How to Write a Romance That Publishers will Buy
Romance fiction is designed to
At its best, it can
transport a reader to a fantasy place where happy endings are
guaranteed, where there are always resolutions to problems and
the girl inevitably gets her perfect man.
Is that your
From an objective (some
might say cynical) point of view, romance fiction is an
exercise in marketing. Publishers like Harlequin and Silhouette
have identified a need, which they set out to fulfill. From a
romance publisher's point of view, the writers actually get in
the way of this process. Don't be naive about this. If they
could get computers to write romances, I believe they
To them, it's all about
product. If a MS doesn't do what it's supposed to, it's of no
use to them. That's why they reject about 99% of all books
It's not personal. They
just want you, the writer, to get it right. But, unlike many
other publishers, they will usually try and aid you by making
If they think you have
potential, they will go out of their way to tell you exactly
what they think is wrong! In this context, criticism is good.
It shows you're on the right track!
But why would you want
to compete in this market?
Well, because it can be
a very good career move for a writer. It's steady work with
good advances and fair royalties. At 2000 words a day, you can
write a good romance in about a month, and have it on the
bookstore shelves within three to six. It's that
And once readers like
your books, they remember your name. Which means, in effect,
you've got them for life. Many respectable novelists start out
writing genre fiction. It's a clear and well-worn path to
But what brings writers
to romance in particular? There are probably as many reasons to
write romance fiction as there are romance writers. Ask a
roomful of them (as I recently did!) and all of them seem to
have their own personal slant, they're own individual reason
for doing it. But there are some pertinent similarities. What's
clear immediately is that only very rarely are successful
romance writers motivated by money.
Yes, they may enjoy
paying their bills with book royalties but that's not why they
sat down to write in the first place. Like all of us, they want
to express themselves, tell stories and be liked and paid - for
But unlike the
struggling, bitter artist who wants to rage against the world
in his writing, the romance writer wants to improve
She wants to add
meaning to the world and show that there can be a better way.
She wants you, the reader, to know that there is hope, and that
there can be wonder.
Romance writers (and
many other artists) believe it is their duty to show that the
human spirit is noble and can triumph against
But is writing about
romance important? It depends. If your purpose in life is to
enrich other people's lives then yes. If you have other
agendas, it might be frustrating.
What do I mean by
Well, almost as soon as
a writer reads back her own work or receives some positive
feedback, she is aware she is in command of a powerful medium.
One she might use to advantage. She realizes she might be able
to persuade a reader into accepting her point of
Isn't that the reason
why YOU tell stories? Don't you write to persuade people to
believe and concur with your version of reality? even if only
for a while? It's a powerful gift and it's good, but there is
As adults, we have
issues with politics, injustice and various other concerns like
poverty, the environment and crime. We might sometimes use our
writing to address them, even if only in our fiction. This is
all well and good. But it is not always appropriate for genre
Romance writing in
particular is not a platform for discussing issues you might
have about the world. It is not a soapbox. Whilst reading your
romance, readers are not interested in social reform or your
views on anything but love, courtship and relationships. This
doesn't necessarily mean that real life can't intrude on the
romance genre. It can, does and should.
But, if you want to
succeed in the Romance genre, you must not write with your
personal baggage uppermost in your mind. You must write solely
for your readers, with the respect and honesty they
Romance writing is also
about being mature, objective and clear-headed.
Also, to write good
romance, you should probably consider yourself a storyteller
first and a 'writer' second.
Think about your
philosophy on life. Ideally, for the Romance writer, it should
be positive, compassionate and most of all,
And, if you engender
this positive spirit in yourself - or have it
- you are in a prime
position to make very good money writing Romance.
Why not give it a