Cheat Sheet

Writing a Romance Novel For Dummies

Writing a romance novel means meeting reader expectations for the genre in addition to the preparation and actual writing you need to do. Finding the right editor and publisher for your book comes next so that you can watch your book go from manuscript to bound book.

Reader Expectations for a Romance Novel

Writing a romance novel is a creative process and far from formulaic. But romance readers pick up each and every novel with certain expectations firmly in place. To write a winning romance, you have to meet these expectations each and every time:

  • A sympathetic heroine

  • A strong, irresistible hero

  • Emotional tension

  • An interesting, believable plot

  • A happy ending

Tips for Preparing for and Writing a Romance Novel

Writing a romance novel is a process. You need to prepare, manage the writing, and pay attention to the details. Before you sit down to start writing, make sure you have the following list covered. Accomplishing these tasks will make the writing process easier and more productive.

  • Choose a space that can become your home office: Although an entire room would be great, you can turn any unoccupied corner into dedicated writing space.

  • Reconcile your family to the project: Finding time to write can be difficult. Involving your family and getting them on your side from the start makes life easier for everyone.

  • Collect your supplies: Gather everything you need from computer to coffee mug ahead of time.

  • Surround yourself with relevant research: Collect research materials before you start writing so that the information is at your fingertips — instead of at the end of a 20-minute drive to the library or bookstore.

  • Make a schedule: Block out regular writing time and stick to your schedule, unless you have a real emergency.

Keep these tips in mind throughout the writing process:

  • An outline is just a guide, so write one. Yes, really.

  • Let your characters — your hero and heroine — drive the plot.

  • Leave your readers wanting more. Start and stop every chapter (and every scene) so that your reader simply must keep reading.

  • Master the techniques of effective pacing.

  • Build both the emotions and the action to a climax, and follow it with a satisfying resolution.

If you want agents, editors, and everyone else to take you and your work seriously, you have to pay attention to the details, such as those in the following list:

  • Accuracy counts: Check and double-check your research.

  • Know the rules: Grammar and punctuation are important. You can break them, but do so with a purpose and only for effect.

  • Simple is usually better: Don't go thesaurus crazy.

  • Proofread: Don't use just your computer's spellcheck.

  • Formatting matters: Get your margins right and make your font and spacing readable.

  • Count accurately: Come up with an accurate word count.

How to Target Romance-Genre Publishers and Editors

Knowing which publishers and editors to target can help get your romance novel published. The chances of getting your romance novel published increase significantly if you determine key publishers and editors and the types of romance they're publishing.

  • Check bookstores: Make use of both the brick-and-mortar and online varieties to see who's publishing books similar to yours. Bookstore employees may also be able to offer insight in the direction publishers are going in the near future.

  • Read writers' magazines and market guides: Check these sources to see who's looking for books like yours.

  • Network: Keep your ears and eyes open at writers' conferences and talk to everyone you can.

  • Make full use the Internet: Publishers' own sites give you accurate sources, and online writers' bulletin boards, e-mail lists, and related sites have all kinds of useful information — but watch out for unsubstantiated rumors.

  • Read in-book dedications: Authors often mention their editors' names.

Journey of Your Romance Novel, from Sale to Bound Book

The fun isn't over after you've written and submitted manuscript for your romance novel. After you or your agent finds a publisher for your book, you still have a number of steps to go through before your book reaches your readers:

  1. Contract negotiation

  2. Revisions

  3. Copy edit and deflag (where flagged queries are addressed)

  4. Galley and author alterations

  5. Dedication and acknowledgments

  6. Cover — art, copy, and quotes

  7. Personal public relations

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