Top 5 tips for writing a popular Romance

Posted on Posted in Romantic Fiction Craft

Everywhere you go Online these days there seems to be a hit list of the “top 10” favourite cup cake flavours and nail polish colours and the like.

It can be tough to distil years of work and reading and research into a few bullet points but after 16 contemporary romances with Harlequin and Carina UK with a lot more scheduled for 2013 I thought that I would give it a go.

Into the writing hut we go.

So here are my top 5 tips for writing a popular romance.

1. Read
If you are like me, you have been an obsessive reader and storyteller since you were born. You are filled your life and heart and soul with the written word and narrative. All your stories are already deep inside you bursting to be told.

2. Learn Story Craft

You can have the most compelling story in the world but without story craft you won’t be able to shape it into a form that you can share with other readers. There is a huge online free resource now that never existed before. So no excuses. You have to understand genre and sub-genre and the expectations of each from the reader point of view.

3. Be a student of human behaviour.
Romance is all about people and how they act and react in stressful situations. You don’t need to be a psychologist – or a stalker on public transport – but you need to understand the human emotional range to make your writing real and compelling.

Have a life outside writing. Stories feed on experience and interests and the energy that comes from things and people and situations that interest you.

4. Think of yourself as a small business owner

Becoming an author is starting your own sole trader self-employed business.

All arty craft literature students should avert their eyes now.

You are making a product – your writing, irrespective of genre and form. You then have to sell that product to customers.

These generally fall into three categories:

*literary agents
*editors at publishing houses/magazines etc. who are still prepared to accept direct submissions, and
*readers if you self-publish your work.
It may be that you have to knock many times on the first two doors AND fling open the third to find a way to get your work before readers. But if you want to earn a living you will have to do it. And sometimes all three on the same day for the same book. Fact.

Being a professional author is not for the faint of heart. You have to be prepared for very hard work, long delays, frustrating and illogical discussions with editors and publishers and no guarantees that your work will be accepted at the end. So you have to work harder and smarter to find a home for your story, and you will. Eventually.

5. Learn to love to write

If you don’t yearn to be writing instead of doing anything else then you don’t want it enough. It should be the one thing that gets you out of bed in the morning with a spring in your step.

Now. Back to my Revisions. Oh. Did I mention those??

5 thoughts on “Top 5 tips for writing a popular Romance

  1. You know, Nina, I totally agree with all your tips – but lately I see a change is some (yes big and fanous ones too!) publishers’ submission guidelines – to the point of one of them stating explicitly that you don’t need to be able to spell or know the ‘technical’ side of writing as long as you are a antural story teller. Whether this signals a shift away from traditional genre romance skills and ‘rules’, I’m not sure – or maybe it is just because there are a lot of new e publishers out there who are competing for authors’ work.

    1. Hi Phillipa. Good to see you here.
      I agree that there have never been more opportunities than ever for authors to find homes for their unconventional and experimental work. The literary novel where the first paragraph lasts three pages and is without punctuation comes to mind. Yes,the rise and rise of new digital only and digital first publishers has made many large publisher sit up and pay attention.
      Authors can find publishers who are willing to spend the time paying freelance editors to shape an idea which has a good hook and is compelling and interesting enough for them to invest in. I sincerely wish them the very best of luck.
      But here is the problem.
      As a reader I want to be entertained by the fiction I read. Which means I prefer to read genre commercial fiction. You know. The kind that actually sells? Rock solid story structure. Character arcs, turning points and conflict. Linear story telling.
      The nearest comparison I can think of is the movies.
      Every single one of the movies I have seen this year – blockbuster and smaller films- has followed the classical 3 act form to the letter and held the audience in their seats for 2 hours spellbound. Screenwriters in Hollywood know precisely how to manipulate the emotions of the audience as they sit in the dark looking at the screen. WHY? Because that is what the audience/readers want.
      Does that mean you have to tell the same story in the same form every time? Of course not – that would be tedious and boring for reader and for the author.
      It is up to us to USE story craft to support a story with compelling different characters, story situations and themes and ideas. Hooks are what the publishers want to appeal to readers. So let’s give them that.

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