Reading as Seduction: Writing Romance Novels

If you’re interested in writing a romance novel, that’s thrilling news! Romance is making serious waves in the publishing industry right now, and as the Washington Post calls it, romance has proven to be a “uniquely successful genre” in that it is one of the top performers in sales, across the board. What better time could there be to write that romance you’ve been thinking about? Simply put, there isn’t a better time! Stuck for ideas? We’re here with a few suggestions to help you put pen to paper (or pixels to screen) and bring your ravish read into the world, one step at a time.

STEP ONE: Center the book’s emotional crux.

By which we mean … from the very first page, you have to know what you want the heart of your book to be, and what kind of arc your characters need to have in order to evoke that heart from your novel’s first line to its last dot of punctuation. Readers love the romance genre because they want to be moved, and romances are the perfect vehicle for navigating deep and complex questions of love, relationships, identity, and hardship without leaving readers in doubt as to the final conclusion. Romance is, at its core, life-affirming! Readers know that misunderstandings will be resolved, tragedies overcome, and that love will triumph … most of the time, anyway. Even if there isn’t a perfectly happy ending, romance as a genre reaffirms that there’s more to life than just the mundane, and that change is the only thing we can count on. So, what is the point of your book? What emotion do you want your readers to feel or what emotional point do you want to bring home at the end? Write that down and stick it to the top of your laptop, or set yourself a reminder on your phone every morning when you sit down to write. This is what your book is about, and everything builds toward it … or detracts from your book’s efficacy.

STEP TWO: Center the action.

It’s no understatement to say that romance is a physical genre. And we’re not just talking about the sensual kind! No, romance is a genre which is underpinned by the characters’ ability to do things, and to move through the world in new and interesting ways. And remember that feeling, as we’ve mentioned in step one, is a physical sensation as much as it is a mental one. The quickest way to kill the forward momentum of your book is to stay always in your characters’ heads, describing how they think about various things. Instead of letting the dynamic tension bleed out of your text, follow what your characters do, and focus on building sensible action that builds to your emotional crux and its resolution. We’re not talking about packing in pointless action, because pointless is pointless is pointless, but rather about focusing on your characters as real and embodied people who inhabit real spaces and times, and who have conversations, go to work, battle each other with swords, or know how to bake a mean chocolate cake.

STEP THREE: Consider the formula.

Yes, there’s a formula. It can be rebelled against, reinvented, or responded to, but it can’t simply be dismissed. What’s the formula? Readers expect very specific things from the genre, namely:

  • A hero or heroine the reader can love and sympathizes with
  • A love interest the reader can respect and admire
  • A realistic conflict … something to keep the lovebirds at a perfectly tense distance. This conflict can’t be mindless, pointless, or easily overcome. It has to feel real and significant, something that can’t be dismissed after a couple of pages of rational conversation.
  • A satisfying resolution. This doesn’t have to look like any one thing (a marriage or an engagement, for example) but it does need to provide a path forward for the two main characters, either together or separately. But preferably, together. Statistics seem to indicate that romance readers really do love a happily-ever-after!

Once you have plotted out what you want for each of these points, the rest is … well, it’s the book! And it’s your book, one that we dearly hope you will publish so that we can read all about it. Following these steps may not always be easy, but we hope that they’ll provide that little extra motivation or inspiration to keep going as you write your next romance novel!

Not sure what you need to get started publishing your romance novel? Visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication.

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