Outlining Your Romance Novel

5 Things To Remember When Outlining Your Romance Novel

In this post we explore five things to remember when outlining your romance novel.

You sit down to write the immortal words, ‘Once Upon A Time’ or something in that vein and hope to keep writing until you pen the line, ‘And They All Lived Happily Ever After. The End.’

But what do you see before you? A blank page. A very blank page.

For some people, a blank page is the most exciting thing in the world. It holds the promise of a million ideas, the taste of ten million brilliant, witty, sharp, or lyrical sentences. But for others, the blank page is the most frightening thing in the world. Where do you even start?

 Never Fear! We’re Here To Help

There are two ways to write a book.

  1. Start writing the first thing that pops into your head and see where the magic…or the monsters…take you. (a.k.a. Pantsing)
  2. Ponder, plan, plot and pencil down ideas. Then start writing. (a.k.a. Plotting)

5 Things To Remember When Outlining Your Romance Novel

Whichever you choose, here are 5 things to bear in mind when outlining your romance novel.

  1. The Kernel Of Truth And The Inciting Incident

Even if you decide to pants your novel, you probably do have a concept. Try to verbalise that in one or two short sentences.

Pierre and Jules fell in love last summer on a cruise ship. They agreed to meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art one year later to see if their love was real.

Tip 1: Rewrite your kernel over and over again. Each time add in a new element. Begin with the inciting incident. That action, or moment, an overheard conversation, or disruption that sets off the core tale of the book.

Unfortunately, the Museum has closed for two weeks’ renovation on the day they are supposed to meet.

  1. The Obstacles Of Fate 

A story without conflict isn’t a story. So add just one conflict for now – the over-arching conflict.

They had thought it would be romantic to only communicate with each other via postcards and post-box addresses, but now there is a postal strike.

Tip 2: Create a column headed ‘Conflict Possibilities’. .Add any possible conflicts that occur to you during the creation of your book. This list is invaluable for overcoming plot puddles, writer’s block, and escaping the mushy middle.

  1. The People Of The Play

No one is interested in characters who are TSTL – ‘too stupid to live’. Make your characters meaty – even walk-on characters, and especially villains! Make them real. Make them all believable. Make them multi-faceted, interesting, and memorable. Write three-dimensional characters. Characters with backstories, flaws, failings, strengths and weaknesses, old fears, hidden secrets, regrets, dreams and goals. (If you want a masterclass in creating memorable characters, read almost anything by Charles Dickens.) Put yours in families which reveal why your characters are the way they are.

In Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is Darcy’s aunt. We see that she is a wealthy noblewoman, filled to the brim with class snobbery, and who is not above ordering the lives of everyone around her. And that explains where Darcy has learned his aloofness. We also understand why he has no qualms about persuading his friend Bingley to leave Jane Bennett and go to London.

Tip 3: Everyone was born somewhere.

  1. Where were your characters born?
  2. Where did they grow up?
  3. What era were they born in?
  4. Were they born into wealthy, well-educated, religious families or not?
  5. Did they go to school, college, university or not?

These questions are vital. They are also useful when researching names and educations of the era. No university-educated heroines in 1755 Louisiana is called Charlize! Not unless you want your book thrown across the room and scaring the cat.

  1. What are their physical characteristics?
  2. What jobs, if any, do they have?

Pierre, a handsome, deaf architect from France, and plain, gawky Jules, an Art History student from London, fell in love last summer on a cruise ship. 

  1. Who Is Telling This Story, And When

Is your story being told in:

  1. First person – I watched Jules cross the deck
  2. Second person – You saw Pierre glance in your direction.
  3. Third person – He laughed when she tossed back her pink champagne in one gulp.
  4. Past tense– Jules stormed off the dance floor, leaving Pierre glaring after her.
  5. Present tense – I throw my shoe at the retreating steward, narrowly missing the bass player. 
  6. Future tense – You will stand outside the museum, ice-cream dripping down your hand.

Tip 4: Many stories are in the third person, past tense. But it’s not a rule. If, as you write, your story seems to lack a certain je n’est ce quoi, try changing the voice and or the tense.

  1. And Now For Something Completely Different.

Ignore us and forge your own path. It is your book, after all. But it might be wise to remember that even Luke Skywalker had two mentors. Three if you count Han Solo. Hopefully, our list above will be as helpful.

Tip 5: Next time we will look at 5 More Things To Remember When Writing Your Romance Novel.

The Last Word

We hope you enjoyed these five things to remember when outlining your romance novel.

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

Suggested Posts On Romance Writing:

  1. A Quick Start Guide To Writing Romance
  2. All About The Romance Writing Genre
  3. The Almost Moment Is The Secret To Successful Romance Writing
  4. 5 Ways To Write A Modern Romance With A Classic Twist
  5. Why I Write Romance
  6. 20 Things To Remember When Writing Category Romance
  7. The Romantic Heroine
  8. The Romantic Hero
  9. The 4 Pillars Of Romance

Elaine Dodge

by Elaine Dodge. Elaine is the author of The Harcourts of Canada series. Elaine trained as a graphic designer, then worked in design, advertising, and broadcast television. She now creates content, mostly in written form, for clients across the globe, but would much rather be drafting her books and short stories.

More Guest Posts

  1. 5 Ways To Get You Through The Middle Of Your Romance Novel
  2. 5 Ways To End Your Romance Novel
  3. 5 Ways To Begin Your Romance Novel
  4. How Romance Writing Makes You A Better Writer
  5. How To Write Without Your Muse
  6. Why You Should Love Doing A Rewrite
  7. 10 Things That Stifle A Writer’s Creativity
  8. What Procrastination Can Do For You
  9. Why Do We Love Mr Darcy So?
  10. What Is A Pastiche & Why Should I Write One?

Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.

Posted on: 31st May 2022
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