Writing a romance novel aimed at traditional publishing
When you plunk down money or check out a title from a library, you expect certain reading parameters to be met. If you’re a prolific romance reader, you want to experience all of the emotional high notes at the appropriate times. Because of this, some romance publishing companies require these scenes to happen by a specific page number or chapter.
Romance writing checklist
1. The First Encounter
Ideally the first meeting takes place within the first 3-5 pages and/or within the first chapter. An unforgettable magnetism as they lock eyes for the first time.
2. First Physical Contact/Kiss
A doozy of a first kiss is priority one! The tension you spin leads up to this passionate encounter. Emphasis should be on the characters and their relationship. When I’m editing a romance novel, I work with the romance writer to pace the scenes to show the characters falling in love. Remember a romance novel is not just sex. At the same time, sexual tension is crucial even if your novel doesn’t have sex scenes.
Regency romances don’t have sex scenes; neither did the Twilight books or movies.
Before that kiss, the reader wants to know what the characters are thinking about each other. Are they rearranging their schedules to bump into each other? Ideally, your readers will have an opinion about whether the characters are on the right track for a long-term relationship or marriage. If they’re imagining different futures, perhaps it’s best that they don’t date or consummate. Keep your reader wondering. Maybe their futures get reimagined.
Devote several chapters to building the relationship.
3. Declaration of Love
Lots of emotional high notes precede this as the tension continues to pull tighter as they tackle their obstacles and conflicts. A deep awareness and knowledge that the other is The One. Where this happens matters to romance readers.
4. The Separation:
The trust bond having been established now gets torn asunder. Withheld information? Lies? Distance? The external conflict stands between them as a barrier to their happily ever after.
5. Risking it All
The acknowledgement that YES! The hero is worth risking it all. What will the heroine DO, and when will she realize that the hero is the love of her life?
A great scene in A Discovery of Witches is when Matthew tosses a millennia of “rules” out the window (and what that means), all for love of Diana.
6. Reuniting the Two
Their individual journeys as well as their journey together shall prove stronger than the external forces Their personal transformations give them new insight that seals the deal.
Love scenes are often difficult to write. Many writers are too embarrassed to ask family and friends for a “beta read.” If you focus on the relationship, your readers (even some of your family and friends) are likely to enjoy your characters as much as you do.
CAROLINE T. has edited 400 novels, including 3 New York Times Bestsellers. Her genres include romance, women’s fiction, thrillers, and mysteries.