Jan 17, 2007

Writing Romance ~ That's Amore

By Debbie Reeves

What is Romance?

According to Wikipedia - The Free Encyclodeia, “Romantic love is a form of love that is often regarded as different from mere needs driven by sexual love, or lust. Romantic love generally involves a mix of emotional and sexual desire, as opposed to Platonic Love. There is often, initially, more emphasis on the emotions than on physical pleasure.”

According to RWA (Romance Writers of America), the sales of romances are quite impressive. In 2004-05, sales reached $1.2 billion! 54.9% of all paperback sales were romances.

Just who reads romance novels anyway? Well, according to RWA, stats are:

64.6% Americans read at least one romance per year.
22% are male
50% are married
19% are ages 35-44 years old
27% are college graduates
44% buy new titles
31% rate inspirationals most enjoyed

Romance sub-genres include:

Romantic Suspense
Time Travel
Chick Lit (Mommy Lit, etc)

Were did romances spring from?
History of the Romance Novel
By: Andi Ward and June Dexler

“The earliest English novels in this genre appeared in the 19th century. Pride and Prejudice (1813), by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights (1847), by Emily Brontë, and Jane Eyre (1847), by Charlotte Brontë are highly-regarded as classic romantic novels.

Romance novels can also trace their roots back to gothic novels, if not to the idea of the "roman" itself through the romance (genre), a heroic prose and narrative form of medieval/Renaissance Europe.

Ann Radcliffe’s gothic novels influenced writers ranging from Jane Austen (who parodied it in her Northhanger Abbey), Charles Dickens and the Brontes…

Plotting the Romance Novel by Andi Ward & June Drexler
© 2002, Andi Ward & June Drexler

What makes a romance a romance?” Deborah Hale (historical romance writer for Harlequin), gives this equation:

(H + h x A)+ C + HEA = R

In “romance writer’s terms” it means:

(Hero + heroine X Attraction) + Conflict + Happily Ever After = Romance

(HEA is an abbreviation of "[and they lived] happily ever after, the phrase which traditionally ends fairy tales. It refers to the happy ending that all romance novels must have.)

For a novel to be considered a true romance, it must have two basic elements.

1. A central love story: the central plot and conflict must be focused around two people falling in love. There must be some kind of struggle (internal/external) to justify love.

2. HEA Ending: Everything must be solved and have an emotionally, satisfying, optimistic end with either marriage or thoughts of marriage.

Without these two elements the novel would be considered Women’s Fiction, not a romance.

Oddly enough, most people think a romance is just a story of sex and more sex. Actually, a true romance doesn’t have to have any sex in the story. A romance novel focuses on the romance-love between two people. They don’t have to be physically together. The main aim (plot) needs to tell the tale of an unfolding romance.

Once the two basic elements are unfilled, a romance can contain various settings, plots, sub-plots, and time periods to make a fulfilling, satisfying read.

So, if the romance genre intrigues you, do your homework. Read all the romances you can to get a feel for them. You need to be familiar with the romance genre before attempting to write one.

Visit publishers websites and ask for their ‘tip sheets’. Romance writing has very strict guidelines.

Visit published writers websites for useful information.

Take some creative writing classes. None in your area? Take them online.

Check your local library for books on writing. When you find one with great information, you may want to buy a copy for your library.

Here’s a couple of sites/books to get you started:

On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels
12-Point Guide to Writing Romantic Fiction

See you in the trenches!


  1. Great post, Debbie! Thanks for the look at a significant portion of the market.

  2. Excellent post. Just the type of information that is needed. I gave up reading romance novels many years ago. You almost make me want to go back and try some new ones.

  3. Sounds like it would be fun to try - thanks for info.

  4. Wow, Debbie! Thanks for all of the great information. I usually write nonfiction, but reading your post peaks my curiosty. Hmmm...

  5. Thanks, guys. I'm glad you enjoyed the info. It's kinda fun doing the research. Hopefully, my next post will be informative, too. I'm learning a lot! *U*


  6. Great post! I love to learn, but don't want to have to dig. Thanks, Debbie.

    I used to read romance--don't read much fiction any more. My favorite author was Georgette Heyer. Any of you know her?

  7. Hi Liz,
    I've heard of Georgette Heyer. I've probably read some of her books in the past. I love to read romances but some authors add too much sex for my tastes.

    I used to love to read Kathleen Woodwiss. I also loved to read Dorothy Garlock. Dorothy makes her H and h down to earth. They aren't a bunch of rick folks all of the time and I like that.

    I still read Jannete Oke. In fact, I try to emulate her in my writing. I love praire stories and Janette is a good role model for inspy books.

    I'm already working on my next post-Character Development. *U*

    Thank you for posting! (everyone)



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