20 Things To Remember When Writing Genre Romance

20 Things To Remember When Writing Genre Romance

If you’re thinking of writing a category or genre romance, use these 20 tips.

What Is A Category Or Genre Romance?

In All About The Romance Genre, we said: ‘Category romances are short, usually no more than 200 pages, or about 55 000 words. The books are published in clearly delineated lines or imprints, with a certain number of books published in each imprint every month.’

In a category romance, the plot revolves around the romantic relationship between a man and a woman. The narrative is strongly characterised by sensual tension, desire, conflict, and emotion. The ending always unites (or reunites) the couple.

In essence, it is a highly idealised version of a relationship.

Read the Harlequin guidelines to get more tips: What we’re looking for

20 Things To Remember When Writing Genre Romance


  1. Have conflict and emotion on every page.
  2. Stick to one viewpoint in a scene or chapter.
  3. Make your hero appealing, masculine, and independent.
  4. Make your heroine someone you’d like to be or be friends with.
  5. Create a spirited heroine.
  6. Create a vivid, exciting setting that matches your genre.
  7. Tie setting to character and mood.
  8. Create sensual tension between your hero and heroine.
  9. Use as much dialogue as you can in a scene.
  10. Choose popular themes, with a fresh twist.


  1. Be afraid to create drama between your characters.
  2. Have a weak hero.
  3. Have a vain heroine.
  4. Have a vain hero.
  5. Switch viewpoints in a scene.
  6. Never have more than two viewpoints in your novel.
  7. Use contrived situations to create tension in your novel.
  8. Introduce controversial issues into a traditional romance novel.
  9. Forget that you are writing idealised love stories – Adult Fairy Tales.
  10. Leave the reader confused: let us know where we are, what’s happening to whom and why.

TOP TIP: If you want to learn how to write a romance, sign up for our online course, This Kiss.

Posted on: 13th November 2013

0 thoughts on “20 Things To Remember When Writing Genre Romance”

  1. Considering these, it’s amazing that the one novel lauded as the head of the romance genre, Twilight (ignoring Fifty Shades, which is all ‘Erotica’, not romance), fails spectacularly on these points. There’s no conflict or emotion – not from the main character, who has none, and not created by the author, who just wants to hand everything to her character on a silver platter and does. She did try to create an ‘appealing, masculine, independent’ male lead, but he just shows himself to be cowardly jerk who forces the female lead into doing what pleases him, stalks her while saying she shouldn’t be with him, and then blames her for it all. (Call anyone say ‘Rapist’?) The author tries to fob off any suggestions that he might be gay (because that’s a ‘thing’ now, she realised) by pointing out that his mother was AFRAID he was, only to prove her wrong by having a girlfriend. To be honest, I think he’d be happier with another man.
    The female lead isn’t someone most people would like to be friends with. She’s always lying – to her friends, her father etc – and judging them behind their back, and her attitude towards most everything borders on the psychopathic. She also has no concept of self-preservation that every living creature possesses, walking idly into danger, and she becomes completely dependent on men – when he’s there, she has no life outside of that, and when he’s not there, she’s a husk, and makes no attempts to become her own person. She’s actually stupidly pathetic. I think this also covers whether or not she has ‘spirit’.
    The narrative, frankly, is boring, and the setting (in a slow, rural small town, which would better bring a sense of tranquility than excitement) does nothing to save it, and it reflects the ‘mood’ and ‘sensuality’ of the piece in that they’re both damp.
    The sensuality is non-existent. The romantic leads barely knew each other at all, but a period of unabated stalking later, and they’re staring and prodding each other in the face. The male lead seems to have no sensuality about him, and resorts to putting down his girlfriend’s ‘abundance’ of it (well, whatever it is she has for him), perhaps to cover up that while he finds her tasty, it doesn’t mean he’d want to have sex with her at all (since when was appetite tied in with sexual drive? Feel free to tell me if it is or has been).
    As for dialogue? Not enough. The female lead bitches about everything in the narrative, and more dialogue would just slow her down.
    Meanwhile, the author is always afraid to create tension and conflict, especially if she thinks it might hurt her precious girl, and while the hero isn’t ‘weak’, per se, they are both cowardly and vain, which are very unattractive qualities. While the viewpoint rarely switches, the situations always come off as contrived, as just there to make the plot speed along, which you should never want your reader to feel.
    As for ‘controversial issues in a traditional romance’, I think you’re referring to any hot-button topics in a book starring a heterosexual romance (we know you mean heterosexual, but referring to it as ‘traditional’ makes anything non-heterosexual, or ‘non-traditional’ sound worse or less). I’ll proceed as though that’s what you mean. Twilight has so much of those: murder, stalking, assault – even brainwashing, paedophilia, child-eating and forced abortion in the later books – not to mention a heavy-handed insistence that ‘NO, HE IS NOT GAY, DON’T YOU DARE SAY HE IS!’. If he was, it wouldn’t be a big deal except for the fact there wouldn’t be much of a romance novel for the female lead. Besides, the sooner we stop referring to homosexual romance in novels as something ‘non-traditional’, ‘other’ and ‘not-natural’ (the love that dare not speak its name should be proud to say it in this day and age), the sooner we can stop with the hate. Yes, it’s unlike heterosexual romance, but it shouldn’t be highlighted as something too different, to be misinterpreted as ‘wrong’.

    Don’t mind me, just applying your great points to a worst best-selling novel of the genre. I’m not saying that your points are therefore invalid – just that the novel is.