Getting Published

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. 

The Crucial Secret That Could Get You Published

Want to be a published author? Then learn how to self-edit.

This, by far, is the most common mistake that inexperienced writers make. The most common complaint from publishers, across the board, is that writers will send in their first draft. Most of the time, publishers don’t want to see your first draft.

Every writer, including Dickens, Orwell and Shakespeare, learned how to self-edit. The difference between draft one and draft two can be miraculous. But it’s about more than just dotting i’s and fixing errant commas. It’s often large, tectonic work that can re-shape your story.

The tricky thing is that a lot of writers know their first draft isn’t brilliant, but lack the skill or experience to bridge their first draft to their second. With that in mind, here are some key principles that should help.

Step Away Stephen King says at least six weeks. Others say longer. The vast majority of professional published authors I know do this. They pour their entire heart into the project, and then they put it in the drawer for a break. Attempting to edit right after you’ve finished a first draft is destined to be a disaster. You’re too close to it, and probably too exhausted. Have a break. Pat yourself on the back. You’ve done the hardest part: writing the damn thing. It’ll be there for you in a few weeks.

Attacking the work with fresh eyes will be a startling discovery. First of all, there are probably going to be entire sections that you don’t remember writing. It’s a wonderful thing. This insight will allow you to see bigger problems with the work, and provide a solid foundation for the next step.

Don’t worry about spelling At least to start with. Think about self-editing as a pyramid. Things like spelling and grammar are at the top of the pyramid, the thin bit. They’re fiddly things that you don’t need to concern yourself with right now. Worry more about the base of the pyramid: story structure. Examine scene to scene, chapter to chapter, how your story moves. Does it make sense? Does it drag? Does it move?

Don’t be disheartened. There is likely to be a good chunk that needs fixing. You might end up deleting a character (or two, or three), or realising that there’s 10,000 words in the middle that’s just plain wrong. This brings me to my next point.

Be brutal Cut. Probably around ten percent, maybe more.Save your old drafts and just go for it. You can always go back. Be courageous. If the book can survive without a particular section, than cut it.

This more than just an exercise in butchery. It’s a deeply helpful lesson in writing. As you cut, you’ll be forced to justify every choice you’ve made as a writer. You’ll get to know the work a lot better, and you’ll discover new pathways that you hadn’t considered. It may sound frightening, but believe me, it’s thrilling. Often finding the slimmer, more dynamic version of your story will feel like relief to the writer. It’ll feel much closer to what you originally had in your head.

There are entire courses in self-editing, and it’s a life time practice for a writer. But in today’s publishing world, it’s possibly one of the most important skills you can exercise. Writers are being expected, more and more, to carry the weight when it comes to editing.

So get your red pen out. I promise, you’ll feel better for it.

Think you want an opinion on your manuscript from a real reader? Try out our manuscript appraisal service.