A Quick Start Guide To Writing Romance

A Quick Start Guide To Writing Romance

In this post, we provide a quick start guide to writing romance for all aspiring writers in the genre.

There’s a romance novel for everyone! My favourites include anything by Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. There are no books on my shelves with covers that fall into the category of ‘Dude, where’s your shirt?’. That’s the good thing about this genre. There are so many sub-genres that everyone; writers, and readers alike, will be happy.

A Quick Start Guide To Writing Romance

 Why Write Romance?

The romance genre is the biggest selling genre on the planet. In 2021, romance book sales on Amazon reached US$1.44 billion. The closest competitor was Crime/Mystery which made US$728.2 million. Not even close.

Why Does Romance Outsell Every Other Genre?

It’s simple really, romance sells as well as it does because it gives the reader a taste of the romance for which they themselves are longing. The romance novel provides hope. Setting it in an exotic location tells the reader that their ‘own true love’ is ‘out there somewhere’.

Sign up for our romance writing course: This Kiss

Choose Your Sub-genre

Before drafting any book, romance or not, your genre/sub-genre will always be the first decision you make.

How many sub-genres are there?

Imagine opening a box of Quality Street. Everything’s chocolate, right? But not all the centres are the same. With romance, even the sub-genres have sub-genres! Romance/Sweet and Clean/Alternative History/Vampires/Victorian Paris – see what I mean?

The age group of your readers may play an important part in your choice of sub-genre. Are they young adult, new adult, or adult? These options all dictate plot, language, characters, and setting.

Choose Your Heat Level

Do romance novels need sex scenes? Jane Austen didn’t have any. Whether you include them or not depends entirely on you, the age of your readers, and the needs of your story.

‘Heat level’ is the industry term for level of sensuality, a.k.a. sex in a book. There are five.

In the first, your characters will be lucky if they hold hands.

In the second there may be one or two tender love scenes but no sex. But this doesn’t mean the book will be dull. There’s no sex in any Georgette Heyer romance and they are some of the most enduring romance novels of all time.

The third and fourth have increasing amounts of sex. Finally, there is Erotic/Erotica.

If you do choose to include sex scenes, bear in mind that the scene must advance the plot or show character development. In fact, all scenes in every genre, whether they are sex scenes or not, should do this. If you can, make them do both.


Should a romance have an HEA (Happy Ever After), or at least an HFN (Happy For Now)? Many writers, and readers, say yes. Others that say books like Gone With the Wind are romances. And yet that book is famous for, frankly, not giving a damn if it has a happy ending or not.

Personally, I think it all depends on what sort of romance novel you want to write. The Notebook is the story of a romance, but its end (spoiler alert) is tragic. So is that of Romeo and Juliet.

Sign up for our romance writing course: This Kiss

The Meet-Cute and Will-They-Won’t-They

There are two other foundations upon which all romance novels are built. These are the ‘meet cute’, and the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ question.

The ‘meet-cute’ doesn’t have to be the inciting incident. It also doesn’t need to be cute.

In Pride & Prejudice, the meet-cute between Darcy and Elizabeth, is neither the inciting incident, nor is it cute. Before they are introduced, Elizabeth overhears Darcy insult her. It’s not surprising then that Elizabeth is against him from the start. Their potential romance appears doomed. From the beginning, the question of will-they-won’t-they grips the reader.

This question drives all romances, including Gone With The Wind. So, make sure your novel asks it, and answers it, in a unique way.

Location, Location, Location

Do you like doing research? The era and location of your book will determine the amount of research required. A contemporary romance set in your hometown needs far less research than an historical romance set in a foreign country. The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye is a good example of this and is well worth reading.

What Do Rhett Butler, Fitzwilliam Darcy & Gabriel Oak Have In Common?

One is a rogue, one is an upper-class snob, and one is a hardworking, honest farmer. Yet, they are all completely compelling.

Compelling heroes need compelling heroines. No cardboard cut-out characters! They must:

  1. Be complex, deeply rich characters.
  2. Have interesting backstories.
  3. Grow through strong character development.
  4. Have chemistry with their soon-to-be significant other.
  5. Work for the reward of love.

These five ‘musts’ are the foundation of, and the power behind, all good romances.

Sign up for our romance writing course: This Kiss

The Whisper Of Sweet Nothings

Great dialogue can be one of the most difficult things to write. But it’s an essential skill. Bad dialogue is boring in life, and on the page. It will kill any romance. It must suit the characters, the era, the location, and be realistic.

There are bonus points if it is also original. It’s a tall order. But it can be done.

Compare the dialogue between Rochester and Jane in Jane Eyre to that in the TV series The Gilmore Girls between Luke and Lorelai, for example. They are both true to their era and sub-genre. One is repressed and gothic, while the other is hilarious, and fast-paced. But both ring true.

That is the ultimate test of all romance novels. Does it ‘ring true’? Does it ring true in every aspect, from sub-genre, the big questions, location, era, and character, to passion, dialogue, and ending?

If you want to learn more about how to write romance, Writers Write is the perfect place to learn.

Suggested Posts On Romance Writing:

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

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.

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Posted on: 30th March 2022