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Romance Writing 101
By Dawn Arkin

Romance writing is so much more than the "bodice rippers" of the 70's. Today, romance can on take many forms. Fantasy, science fiction, mystery, horror, and supernatural themes are becoming as popular as contemporary, historical, and regency romances. What was once rejected by publishers without a second thought is now sought by those same editors.

Regardless of what kind of romance you want to write, reading current romances in your favorite genre is a great way to see what is being accepted. While there is not one set "formula" you can use to write an award-winning, popular novel, but there are certain things most romance editors look for when reading submissions.

When planning your romance, you will need to create the perfect characters, setting, plot, and sensuality level for your story. Here are some of the things to keep in mind while you are writing your romance to make it stand out from the rest of the submissions.


A hero should be strong, exciting and bold. He knows what he wants, and does what is necessary to get it. He has a purpose in life. He does not have to be rich, brilliant, political, or economically powerful. But he can be any of those, if you wish. You want to create a hero who makes your heart go pitter-patter.


Your heroine can be strong-willed or shy. She can have imperfections as long as they are not overwhelming. She can look anyway you want, as long as she attractive to the hero. But one thing she must be is someone the hero is willing to do whatever it takes to have.


The antagonist is the best character to write. He can be as bad as you want, as evil as you need. He should be flexible and motivated. He knows what he wants and is willing to do ANYTHING to get it. But he has to have some redeeming qualities. Every human on the planet, even the most evil, has something about them that is not evil.

Secondary Characters

Remember, this is a story about your hero and heroine, not their best friend or neighbor next door. Your secondary characters should never be more vivid then your main characters. They can be used to move the story forward, give information to the main characters, and provide support to them, but they should never take control of the story. Every scene should have at least one of the main characters in it.


Where you set your romance is almost as important as what it is about. Your setting does not have to be exotic as long as you are able to convey it to your reader in such a way that they can become part of your world. Since publishers change what they are looking for based on reader desire, this is the one thing you should be sure you have researched carefully to avoid the rejection pile.

Story Basics

The main characters should meet as soon as possible and find themselves in conflict with each other right off the bat. Their first meeting should be explosive emotionally. It should make them be attracted, and hate, each other from the beginning.

Another important basic is every single line and word must have some purpose in the story and MUST move the plot along. Use your dialog, descriptions, and conflict to keep your action, and your reader's interest, peaked.

Story Sexuality

What is a romance story without love scenes? Writing a love scene is a very personal thing, for your characters and you. Only you can decide just how much "romance" you are willing to put into your piece. A romance story can be sweet, with all of the sex happening behind closed doors. Or it can be hot and steamy, with nothing being left to the reader's imagination. Or it can be anything in between! But be sure you write your story based on what the publishers want in their romance line. Do your market research, then write your romance geared toward their requirements.

The Unacceptable

There are plot lines considered taboo and sure to be rejected. For an experienced writer, they might not matter. But for the new writer, one who has not proven they can sell books, these are the kinds of plot lines that can sink your story before its time. Rape, incest, an evil hero, terminal illnesses, and terrorism are things you should probably not use in your first or even second book. All publishers will have a list of taboo subjects in their guidelines, read them and follow them. Otherwise, your wonderful romance could become a rejection statistic.

Finding out what publishers want, and need, is the best way to get published. But also you need wonderful characters, a strong plot, plenty of tension, and an ending that will make even the most hardened romance reader swoon and wish she were in the heroines place. Do that, and your romance will be on a shelf before you know it.

Dawn Arkin is an author on
http://www.Writing.Com which is a site for Writers. Her portfolio can be found at http://darkin.Writing.Com so stop by and read for a while.


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