I remember when I decided I wanted to write a book. My husband and I were on a romantic, kids-free vacation. I was sitting by the pool, reading a book, completely ignoring him when an idea popped into my head. I hadn’t written anything besides a few blog posts since college, and I had no clue what I was doing. But I started writing, and one might say that’s the most important tip of all. So you want to be a romance writer? Write. That’s it. That’s what I did, I just wrote.
After four years of writing, I found out about a little contest called Pitch Wars and decided to enter. Then, shocker of all shockers, I was chosen! I was good! My writing wasn’t trash! Hooray! But then… I got my edit letter. I can sum up that letter in two words: Start over.
There was so much wrong with my manuscript: the beats were off, it spanned too many genres, there was no solid pitch, the word count was too high, and on and on. In one email, I learned things I hadn’t discovered in my four years of writing. So high five to you, reader, for landing here and doing some research—you are already light years ahead of where I was when I started.
5 key tips for becoming a romance writer
If you want to be a romance writer, there are a few key tips you should keep in mind when embarking on your new journey.
Embrace happily ever after.
Understand the romance arc.
Be cognizant of word count.
Find your community.
Hopefully, these tips will prevent you from having to kill all your darlings and delete your hard work (though honestly, edits happen—that’s what critique partners and beta readers are for!).
1. Embrace happily ever after
There are rules to romance, and because of the broadness of the genre, it’s hard to find a common theme. But arguably, the most important rule of all is that your story must have a happily ever after (HEA) or a happy for now (HFN).
If your story does not end with your characters riding into the sunset, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, you cannot market your book as romance. When your readers buy your romance book, you are promising them that at the end of this book, no matter how much angst and heartache it takes to get there, they will be satisfied that love does win.
Do not try to reinvent the wheel. Romance is successful for a reason. The readers are smart, and they know what they want. Luckily for us, they want a lot. Learn the subgenres, which, luckily for you, you can find out about here. Learn to recognize the popular tropes. Read, read, and read some more. What are the books you tend to gravitate toward? Read for joy, but also read for purpose. Know what you are feeling as a reader and what emotions you want to evoke as a writer.
2. Understand the romance arc
Take note of the romance arc. This was and is difficult for me. I am not a plotter, so the timing and pacing of my stories is one of my biggest struggles.
But, what is romance without emotion and what is that emotion without growth?
There are crucial plot points when it comes to romance: the meet, the commitment, the black moment, and the final resolution. I was pointed toward Jami Gold’s romance beat sheet to help me here. You enter your word count goal, and it gives you target numbers for where your plot points should hit throughout your manuscript. I always have a beat sheet open on my computer while I write.
3. Be cognizant of word count
If you want to be a romance writer, you’ll need to learn what your target should be. Romance novels can fall anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 words. Those numbers are so varied because the romance genre is so broad.
The word count goal for you manuscript will vary depending on what subgenre you are writing. For example, 80,000 words is a safe goal to keep for a single-title contemporary romance, while 55,000 to 60,000 is safe for a series title or YA romance. Do your research, and find out what number works best for you and your story.
4. Find your community
I cannot express the importance of finding and joining a writing community. Writing is a lonely career, and finding a group who understand and sympathize with your journey is key.
I think there are certain feelings we, as writers, all experience. The highs of writing a sentence that you know is pure brilliance, or typing “The End” on a manuscript to the soul-crushing doubts that you will never be good enough and your words should never be seen by eyes other than you own.
We have all been there and having a group behind you, pushing you through your fears and celebrating your successes makes this crazy passion of ours even more fulfilling.
So whether it’s joining Romance Writers of America (RWA) and attending local meetings, or finding a like-minded group on Twitter, or going to Facebook and joining the All The Kissing Facebook group, engage somewhere.
5. Keep writing
Above all else, write what you love, love what you write, and be sure to write all the kissing. The world needs your stories. And if you ever feel like you need some extra support, don’t hesitate to follow the All The Kissing community.