Common Mistakes New Romance Writers Make: And How to Fix Them!

Part Two

Copyright Judy Bagshaw - All Rights Reserved


Part One can be found here


5.RELYING ON CLICHES (Purple prose and those awful euphemisms)

"Throbbing manhoods" and "soft milky mounds" are just two examples of purple prose you really want to avoid in your romance writing. Besides being awful, they're really dated.

Your readers are a more sophisticated crowd now. They'll handle words like "erection" and "orgasm". Breasts can be breasts, and not mounds, orbs, or globes.

Study the vocabulary in romance books currently on the market. Make a list for yourself of the terms used throughout for body parts, and intimate activity. Based on that list, brainstorm some original terms that fit the style and flavour of the currently accepted vocabulary, but are fresh and new and bring your own voice to the mix. Remember, there are all sorts of romance lines, from sweet to really steamy, and the vocabulary used will vary from line to line.

Also, your heroes don't all have to be tall, dark, handsome and slightly dangerous. Nor do your heroines have to be slight, blonde, blue-eyed and submissive. Today, readers want variety and more reality to the characters. Almost anything goes in today's market. There is a growing market now for more mature (40+) heroines. One publisher I know of, is interested in stories with characters who have disabilities.

I personally made the choice to have full-figured heroines in my romantic fiction. This choice has really worked for me. I get letters all the time from readers thanking me for writing heroines they could relate to. I've also had heroes who were balding, who had a slight paunch, who wore glasses, who were average other words, normal!

Again, study the market. See what's hot, what's in demand. Read publisher's writer's guidelines. They'll specify what they're looking for. And try to find a niche that works for you.


Don't get me wrong. These are great tools to have. Just don't rely on them exclusively. Spell-check can't differentiate between homonyms.

Ex. He didn't no what to where their, sew he cot the bus home.

A good rule of thumb is "when in doubt, look it up". A writer's key tools still, are a good dictionary and a good thesaurus.

And study a little (actually, study a lot!). At least learn the rudiments of grammar and punctuation. For clarification, consult an authority like Strunk and White's Elements of Style. Your old English teacher would be so proud of you!


It's true that many artists learned to hone their skills by imitating or copying the masters. I don't recommend it for you, as an aspiring romance writer. The pitfalls are deep! And although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it can sound pretentious in the wrong hands.

I do recommend reading voraciously in the genre to which you aspire to write. If you wish to write Regencies, then read a whack of them. Familiarize yourself with the tone, the conventions, the language, the atmosphere, the background. Then write using your own voice, and your own style. If the Christian romance market is your choice, then research it thoroughly (more on research later). Read a broad range of inspirational romances to discover how faith is interwoven into the story, what language and description are acceptable.

Most publishers will provide writer's guidelines to help you with some of these issues. And it's a good idea, if you are targeting a particular publisher, like Harlequin for instance, to familiarize yourself thoroughly with what they require for their various lines.

How do you find your own voice, you may ask? There aren't any rules for writing like yourself, but I think much of it develops over time with study and experience. Through editing your work, and paying attention to what works and what doesn't, you'll find that your own voice will begin to emerge. This is where a critique group or some kind of writing support group comes in handy. They can give you insight into what is sounding true in your work, and what is forced.



There are two things I want to address here; research and craft.

a) RESEARCH: Nothing can kill your story for a reader, than to include faulty research in your book--wristwatches before they were invented, products that didn't exist, clothing styles from the wrong decade, vocabulary that's too modern.

Particularly with historical romances, you have to get your information right. Readers will catch the errors and your credibility will be shot.

The Internet offers an endless resource of information on virtually any subject. An armchair researcher can easily find correct information for their work. All sorts of books have been written on any number of eras, societies, fashion trends, language. For example, I am currently researching the mid-1800's in the Canadian West, a rich time of tremendous change in my country. I have books on the rise of the law in the west, the first nations people, the Metis and Louis Riel, fashion and society of the 1800's...all which will help me paint a vivid picture of the time and lend authenticity to my story.

b) WRITER'S CRAFT: I don't believe a writer ever finishes learning his/her craft. It is a lifelong pursuit of perfection. And it's important to master the key elements of the writing craft quickly, particularly if you aspire to be published. Much of this will happen over time as experience and practice teach you through trial and error. But there are things you can do to give yourself help.

Join a writer's group and/or critique group where you can share your work and get constructive feedback. I belong to the Writer's Circle of Durham Region Through them I've had access to terrific workshops and classes on various aspects of writing including romance writing. I've heard speakers at the monthly breakfasts who open my eyes to the writing world. For example, we once had a senior editor from Harlequin come to speak and share how romance publishing has and is changing--very informative.

Take writing courses. You can do so by correspondence with schools like Quality of Course Or you can check out the local colleges or high-schools for night classes to take. There are numerous online writing courses offered as well, some that focus specifically on romance writing. Just do a Google search on writing courses to find them.

As well, read, read, read voraciously on the subject of writing romances--books like "How To Write Romances" by Phyllis Taylor Pianka, and "Writing the Romance Novel" by Leigh Michaels can be immensely helpful. A search at will bring up a slew of titles on the subject. And of course, read the articles here at Romance Writer2Writer. There is a wealth of useful information for the budding writer.

Do your homework. It will make you a better and more successful romance writer.



This is one of the hardest lessons to learn as a newbie writer, but one of the most crucial. We spend however long crafting that wonderful story that's been floating in our head for ages. We finally get it down on the page, and then...we have to start over again??

Revise, revise and revise again...perhaps through 3, 4, 5+ drafts until you have the most polished product possible. Only the cleanest of manuscripts should EVER be sent to a publisher.

Two books that I've found quite useful are "Self-editing for Fiction Wrtiers" by Renni Browne and Dave King, and "The Complete Guide to Editing Your Fiction" by Michael Seidman. By studying guides such as these, you can, step by step, polish your romances until they really sparkle.

However, learn when to leave well enough alone. You can edit the life out of a piece if you're not careful.


You know you've really grown up as a writer, when you can listen to a bit of constructive criticism without contemplating homicide (grin).

As writer's, particularly as new writers just learning our craft, we have to be open to the wisdom of those who have gone before us. After all, once you're published, your work will be judged by publishers, editors, readers, and reviewers. You'll face rejection, and will darn well have to deal with it. And hopefully, learn from it.

I have a saying I coined a few years ago, that I try to live by. "Rejection is the fuel that fires my resolve to prove them wrong".



About the Author: Judy Bagshaw has been published since 2000. Writing romance featuring full-figured heroines, her publishing credits include 4 novels, 1 collection of short stories, and short stories in three anthologies. She was also part of the writing team for the Ginn Reading Series, and Reaching Readers Series, used in many elementary schools. Retired from teaching, she writes full-time from her home in Ontario, Canada. Visit Judy's website:



Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell