Creative Writing

Romancing your readers: becoming a great romance author

So you want to be a romance writer?

Trouble is, you’re not the only one. Even before Fifty Shades of Grey pioneered a new era of pulp erotica, the romance marketplace was incredibly crowded. It doesn’t mean you won’t succeed, but it means you may have to work harder than you first anticipated. 

Romance writing can be fun and sexy, but it’s usually a lot more difficult than amateur authors first assume. Not only are your marketing skills going to need a decent polish, but writing a compelling romance story is trickier than it looks. After all, there’s only so many ways you can write a love story … right?

For a genre that’s defined by such a simple emotional exchange, it’s endlessly diverse. It can be overwhelming for a newbie approaching the romance industry. With that in mind, here are our three essential tips to navigating romance, and taking your first steps to becoming a romance writer.


Know your niche

Romance is a genre with a litany of sub-genres. And every decision you make when writing will dictate a lot about where your work is placed in the market. How explicit are you about sex? Is your lead protagonist a strong dominant type, or a quiet, tender type? Does your work take place in the present day? Are there elements of the paranormal? The questions go on. It’s worth spending some time at your local book store and online to fully take in the scope of the romance industry. Being specific about the possible niches you’re interested in writing towards is a great place to start.


To self-publish, or not to self-publish?

Writing romance should be a fun experience, but the publishing side of it can have an incredibly steep learning curve. Self-publishing is always an option for writers, but keep in mind that it’s not as simple as throwing a romance short story up on Amazon and watching the dollars roll in. It takes a lot of marketing heft and strategy to really start seeing your readership grow. If this is a path you want to go down, you’ll need to invest in some guides (there’s a heap available on Amazon), and spend some time researching your pathways.


Self-publishing is typically suited for those people who want complete and total control over their work, who are incredibly prolific in their writing, and who write shorter titles. A knowledge of the industry is also essential. If you don’t tick those boxes, than you might want to approach a more traditional publisher. (Like For Pity’s Sake, for example.)


Don’t forget character

In the mad rush of romance, inexperienced writers can often forget the glue that holds any story together: character. Your readers will hopefully stick with you for multiple books containing the same character, so you want to make sure you don’t skimp on providing a compelling, interesting pair of protagonists. How these two, or three lead characters interact, how their power dynamic shifts, will be at the heart of your novels. So make sure you’re laying the ground work for characters that can provide a rich story. 


If you’d like to dive into a particularly delicious romance story, try Diana Thompson’s Winterflood’s Passion, which you can find here. If you have a romance manuscript of your own, you may wish to try out our manuscript appraisal service for tailored advice. 

Essential Podcasts for Writers

The romantic myth of the writer composing in solitude is only partly accurate. No great works are created in a vacuum, and a bout of creativity doesn't necessarily mean you have to separate yourself from the rest of the world. Podcasts and internet radio are a fantastic way to link up with the writing community at large, and can provide a few shots of inspiration from people who have tread the treacherous path of writing and publishing before.

With that in mind, here are a few of our favourites episodes.

Nigel Newtown on Conversations with Richard Fidler Listen to the man responsible for publishing Harry Potter, how his company changed amidst the wild success, and what publishers look for in new manuscripts.

Listen on the web here, or look for the episode on iTunes.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Conversations with Richard Fidler Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest release Big Magic, is a manifesto on art and creativity. This conversation with Richard is a wonderful ode to creativity and fantastic inspiration for anyone stuck in the mud.

Listen on the web here or look for the episode on iTunes.

Krissy Kneen on Mentor Yes, cheating, this is me interviewing the wonderful Krissy Kneen on my own podcast, BUT the conversation is extremely helpful for writers. Krissy talks openly about finding her voice, finding a publisher and how she navigates creativity.

Listen on the web here or look for the episode on iTunes.

Charlotte Wood on Adelaide Writers Week 2016 Just this week Charlotte picked up the Stella Prize, the literary award which celebrates Australian women’s writing. Her remarkable novel The Natural Way of Things is a must read. Charlotte’s a wonderful speaker and inspirational voice for writers at all levels. As well as this episode, you might want to check out her acceptance speech at the Stella Awards, truly heart-warming for any writer. 

Listen on the web here or on iTunes. Note: the podcast has a whole swag bag of great conversations from the recent Adelaide Writers’ Week. Worth a listen!

If you’re feeling inspired and have a manuscript and want an opinion, you may be interested in our appraisal service, available here.

Change of Form

I tend to think of myself as an exclusively short story writer. I’ve dabbled in screenplays and obviously write the occasional blog, but in terms of my creative writing endeavours I always write short stories. The other day a new idea popped into my head. I began to think about the ocean, and all the things that are lost there. Word and images began to form in my head, a solid structure surrounding my idea. I let the thoughts develop, exploring the visual setting and emotions that I associated with the idea, then I sat down and began to plot out my story. I drafted this concept numerous times, but something about the narratives I was constructing didn’t feeling quite right. It wasn’t until I verbalised the idea to my boyfriend that I realised what the problem was; this idea I had was not suited to the short story form.

Generally, when I have a realisation such as this about a piece I’m working on I’ll shelve it and work on something else until I can figure out how to make my idea conform to the structure. Often, the idea will completely reform and slip right into the narrative I desire. Other times, this is impossible and the idea itself has to be completely scrapped. But there was something different about this idea, and I knew that if I tried to force into a short story it wouldn’t have the impact I was searching for and the idea would be wasted. So, I did something I’ve never really done before, I turned it into a poem.

I can’t say I’ve ever really had much time for writing poetry- not because I don’t appreciate poetry itself, but because I feel like poetry is one of the purest forms of writing, there’s no room for waffley language or long paragraphs of description. Everything is laid out in a way that is both complex and simplistic, a skill which I don’t believe I’ve ever possessed. Up until now I’ve always thought my poetry had an air of pretention. It always feels as if I corrupted my original idea by trying so hard to writer ‘proper’ poetry.

So, when I sat down to write this poem, I did something different. I didn’t force it. It sat over my notebook, pen in hand, and let the images I had created surrounding this idea flow until I could completely picture the scene and the emotion I wanted to capture, and then I wrote. Granted, this poem isn’t fantastic, it still has a lot of work to go and I doubt it will ever be read by anyone other than myself. But for the first time I had constructed a piece of poetry that I appreciated, something that I can feel proud of, something which has sparked an interest in me to pursue more poetry, to extend my writing beyond the realm of what I know I can do and challenge myself with a new form.

I have spent many years being reluctant to the idea of even attempting to write poetry, mainly due to a fear that it just won’t be good enough. Now that I look back, I see how foolish that was. I want my writing to be a challenge, I don’t want to write the same stories over and over again and never experiment with anything other than what I know. As Theodore Roosevelt rightly said; “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…”


Originally Posted on The Musings of  a Blackie