How to Write a Romance Novel
Moving from academic to romance writing can be a challenge, even for a romance lover. Luckily, many skills necessary for effective academic and non-genre writing are transferable to romance novel writing, though a potential romance novelist needs to remember few specific elements. Even if you already have an inspired idea for a sizzling story, following a few basic steps will help you create your romance novel.
Know Your Subgenre
Romance is an enormous genre, so in the beginning stages of the writing process, target a subgenre. Discover what specific subgenre best fits your ideas and begin to shape your novel based on that. For example, historical, paranormal, urban and erotic romance are common romance novel subgenres. An historical romance should give your reader a real sense of place and relevant historical events; a paranormal romance should create conflict around a paranormal element of the story such as a ghost character; an urban romance takes place primarily in a usually gritty urban environment; and an erotic romance novel focuses on sexuality. Your subgenre should determine your character types, action and setting.
Develop Your Characters
The romance novel is often about wish fulfillment and fantasy, so you will need characters that the reader can relate to but also aspire to be. Create dynamic, realistic and interesting main characters with unique quirks. Do not overwhelm your reader with secondary characters that can distract from your central couple and take valuable time away from their conflict, according to romance publisher, Harlequin. A good example of character development comes from the Twilight series, in which loveable, everyday high school student, Bella, is confronted with an irresistibly brooding and secretive vampire. Realistic, loveable characters that your reader can relate to are important in writing a romance novel.
Find Your Conflict
Every romance novel has to have some struggle or conflict that, for a time, keeps the main characters apart and creates tension. This is one of the most important aspects of the story, and the conflict should be realistic and tied to both the personalities of the characters and your particular subgenre. For example, in a historical romance novel, using a specific historical or cultural event to keep the protagonists apart grounds your story both in romance and in history, according to Writer's Digest. An example of grounding your conflict in your genre comes from the romance series Outlander, in which the protagonist Claire is a 20th-century woman trapped in 18th-century Scotland. Her romance with 18th-century Scotsman Jaime contains conflict that relates both to her feminist attitudes and the tension between Scotland and England at that time.
Outline to Draft
You learned how to outline an essay in high school and college, and this practice can also be helpful in giving you a sense of how events should unfold throughout your romance novel. These novels often have a pattern of the main characters' meeting, conflict and reconciliation. In your outline, break up your major plot points with your climax roughly in the middle. It is important that your reader is left "wanting more" at the end of each chapter or scene, as a romance novel should be compulsively readable and include cliffhangers.
When you have your outline, expand it to create your first draft. Flesh out your ideas by devoting roughly the same amount of space to each major plot point. Readers want to emotionally relate to your characters, so spend some time giving their internal experience of the events that occur. You can always expand or cut parts in the revision stage, but for now, devote roughly the same amount of time to each scene. Your final draft should run 40,000 to 100,000 words.
Ann Trent has been publishing her writing since 2001. Her work has appeared in "Fence," the "Black Warrior Review" and the "Denver Quarterly." Trent received a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Ohio State University and has attended the Macdowell Colony. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in counseling.