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The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Romance Novel

May 3 / Jeanne De Vita

Three Things Every Romance Novel Must Have… And The One thing It Should NEVER Have

Love. It’s all hearty-eye emojis and lipstick-covered kisses until…well, until someone tries to write about love. If you’re planning to write a romance novel, there are three things you must include. And there is one thing you should absolutely avoid! 

1. Novel Structure

If you plan to write a romance novel, you may know a lot about love and romance… But do you know enough about the correct structure of a novel? Many beginning writers sit down with an idea. Maybe you want to write about a tortured rock goddess or a barista who finally gets to be the hero of his own story. Ideas and characters are a great place to start! But in order to make sure your romance novel has all the essential parts, is properly paced, and satisfies the reader, you’ll need to structure the book correctly. If you don’t know what the three-act structure of the romance novel is, contact us!

2. Obstacles that Keep the Lovers Apart

Once you have that idea and you’re comfortable that you understand novel structure, you will need to write the book! But a romance novel isn’t just the story of two characters falling in love. The well-crafted romance novel, just like books in other genres, has essential elements you’ll need to include. One of the most important aspects of the romance novel is actually not what brings the lovers together, but what keeps them apart. A romance novel is as much about the lovers overcoming the obstacles that stand between them as it is about the characters finally falling in love!

3. Happy Ever After! (or Happy For Now!)

Once you’ve given those characters lots of problems to work through, they will (they must!) end up together in their Happy Ever After or Happy For Now resolution. (Happy For Now means the characters end up together at the conclusion of the romance, even if the “ending” doesn’t necessarily mean that the couple stays together long after the reader closes the book, unlike the Happy Ever After ending which is exactly what it sounds like. Forever!) Yes, authors, this is a rule of the genre of romance. If your characters hook up but don’t end up together, you may have a love story, a sex scene, or some combination of those, but you won’t have a romance novel without the happy ending!

And the never do… (All caps! NEVER DO THIS!)

Never (please!) ever simply write the story of how two people you know, met once, are related to, etc. met and fell in love. As tempting as it might be to fictionalize your grandparents’ love story or to set the story of how you met your significant other in a book, remember… Love stories are not the same as romance novels. Romance novels should be written following the structural norms of the genre (the three-act structure, specifically) and should include all the foundational building blocks necessary to support each act. If you have a great, beautiful, inspiring love story to tell—tell your family, tell your friends! Celebrate love in all its forms. But when you want to learn to write a romance novel, make sure you remember that a love story is just the inspiration!