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How to Write a Romance Novel: The Complete Guide

Looking to write your first romance novel?

Romance used to be a shameful genre back in the day, but has grown to be a lucrative industry, with some romance authors earning $50,000 a month!

How do you get to this level of success?

The answer is through patience, practice, and a good understanding of how to write romance, you’ll learn both and more in this guide.

With over 3 years of experience writing romance, I’ve put together a list of all the basic steps authors follow when writing their Romance novels.

What you’ll learn:

  1. How to choose your Niche
  2. How to create an Outline
  3. Methods to Hook Readers with Subplots
  4. How to make your Protagonist Relatable
  5. Don’t Forget about Secondary Characters!
  6. Use Diversity to Include all Readers
  7. Identify the Driving Force in the Relationship
  8. Write Realistic Intimacy
  9. Write a Memorable Ending
  10. Make it Make Sense Through Editing
  11. Publish it!

Stop hesitating and start writing, here’s the ultimate guide on how to write a romance novel.

Steps to Writing Romance Novels

1. Choose Your Niche

Choosing a niche that will accurately encapsulate the book’s genre will not only help to ground yourself easily during those times you’re bound to get off track whilst writing, but it will also help you identify your audience better.

Niches or better known as genres exist to categorize your novel in a sea of stories. Genres contribute to the reader’s experience by simplifying the process for people actively searching for similar books; this also applies to tags, tropes and clichés.

Inside the romance genre there are other, more precise, niches which can be used to better categorize your book and help captivate the right audience.

Take inspiration from other books within the same niche and improve your understanding of your reader-base by getting to know what they like and dislike!

This can be done by reading reviews, watching rant videos and taking a peak at similar books yourself.

Here’s a list of popular romance book niches to familiarize yourself with!

  • Historical Romance
  • Contemporary Romance
  • Young Adult
  • Romantic Thriller
  • Fantasy
  • Paranormal or Supernatural
  • Religious or Spiritual
  • Erotica

(Video: https://youtu.be/CpTp-bZSQIo)

Historical Romance

Historical romance is usually set in previous time periods such as the booming-in-popularity British Regency era, although you may see tropes such as time travel within this genre.

This category requires the writer to research the time period, dialect, and customs, as well as any big historical events occurring during the chosen time period and investigate.

An example of historical romance, specifically British Regency era romance, would be the widely known Netflix original “Bridgerton”.

(Image: Netflix Original Series “Bridgerton” by Julia Quinn)

Contemporary Romance

Often referred to as “Modern Romance” Contemporary romance is known to be set in current times, hence the word contemporary which means “belonging to the same time”.

Still, the line between historical romance and contemporary romance blur when we realize any book written to be set after WWII can also be considered contemporary romance.

The most common identifier for Contemporary Romance would be its era of setting, usually around the 80’s and 90’s, along with its need to relate to the adult generation by bringing back a time without cell phones.

(Image: “It Ends with Us” by Colleen Hoover New York Times Best Seller)

Young adult

One of the most famous genres in romance in today’s world is young adult romance. The epitome of young love, this niche is seeping with awkward glances, high-school drama and relatable scenes for all ages. 

It focuses on the journey we all experience as we slowly grow up and begin to see the world with new eyes. The young adult genre is also heavily related to coming-of-age stories.

(Image: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky)

Romantic Thriller

Romantic thriller’s usually involve drug rings, mafia deals and/or murder plots. It keeps readers on their toes, waiting for the next big thing that’s going to threaten the relationship.

It’s a constant rollercoaster of emotions, the suspense and utter nerve-wracking suspense makes the romance even more gratifying to read.

(Image: “The Deadly Travellers” by Dorothy Eden)

Fantasy

Magical worlds filled with fairies, fae and mighty kingdoms. The fantasy genre is entirely fictional, although it may sometimes contain real world elements, it’s principally focused on the mystical aspects of the writer’s imagination. 

(Image: “The Shadow of What Was Lost” by James Islington)

Paranormal or Supernatural

The paranormal genre covers anything that carries some supernatural element which cannot be scientifically or logically explained. This can involve unnatural beings such as monsters, ghosts, angels, demons and spine chilling ghouls. 

Supernatural creatures always linger in the dark corners of this niche. They slighter up your consciousness and plant the intriguing kiss of romance amongst the fear of the unknown.

(Image: “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer)

Religious or Spiritual

Also referred to as Inspirational romance, apart from religious and spiritual, these books follow the strict teaching of the religion it’s touching on. These teachings vary from religion, but can often be found in the eschewing of alcohol, profanity, what would be considered sin or any sexual content. 

The characters are usually taught such teachings and go through a redemption arc in which they find hope and renew their faith in their preferred religious charcaters.

(Image: “The Wood’s Edge” Lori Benton)

Erotic

The sexiness and seduction of the book industry lies within the velvety shades of erotic romance.

Erotic romance doesn’t rely as heavily on steamy scenes as the Erotica genre does, yet they still differentiate themselves from other niches thanks to their explicit descriptions of sensuality.

Sex scenes make up the main plot of the story and regularly occur throughout the chapters.

(Image: “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L. James)

2. Create an Outline

When you’re writing a book, especially a romance book, it’s easy to get lost within the endless paragraphs of passion. Your head will be practically spinning with so many scene ideas and plot points that you’ll want to add everything!

But beware! Giving-in to this urge can cause your plotpoint to derail, unfortunately leading readers astray from the original conflict and leaving, not only them, but yourself with an unsatisfied feeling in your heart.

The best way to avoid hindering your main focus in the plot is to create an outline for your book before writing it, keeping notes of each chapter and subplot will contribute greatly in this process.

(Image: https://www.news894.de)

Start by identifying your niche, which we covered in the previous step. Try to summarize your book in a single paragraph, this will help you develop a rough idea of the beginning and ending of your book.

Know where you’re headed with the plot and lower your chances of getting derailed. Keeping your scenes and ideas organized will help you surpass the overwhelming task of writing a book by compartmentalizing the story into bite-size chapters you can get done each week. 

 3. Hook Readers with Subplots

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Subplots are conflicts outside of the main storyline. It can range from involving the same characters to involving only secondary characters. Subplots are best described as a secondary storyline, a plot within a plot.

Use subplots wisely and really hook in readers with a second conflict to look forward to getting resolved. The most prevailing subplot in the book industry is romance, you can always find some romance happening behind the scenes of the storyline in next to all the novels you’ll read nowadays.

But how do you use romance as a subplot in a romance book?

Secondary characters can experience a bit of romance too. Though the most popular way of adding subplots to romance books is to add some form of miscommunication or plant the seed of discord for future conflict.

(Video: https://youtu.be/Whs7SRPZ0NY)

Subplots can be a huge boost in attention retainability for the readers, but it can also thwart your storyline if left unfinished or unexplained. 

Some subplots leave readers with more questions than answers, so make sure you keep your subplots in-check at all times and organize them within your notes to prevent accidentally forgetting about on-going subplots.

3. Make your Protagonist Relatable

When writing human characters you are bound to become an observer of sorts within your own daily life. You’ll start seeing human behavior in a new light, a technical one, but entirely new nonetheless. 

As you examine individuals more closely, you will take into account a characteristic that can be described in one word and plagues the meaning of existence. Flaw, is that word. We are flawed and that’s what makes us human, that’s what makes us beautiful.

If you want to make people fall in love with your protagonists and therefore cling onto the story further. You should find a way to make your protagonist feel real. Readers can easily identify themselves and relate with flawed personalities. 

(Video: https://youtu.be/xkuGB_mrMCQ)

It’s all about finding that happy-medium when writing your cast. Readers don’t necessarily need to like a character in order to be intrigued by them nor do they need to love them. Making mistakes is part of human nature, it helps the readers emphasize with the cast and connect with them on a deeper level.

This also applies to the love interest. As much as we might wish to create the perfect love interest, you should make a point of showing the complexity of thought and emotion inside their heart and mind.

Depict how their past affects their present decisions and how it molds their world view.

4. Don’t Forget about Secondary Characters!

(Image: “Friends” Series)

Although you may not think it now, secondary characters hold a lot of merit when it comes to writing a good story and overall supporting cast.

 Just like we previously mentioned, making your characters flawed helps them feel real and this applies to secondary characters as well. 

Take some of the most popular series nowadays, they all include subplots that often revolve around secondary characters and their personal problems.

Secondary characters can also contribute to the main storyline by helping the protagonists out of a tough situation, help resolve a conflict or they could even be the reason behind the conflict in the first place!

Think of a creative way you can implement secondary characters into your plot, how you can make their paths cross with the protagonists and how that’ll affect the course of the storyline.

 

5. Use Diversity to Include all Readers

 Representation matters. The book industry has seen a significant shift in themes, from more conservative, religious and limiting stereotyping to embracing our differences in race, culture, sexuality, relationship styles and gender identity. 

It’s new found freedom has opened the doors for identity development within a safe and relatable way. It falls on your shoulders as the writer to create a safe space free from homophobia, racism, discrimination and bring awareness through representation, including diversity within your pages.

6. Identify the Driving Force in the Relationship

Why is the main couple a couple in the first place? What circumstance or decision is pushing them together whilst keeping them apart?

Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers in your notes for future reference. Your romance novel has to have a driving force between the main couple in order for there to be a plot.

When coming up with a driving force in a relationship, make sure to add a conflicting contradiction. For example, “they love each other but if their skin touches the world ends.” Although this is an extreme case, it conveys the point clearly.

It’s this very conflict that’ll keep your readers on the edge of their seats wondering when will, if we use the extreme example given above, they’ll touch, if ever?

Plus, it adds to the bonding experience between the audience and the characters. Once the readers get to experience the couple’s hardships beside them, they’ll relate to them and want to know more from them. 

This’ll keep readers coming back for more in case of extra chapters or a possible sequel!

7. Write Realistic Intimacy

Realistic Intimacy lies in the understanding of human affection. The way we love, may it be verbally through compliments and words of reassurance or physically with gentle touches and hand holding.

Intimacy goes deeper, the potential for something so private it makes us evade our eyes in fear of intruding.

Real intimacy, like any form of love, revolves around vulnerability. Show your couple supporting each other at their lowest, show them laughing together at their highest. Everything that makes up those little moments defines the definitions of what intimacy will look like for that couple.

It can be deep conversations on a random Tuesday night, cuddling on the coach on a chilly afternoon or even amorous glances. Study your characters personalities and consider in which way they would express intimacy.

The more compatible it is with your character’s personality the more real it’ll feel. Share those hidden gems within their souls and plaster them for your readers to see.

Sounds a bit crude, but letting your audience see vulnerability within your story will cause their hearts to light up and enthrall them deeper into the story.

8. Write a Memorable Ending

After the waters have died down, the plot-twist has absolutely baffled readers, after everyone has gotten their hairs into a disarray over the fiasco that just went down. 

You are left to make one of the hardest choices as a romance novelist, do you give them sunshine and rainbows or cloud their days with bleak weather crowded with murmurs of what could have been?

(Image: https://quotefancy.com)

In other words, do you give your love-birds a happy or a sad ending?

There’s no real preference when it comes to endings, only that they resolve the conflict along with any on-going subplots and keep a steady pace, not slowing down nor rushing.  It’s all up to how you want your storyline to end.

Do you want everything to end with a bang or with a whimper?

9. Make it Make Sense Through Editing 

The beauty of editing! After all is said and done, you’ve finally finished your manuscript for your romance book, give yourself a high-five and prepare for the journey of editing.

This is the part where you go back to the beginning and make sure the central idea of the storyline is clear. 

Does the book make sense? Do the scenes go along with the trajectory? Are there any unnecessary scenes you could delete from the book? Is the pacing fluid?

The best way to go about this step is to emotionally detach yourself from what you’ve written and take a good hard look at your work with a technical eye. There are going to be many scenes that could be changed for the better or entirely deleted.

(Image: http//:self-publishingschool.com)

 Not only scenes, chapters could also end up being deleted to benefit the pacing.

Proofreading is a big part of editing as well. Go back and read through your manuscript, scrutinize each sentence in search for any grammatical errors you’ll need to correct.

Still, it’s always good to have a second opinion. As much as we might deny it, most of the time we don’t realize our own mistakes, so it’s beneficial to have someone else take a peek at your book and receive feedback from it.

You can designate a friend or family member as a beta-reader, though it’s highly recommended that you hire someone with experience in beta-reading and writing reviews.

 There are professionals you can pay for to edit and proofread your manuscript, you can find them through freelancing websites or social media. They’ll advise you with their editing expertise and polishing your book enough for it to be submitted to an agent!

(Video: https://youtu.be/yGGJI1-BbS8)

10. Publish it!

Getting their book published is every writer’s dream, it all starts with finding an agent…

Not an easy task. 

You may send your manuscript to multiple agents, but it’ll probably take you a couple of months before any of them respond. Agents get swarmed in manuscript emails that go up to three hundred pages long everyday.

Yes, there are other options besides traditionally publishing with an agent. There’s also the option to self-publish, to publish with a hybrid publishing house and as previously mentioned traditional publishing.

Each one has its pros and cons when it comes to receiving payments, marketing and the overall process of printing your books.

(Video: https://youtu.be/SCKY2UYvQ5c)

  • Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing offers an incentive of about two-thousand to twenty-thousand once they buy your book, and I say buy in all senses of the word. 

With traditional publishing you will be giving up your right to your work and your control over the book will be limited in regards to direction, design and distribution of your book.

Pros would be receiving good distribution, good quality, upfront incentive and marketing. Cons, you give up around 10%-15% of the royalties earned and you’d be surrendering ownership of your work.

(Video: https://youtu.be/wsDjceaND4o)

  • Self-Publishing

Publishing the book yourself allows complete control over design, direction and distribution, along with getting your money in full with each book sold.

A lot of people steer away from self-published books due to the lack of credibility. Few writers have any editorial, design and distribution work done on their book nor do they seek out professional help from hires, so most of them end up getting below 3.5 stars on GoodReads.

One of the most popular platforms to self-publish your book is Amazon Kindle or K. D. P. (Kindle Direct Publishing). If you plan on using KDP to self-publish your book, you could keep up to 75% of all royalties while still receiving the bonus of marketing by amazon.

They’ll promote your book, but it’s better to create your own marketing strategy on top of that in order to guarantee sales from early on by putting your book out there for the world to see.

Pros, you’d have full control over your book and monetary gain, yet you’ll have to work harder to gain recognition and have to run your own marketing campaign, exposing yourself to the risk of more losses than earnings.

(Video: https://youtu.be/_Z4UCeblBpg)

  • Hybrid Publishing

Hybrid publishing is a mix between self-publishing with the distribution power and quality of a traditional publisher. Next to all Hybrid publishers accept direct submissions without an agent.

Authors are made to pay a fee and receive full ownership over the creative process, packaging, and publication rights along with editorial, design, marketing, and distribution services.

Due to all the benefits, having your book published through hybrid publishing has greater monetary costs than self-publishing. Pros, you get full control over decisions involving your book. Cons, you pay a higher fee up-front.

 (Video: https://youtu.be/8eewelhRODw)

Writing a book is an overwhelming endeavor that many steer away from due to its need of time and effort. By reading the steps given you’ve learned exactly what you need to write a romance novel. As long as you stay focused and apply what you read, you will have your book finished in no time!

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