Genre Breakdown: Romance


It’s the best-selling genre in the North American paperback market. These novels are perfect to grab for an easy beach read or to carry you through that awkward time of night between the halt of productivity and the exhaustion that immediately precedes sleep. Romance is all around us anyway: it makes sense that reading about it is a popular pastime, too.

But what does it take to write a romance novel? Is it really as easy as it seems?

What makes a romance novel a romance novel? 

There’s a major difference between a romantic storyline within a larger plot and a romantic plot with secondary storyline woven underneath it. A romance novel puts the developing relationship between two people above everything else. In a romance novel, if you take out the romance, well, the significance of all other events that occur just crumbles. 

Romance novels are short and simple; while the story itself might seem complicated, for dramatic effect, the storytelling isn’t. They’re meant to be consumed quickly, but writing them isn’t quite as simple. Forget the myth that there has to be a formula: be original. Make your romance unique. 

Recent books and their authors 

Don’t Tell the Brides-to-Be by Anna Bell

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

Myth and Magic by Mae Clair

How to write successfully in this genre

If you take away only one thing from this post, let it be this: amidst all your focus on the love story in front of you, do not forget to include a plot.

Without a plot, a love story is just snippets of people in love, and as interesting as that might sound on the surface, that’s all you’re going to have as a result: a shallow puddle of meaningless fragments of what could have been a pretty great book, if you hadn’t forgotten to write an actual story.

Yes, focus on the romance, the characters, the tension, everything that makes a romance novel different from a book that just so happens to have a romantic sub-plot. But don’t think you can get away with pulling off a romantic masterpiece just by using colorful language and copious amounts of adjectives and metaphors. You’re not fooling anybody. Sorry.

Of course, you still have to tie your romantic themes into each element of your story, but please, make it count.

Don’t write in the romance genre if you just want to be successful in the publishing market. Getting published, and then getting published again, is a challenge no matter your chosen genre. If you’re going to write romance, literally, put your heart into it. Make it what you want it to be, not necessarily what someone else might be expecting. 

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.