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Writing

How to Write a Romance Novel: 5 Tips for Writing a Successful Romance

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 16, 2020 • 3 min read

From Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Nicolas Sparks’ The Notebook, romance novels fill our hearts, ignite our passions, and help us consider the nature of love in a new light. There are many ingredients to a great romance novel, and first-time romance writers will need all of them to tell an effective story.

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How to Write a Romance Novel: Step-by-Step Guide

Romance bestsellers have many things in common: strong characters, a compelling love story, and steamy love scenes. Whether you’re self-publishing your first book or writing the final entry in an ongoing saga, here are some writing tips to consider when writing your romance novel:

1. Choose Your Subgenre.

The romance genre contains numerous subgenres. The most successful romance writers write within a specific niche, which allows them to set their love story within a context they’re passionate about. If you’re interested in ghosts and otherworldly creatures, try writing a paranormal romance. If you’re fascinated by a specific time period, your novel writing might drift towards historical romance. Whether your niche is young adult, harlequin, or contemporary romance, you’ll want to read as many romance books in your subgenre as possible to get a sense of conventions and spark story ideas of your own.

2. Set the Scene.

Setting is particularly important in romance writing. Not only will your setting create the atmosphere for your romance, but it will also inform your characters’ backgrounds. A romance story set in modern-day New York will feel much different than, say, Renaissance-era Florence. Be as specific as possible when describing your romance fiction’s setting. This goes not only for the time period, but the sensory experience of your location as well. A memorable setting will capture readers’ imaginations and create a vivid backdrop for your romance novel.

3. Make Your Main Characters Compelling.

Writing romance writing requires strong main characters. A reader’s engagement with the story will likely be determined by the chemistry of your protagonists. Make sure your characters have compelling backstories that inform their points of view about romantic relationships. For instance, if a character’s backstory includes a history of troubled relationships, the stakes are elevated for that character when they have a romantic encounter, and the storyline is imbued with more tension. Romance novelists shouldn’t skimp on POV and character development when it comes to the protagonist’s love interest either: A romance novel is only as intriguing as the dynamic between the lovers. The best romance authors know how to create rich, complex characters to fuel the love story.

4. Don’t Be Afraid of Romance Tropes.

Romance tropes exist for a reason. We’ve all read stories in which best friends become lovers, or in which love is forbidden due to class, station, or family affiliation. These romance plots consistently engage romance readers, and you shouldn’t be afraid to include them in your novel. However, if you spend your whole writing career rehashing the same tropes with every new book, readers may become bored and disinterested. Consider the most common romance tropes and brainstorm how you can subvert them in your own work. If the reader is expecting a classic happy ending, try writing an ending where your characters don’t get exactly what they want. Staying one step ahead of your readers will ensure that your novel is a page-turner and keep them coming back for more.

5. Use Love Scenes to Show Character Development.

If you’re writing your first romance novel, you may find it hard to strike the right balance when writing your intimate scenes. If they’re too overt you may alienate readers, but if they’re too tame the readers may leave disappointed. How you write sex scenes will likely depend on your own writing style and the subgenre of your story, but there are a few rules of thumb that can be helpful regardless of what type of writer you are. Your intimate scenes shouldn’t exist for their own sake: They should advance the plot or show character development in some way. Just like in real life, characters are often at their most vulnerable during these scenes, and seeing the way that they act can tell us a lot about them.

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