5 essential tips for writing a successful romance novel

5 tips for writing romance

It’s no exaggeration to say that author Nicola Marsh is a doyenne of romance writing. In fact, she’s published more than 75 books, including rural romance for Harper Collins Australia, domestic suspense for Hachette UK’s Bookouture and Grand Central Publishing USA, and contemporary romance for Penguin Random House’s Berkley imprint in the USA. (We chatted to Nicola in episode 454 of our So you want to be a writer podcast – listen here.)

With writing chops that large, we just knew we had to ask Nicola for her five essential tips for writing a successful romance novel…

1: Read, read, read!

Read widely in the romance genre and any subgenres you’re interested in.

This is very important because you have to understand your genre. Lots of people want to write a romance book, but if you're aiming to have your book published or you're submitting to an agent, you have to know what is actually in that type of book. It’s like if you wanted to write a suspense novel; you have to have red herrings and twists and turns. Romance novels also have certain hooks or highlights that are expected. 

So if you'd like to write a historical romance, or supernatural romance, or any kind of romance, make sure you read in that genre. It's really important.

2: Understand romance tropes 

It really helps your writing if it's very clear from the start what the main trope in your book is. 

A trope is an underlying theme of the story. Nicola thinks of it as the glue that holds the whole book together. Romance has many well-established tropes. For example, friends to lovers, second chance, amnesia tropes, forced proximity. If you’ve read widely (remember tip 1!) then you should be familiar with a lot of these. If you are trying to write in this genre, it's important to understand which trope underpins your whole story.

3: You need a happily ever after

A happily ever after is essential. It has to happen. It has to be in the book. This is non-negotiable.

There are books that are marketed as a romance but someone dies at the end. That isn't a true romance. That can be classed as romantic fiction, but a true romance has to have a happily ever after at the end.

4: Know your characters

Usually in romance, you’ll have two main characters: the hero and the heroine (or the hero and the hero, or the heroine and the heroine).

You need to know what is going to keep your two characters apart – and that lets you know what conflict they are going to have to overcome to get to that happily ever after at the end (remember tip 3!).

5: Write, write, write!

No list of writing tips would be complete without saying: write!

Nicola tells this to all writers across all genres. Write, write and write some more. 

It is only by writing that you find your voice, which is your writing style. Nobody can teach you your voice. The only way to find it is to write. 

You need to sit down and write, if it's every day, every second day, if it's for five minutes, if it's for an hour, but the more you write, the easier it is to find your voice.

Flirting with the idea of writing in the romance genre? You’ll fall in love with our comprehensive Romance Writing course – giving you the techniques, tropes and publishing advice to craft stories that sell.

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