Tips on writing romantic fiction
Writing romantic fiction is not as easy as it sounds, so we have put together some handy hints to help:
1. Read, read, and read some more
You need to understand what makes a good romance and the only way to do so is by reading lots of works in this genre. Whether it’s paranormal romance, contemporary romance or a romantic comedy you should devour as many books as possible before even picking up a pen or letting your fingers loose on the keyboard.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you like and sympathise with the characters?
- How long is the story?
- How are any sex scenes handled?
- When did the conflict or obstacles start?
- How does the book you’re reading differ from the others in the same genre you’ve previously read?
- Does the plot flow naturally?
2. Keep to the formula
Yes, like baking there is a certain recipe for a successful romantic novel or short story. With that in mind, a reader expects a heroine she likes and respects … and a strong hero.
Romance books are the ultimate escape from dreary everyday life, consequently, the average reader does not want to read about a world worse than their own. There are exceptions, of course (lovers in wartime etc), but the emotional intensity in these has to multiply several times to compensate.
Overcoming obstacles is an important part of any love story, however, they have to be credible. How many of us have despaired at a couple kept apart by a stupid misunderstanding that a short phone call or 30-second conversation could not solve?
DON’T DO IT!
There is a lot of controversy with happy-ever-afters. Me Before You by Jo-Jo Moyes was a bestselling romantic sob-fest. Sobbing is fine, but typically, readers do enjoy a happy ending.
(Important note: This doesn’t mean every story you write needs to end with wedding bells, but it should be upbeat.)
3. Don’t litter the pages with love
Love is a many-splendoured thing, but there are hundreds of synonyms and ways of describing the feelings experienced with this emotion without using the L word in every paragraph. For example:
‘If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.’ (Winnie the Pooh – A A Milne)
‘All I can say is that you make me … you make me into someone I couldn’t even imagine.’ (Me Before You – Jo-Jo Moyes)
‘Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.’ (Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë)
‘You are, and always have been, my dream.’ (The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks)
4. Include some action
Romantic novels are about emotion and feeling, which naturally involves spending time inside the character’s head, but too much of this can become monotonous. As with any novel, you need to hook the reader straight away, so, start strong!
Your characters should be moving the story along. Any happenings should be natural while still keeping the emotional suspense and intensity.
5. Love must be the focus
In some romance genres, such as paranormal or historical sagas, a great deal of world-building needs to be included for the reader to understand what’s happening. However, from the first page to the last, it’s important to remember that the relationship should always take centre stage.
Don’t wait until halfway through before introducing your hero, and don’t have several chapters veering off onto another subject. A romance reader wants to read about two people falling in love.
6. The physical side
Even in the tamest love stories, there has to be chemistry between the two main characters. If you are penning a sweet romance, hand-holding and kissing may be as far as you go. If a sensual romance, passionate scenes are required but don’t go overboard on graphic detail.
The couple in your story should be attracted to each other and the reader needs to know this and feel the sexual tension. Even if you keep the bedroom door firmly closed and they never do more than snuggle, the sensual sizzle has to be there! Desire is an important part of any romance so don’t ignore it.
7. Limit your characters
A romantic love story should be focused on two people. Readers want to immerse themselves in the feelings and thoughts of the two main characters and their romantic journey. They don’t care about their work colleagues, aunties, neighbours, and friends. Where possible, keep the cast to a minimum. Only include characters that are essential to the plot.
8. Be unique
While romantic stories contain many similar elements, putting a unique twist in yours will make you stand out. Try to avoid clichéd plots and feasting on clichés in prose and dialogue. Overuse is watery and can sap the soul from an otherwise good story.
Search any bookshops, online bookstores, libraries etc. and you’ll find scores of romantic novels featuring love triangles, bunny boiler exes, amnesia plots, and the billionaire playboy waiting for a naïve virgin to show him the error of his ways. There’s no doubt that readers love books involving such plotlines, however, by adding your own individuality and a different slant on your story, you’ll distinguish yourself as a trend bucker.
The Last Word
Romance is one of the biggest selling book genres, which means plenty of publishing opportunities for aspiring authors. However, that doesn’t mean you can add a few love scenes to any rough story and expect a bestseller.
We are running a free romantic fiction writing competition to find fabulous writers who can pen an excellent romantic short story. For romantic fiction writers, who have a completed manuscript, we are accepting submissions.
Leave a comment here and we will get back to you as soon as we can.