By Dawn Arkin
Most new writers think writing a romance novel is the easiest way to break into the publishing world. All they have to do is write about a couple falling in love. How hard can that be?
Pretty hard at times. There are so many different aspects to a romance novel that at times it might seem like the couple will never get together. That’s romance writing, pure and simple.
But how do you know if you got all of those aspects into your romance novel? There are some questions you can ask yourself before, during, and after you start writing that will help you determine if you have the things romance publishers are looking for when they read submissions.
The single most important part of a romance, the hero and heroine, are the driving force in any romantic tale. Before you lay pen to paper, you need to be sure your characters are the right ones for your story.
- Do you love your hero and heroine?
- Are their reactions to events correct?
- Does the hero or heroine seem too wimpy?
- Do they have flaws as well as strengths?
- Does the hero and heroine act with integrity?
- Are they consistent?
- Are their motivations, good and bad, valid?
- Do they have specific goals to achieve?
- Are your secondary characters interesting without taking over the plot?
- Have you made the secondary characters three dimensional, instead of just using stereotypical characters?
- You want realistic characters who behave as much like real people as possible. They should be likable, strong, and consistent.
Romance novels have changed a lot in the last 15 years. Gone is the 200K-plus bodice rippers of yesterday. Most publishers are looking for novels between 80K and 100K in length. Which means a novel’s pacing is even more important to an editor. To check your novel’s pace, ask yourself the following questions.
- Did your story start off with a bang?
- Does your opening hook the reader?
- Have you given the reader enough information without overloading her?
- Do you have more dialog than narration?
- Are your sentence lengths varied?
- Does your plot have dangers and risks for the hero and heroine?
- Are there slow spots so the characters (and reader) can relax?
- Is your story primarily a romance, even if it is a cross-genre story?
- A novel that moves too slow, or too fast, will bore an editor. You want exciting without leaving the reader feeling like they ran a triathlon.
If every hero and heroine met, fell in love, and walked off into the sunset in chapter one, romances would be pretty boring. Readers want to see conflict. They want your characters to have to go to the edge, and beyond, for their love. Check your conflict with these questions.
- Are the conflicts clear and obvious?
- Are they the right ones for your characters?
- Are there internal as well as external conflicts?
- Do the main conflicts build until the black moment?
- Are the conflict resolutions believable?
- Are all the major problems and subplots resolved at the end?
- Is the ending romantic and satisfying to the reader?
- Your conflict is what drives your characters to do what they do. It should be realistic and strong enough to last throughout the novel.
A romance story should be an emotional rollercoaster for the reader. They should laugh, cry, and worry about your characters success or failure. Make sure your tale has enough emotion to carry it to the end.
- Is there time in each chapter for the characters to explore their feelings?
- Do you show emotions through your character’s actions, dialog, and decisions?
- Have you used emotional responses that match your character’s personalities?
- Does reading your own work make you feel the right emotions?
- If you can’t feel the sadness, joy, and love, then your reader won’t either.
- Author’s Voice
- An author’s voice is the style you use to write with. It is your personal outlook, attitude, and rhythm that sets you apart from other writers. It’s how you put your sentences and paragraphs together, and how they sound. You want to use your own voice in your writings.
- Is your author’s voice your own, or are you imitating a famous author’s style?
- Do all of your characters have their own unique voice?
- Does your dialog sound natural and match the character’s personalities and backgrounds?
- Are you using enough dialog and not letting your narrator blather too much?
- If you are using dialects, are you only using enough to get the tone across?
- Are you using active, not passive, language?
- Finding your own author’s voice can take some time. The only way to find it is to write.
First comes love, then comes marriage. Then comes your couple with a baby carriage. While all romances end with a commitment, not all romances have sex scenes. How much, or how little, depends on you and your comfort level.
- Are you comfortable with writing a sex scene?
- Are you worried about what others might think?
- Are you writing a sex scene because you feel it is important to the story, or because you think you need one to sell the book?
- Do you describe the action in a fresh, original way?
- If your novel is a contemporary novel, how will you handle safe sex practices?
- Does the scene move the story along?
- Have you used enough tension and mood to build to the scene?
- Are you using the right time period language for your story?
- Only you can make the decision to include sex scenes, and how steamy they will be.
While it may look like a lot of work, asking yourself these questions will go a long way to knowing you are writing a romance novel that will stand a better chance of being accepted by publishers. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?
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