots of people may like you, your book, and your ideas. But try to find readers like beta readers or a developmental editor who can give you feedback on your novel’s structure and can analyze the effectiveness of the elements of the romance novel.
7) Take a step back from the work and the feedback and then revise.
Once you’ve completed the first draft, remember that it’s exactly that—a first draft! Give your brain and eyes a break from the work, read more, write more, and study more. Then come back to your draft and polish it!
The ideas, the passion, and the commitment are all critical parts to writing a romance. But starting with the desire to write a romance is the first step. Understanding how to do it well will keep you from filling your desk drawers with discarded stories and ideas and instead will allow you to write your heart out!
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