How to Write a Romance Novel: The Complete Guide

How Do You Start Writing a Romance Novel?

Read in the genre you want to write.

What Are the Subgenres of Romance?

Romance is a wide umbrella. The only essential component of a romance novel is a romantic focus and a happy, or hopeful, ending.

Contemporary Romance

Contemporary romance is the book form of a chick flick. The setting is realistic and familiar, even if it takes place in a fictional town.

Historical Romance

One of the most popular subgenres is historical romance. You might have heard these referred to as “bodice rippers.” But I’m here to tell you that no bodice has to be ripped to write historical romance.

Paranormal Romance

Werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters. Oh, my! Paranormal romance, often abbreviated to PNR by authors and fans, is any romance that involves the supernatural. Typically, one or both of the main characters is/are a supernatural creature. A Discovery of Witches series by Deborah Harkness is an example of paranormal romance.

Fantasy Romance

If you prefer your love stories to occur in another world full of magic, then fantasy romance is the subgenre for you. When magic occurs in a real-world setting, the line between paranormal and fantasy gets blurry.

Religious Romance

If you prefer your romance clean with a focus on spirituality, then religious romance might be the way to go. Most religious romances are Christian fiction.

Young Adult Romance

Move over, Romeo and Juliet. The young adult (YA) genre is one of the most lucrative genres out there for writers. It doesn’t appeal to just teenagers. Young adult fiction, especially young adult romance, appeals to readers of all ages.

Queer Romance

As the publishing industry continues its push for diversity, queer romance is gaining in popularity. People are glad to have characters that they can relate to falling in love. Rainbow Rowell is one of the bestselling queer romance authors.

Erotic Romance

Most of these genres can feature explicit sex scenes, with the exception of Christian romance and YA romance. But in erotic romance, sex is one of the key points of the story, but the love story is equally important.

Blending and Bending Genres

You might have noticed some overlap with the genres listed above. For example, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer is a young-adult paranormal romance. You can blend genres in any way that makes sense to you.

How Do I Choose My Romantic Leads?

A lot of advice about writing romance tells you to pick your setting first. Of course, setting and characters go hand-in-hand. However, romance arcs require strong character growth. For a compelling romance, your story should be primarily character-driven.

Do I Need World-Building in Romance Writing?

World-building is an important part of any story. You might think you don’t need to focus on world-building if you aren’t writing a fantasy or historical romance. But the world your story takes place in is important, even if it looks like our world.

How Do I Structure a Romance Novel?

You might think all you need for a romance novel is love, right? Well, if you plan on marketing your love story as a romance novel, there are some basic guidelines that avid romance readers expect.

Meet Cute

  • She’s a barista who wants to be an actress. He’s a playboy Hollywood exec who stops by her coffee shop.
  • He’s an earl with a dark secret. She’s a lady who has secrets of her own. They meet at a ball.
  • She’s a teacher in a small town. She falls in love with the new, mysterious woman in town after spilling coffee all over the both of them at the Fall Festival.

Build the Romantic Tension

Now your characters have to interact so they can develop a relationship. Some plot structures suggest that there should be a minimum of three scenes where they interact before the characters kiss or get together.

Couple Gets Together but Is Torn Apart

Your couple must get together. After all, that’s the whole point of the romance. But your story will be very short and underdeveloped if your happily ever after comes too soon. I’m covering these two plot points together because they are so intertwined.

  • Something nefarious occurs after a kiss, and one of the love interests is kidnapped or is forced to run away.
  • Their love is forbidden, and they are discovered and pulled apart by family.
  • One wakes up with guilt because of the nature of their relationship (not accepted by society, is the enemy, is the widow of their childhood best friend, etc.)

Happily Ever After or Happily for Now

You know how the fairy tales end: “and they all lived happily ever after. The end.” But we can’t end romance novels quite that simply. What does a happy ending look like for your characters?

What if You Want a Sad Ending?

Some authors have had great success with tearjerker endings, like Nicholas Sparks. In this case, there should have been a “happily for now” or “happily ever after” before the end. In other words, the ending should leave the reader satisfied with the culmination of the romantic relationship.

What Are the Most Common Romance Tropes?

  • Friends to enemies to lovers
  • Friends to lovers
  • Marriage of convenience
  • Fake relationship
  • Arrogant playboy finds his heart
  • Forced proximity (roommates, coworkers, hostages, etc.)
  • There’s only one bed!
  • Secret billionaire/secret royal
  • Soul mates
  • Love triangles
  • Forbidden love
  • Girl next door
  • Brother/sister’s best friend
  • Second chance romance

How Do I Pick the Right POV for My Romance Novel?

Fall in Love with Your Characters

Most importantly, writing a romance novel should be fun. Write in a way that makes you fall in love with your characters and makes you want them to have a happily ever after. Focus on the emotions rather than the events. Romance readers are in it for the feelings-the angsty, the warm, the cozy, the heart-wrenching.

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