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Everything you ever need to know about writing romance...

Some of you might know that I broke my arm recently. It's made typing a bit tricky and messed with my head as well, so when I realised it was my turn to Hit the Hot Spot I was freaking out LOL

I wracked my brain, and then searched all of my romance related articles and found some notes I'd taken at my very first Romance Writers conference back in 2002. I found the perfect thing! This is a recap of the wonderful advice I received from NY Times bestseller Stephanie Laurens, and quite frankly, I'm amazed that my notes were so comprehensive. I must have listened well.

This advice is still very relevant today and will help all romance writers, published or not. It takes us all back to the basics and why we do what we do. I hope you find it as useful as I have.

The first thing to remember is that romance is entertainment fiction

Therefore :1. Romance is entertainment
                  2. It should be written in the vernacular (common tongue of the reader)

In practice how does that work?

Writing is storytelling.  Storytelling is entertainment (do we see a theme here?).  The writer has an unwritten contract with the reader.  The writer tells their story, and the reader is entertained!

When we tell our story, it is a performance.  We want the reader to have an experience they enjoy so much that they will come back for more.

What is our competition?  Television, Movies and Time!

Other writers are NOT our competition.  When a writer is successful, it encourages readers to read! 

Not just one author, but many.  ‘The rising tide floats ALL our boats”

How is success measured?  SALES, SALES, SALES! (Notice I didn't mention reviews?)

For writers, to be successful and to gain recognition for their work  they must repeat their performance at least twice a year. The reader always wants more, and will forget you if you don't indulge them.

Successful writers are born storytellers but not all writers are successful.

The process of storytelling involves the 1. What? ie What you are telling and 2. the How? How you tell it. 

Of course the story is often the same or similar to other stories, but it is the different telling of the story that counts…ie..Same, but different! (confused?)

The main mistake new writers make is to try to write for the current popular sub-genre instead of writing what they are good at.

Some writers try to be different, but remember that the readers expect similar books each time so don’t be too different.

Surprise, surprise - there is a formula.  The main characters are the Hero and the Heroine.  The story revolves around the development of emotional relationships and ends with a resolution of the relationship.   Similar to crime fiction with  protagonist, antagonist, and a crime with a resolution at the end.

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.  Return to the familiar world. Write what you're good at and enjoy reading.

The story comes first…then the telling.  The right story creates a spark in a mesmerising way.

The telling style is influenced by the contract with the audience.  What they expect, otherwise know as reader expectation.

It should have immediacy and urgency– be gripping, page turning.  Grab the attention from the first page.

Don't forget to vary the pacing in the way that suits your story.  The audience is conditioned to expect pacing.  Don’t disappoint them.  Use it as a weapon, but don’t try to exhaust them.

Don’t use big words.  Unusual words must be understandable in the context of the story.  You have to reach a wide audience.  Not all readers are highly educated.

The audience must be able to “hear” you.  Read your story aloud.  Listen to your words.  Find your “voice”.

Use distance and Point of View (How close is the POV in the relationship to the character?)
Think of the distance in terms of looking through a camera lens.

Use close POV in romance fiction.  Rarely use narrative.  Use the characters thoughts and observations.  The audience wants to get inside the characters’ heads.  This engages the audience.

Remember…thinking is not always in correct grammar.

Match the characters with their motivations.
You must be consistent and logical in your motivations.
Be realistic in terms of the “world” you have created.
Characters and their motivations must be related to by the audience.

The intensity of your story, and it’s telling depends on vividness, accuracy, plot, scene construction and “voice”. Correct intensity leaves your audience satisfied.


So what was the final message?

Stop listening to what others say about your writing.  Make your own decisions.  Have confidence in your own abilities.  Study bestsellers and their backlists.  See how they developed.  Look for their strengths.  Find your own.

Wonderful advice!

Now go forth and write!   I expect an influx of new submissions to Total-e-bound in a couple of months!

 Do you have some favourite writing tips?  How about sharing them here? 

I'm offering the best tip a chance to win a copy of my alter ego Maggie Mitchell's new release CHASING TERPSICHORE.

I look forward to some wonderful tips :-)


And don't forget to check out my books HERE


Barbara Elsborg said...

Read what you've written aloud! That way you'll hear if it sounds right - particularly the dialogue.

Maggie Nash said...

Great tip Barbara! I did that recently when I used Dragon to dictate my longhand writing (because of said broken arm) and it was amazing what I picked up :-)

Anonymous said...

Be true to your own author voice and write what you know and love. :) Excellent advice here for authors at all stages of publication!