Romance novels might be seen as an "easy read", and yet, writing them is anything but. Here are my top 3 Dos and Don'ts so you can know how to write a romance novel without pissing off your readers (lol).
You probably know by now that romance is my favorite genre to read, write, and edit. I've done all three of those activities for the past 5 years, and it's taught me a lot about how to write romance, but also, how NOT to write romance. Ready for it? Let's go!
DO: Understand the genre conventions, rules & tropes
Romance, like any other genre, has its rules. And look, If you're one of those writers who thinks fiction writing should be about "creativity" and "expression" and nothing else... there's the door. Go.
When you write genre fiction, you have to adhere to its conventions. There's a certain expectation readers have when they pick up a romance novel, and if you don't meet those expectations, it's going to piss them off, as it understandably should.
This is true for any genre! Like that time I watched a Bollywood movie that was marketed as a psychological crime thriller, but it "solved" the mystery by revealing one of the key characters to be... a ghost. I don't think anybody liked the ending to that crap-fest.
DON'T: Skip the HEA/HFN or make the romance secondary to the plot
If a romance ends with the main characters or their love interest(s) breaking up, dying, or anything that implies they're not together... it's not a fucking romance. Maybe it's a love story, but it's not a romance. If you're saying, "But Romeo and Juliet! And Titanic! And The Fault in Our Stars!" No. Nope. Shush. None of those 3 stories is a genre romance. You need to have a HEA (happily ever after) or a HFN (happy for now) for your book to be a romance.
And there needs to be a central love story, which means the plot should revolve around the characters' journey to falling for each other. You can have other subplots and themes (and I think you always should) but the crux of the story needs to be how they overcome the internal and external conflicts that prevent them from being together.
DO: Read romance novels and learn from successful authors
One of the best ways to improve your craft is to learn from other authors by reading extensively in your genre. Obviously, don't push or force yourself. Reading is supposed to be fun, and there's no shame in quitting a book if it doesn't engage you. But take some time to reread your favorite romance novels and explore just why you loved them so much. Was it the characters? The dialogue or banter? The chemistry? The plot? How can you use what you've learned from your favorites in your own writing?
DON'T: Bash on existing novels because they're "unoriginal"
If you do this, you're an asshole. Nothing is original in the writing world, no matter what genre you read. Yes, romance novels always go like, "Main character meets love interest. There's attraction but also conflict. They must overcome the conflict to be together." Do I have a problem with that? No. In fact, I fucking love it.
This tweet explains it perfectly:
"romance novels are all so predictable" OF COURSE THEY ARE i go to starbucks and make the same order every time because i want to CONSUME THE THING THAT I LOVE over and over dear god let us LIVE
DO: Work with critique partners, beta readers, and editors who know the romance genre
A book is always a team effort. Find critique partners (fellow authors with whom you can swap feedback), beta readers, and editors (especially if you're self-publishing) who know what is and isn't romance, and can help you make your writing shine even more than it already does.
DON'T: Rely solely on friends and family who aren't part of the industry
Look, I get it. My mom reads my novels. Does she love everything I write? Yes. Does she pretend she loves everything I write even when she doesn't? Also, yes. She would never be able to give me unbiased feedback, because--well--she made me! My books are practically her grandchildren!
It's great to have loved ones read your book, but having industry experts/fellow authors critique for you is an absolute must. No matter how good you think your writing is... it can probably be better with the support of others in the writing industry.
Well, these were my top 3 Dos and Don'ts for writing romance. Do you have anything to add in the comments? Go right ahead!
PS: If you want support with your manuscript, click here to read about my editorial services! And be sure to follow along on my author journey on Twitter by clicking here.