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Writing a Romance Novel For Dummies



Writing a Romance Novel For Dummies

Leslie Wainger

ISBN: 978-1-118-05315-7 March 2011 384 Pages

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In love with romance novels? You’re not alone! Romance is today’s most popular fiction genre, accounting for more than half of all mass market fiction sold. If you’re looking to make a serious effort at writing a romance and getting it published in today’s multifaceted markets, you need to learn as much as you can about this highly successful field—especially how to create the perfect heroes and heroines. Now, in this easy, step-by-step guide, a top romance editor gives you the know-how you need to succeed as a romance novelist!

Writing A Romance Novel For Dummies is perfect for both beginning and more accomplished writers who are looking to get the leading edge on writing a romance novel and get it published. Leslie Wainger, Executive Editor at Harlequin Books, explains what it takes to become the next Nora Roberts, providing the techniques you need to:

  • Select a pseudonym
  • Write a compelling, heartfelt story
  • Find the right agent and publisher
  • Submit a manuscript
  • Market your novel
  • Join clubs and associations

Packed with insider advice, this plain-English guide helps you grasp the building blocks of a great romance, providing practical tips on the craft of writing as well as savvy pointers on how to hook your reader from page one, write with passion, and shape a proposal that will wow agents and editors. You get lots of expert tips on analyzing the marketplace, creating compelling characters, and finding your own voice. Wainger also:

  • Demystifies the sub-genres of the romance world, from historical, contemporary, and multicultural to paranormal, romantic suspense, and Christian/inspirational
  • Explains plotting, pacing, and writing those crucial love scenes
  • Discusses how to conduct research, assign credits, and get permissions
  • Helps you decide whether it’s best to write alone or with a partner

Complete with a manuscript preparation checklist, tips for revising your work smoothly and successfully, guidance in understanding and negotiating a contract, and a list of romance writing resources, Writing A Romance Novel For Dummies is your one-stop guide to becoming a published novelist!

Foreword xix

Introduction 1

About This Book 1

Foolish Assumptions 2

How This Book Is Organized 3

Icons Used in This Book 5

Where to Go from Here 6

Part I: Welcome to the World of Romance Writing 7

Chapter 1: Romance Writing at a Glance 9

Tuning in to the Market 10

What makes a romance a romance? 10

Subdividing romances for fun and profit 11

Practicing Your Craft 12

Everything starts with characterization 12

It’s all about emotional tension 13

Plotting, pacing, and point of view 13

Submitting Your Manuscript 14

Choosing the perfect publisher 14

Do you need an agent? 15

Putting together a selling submission 15

You sold your book — now what? 16

Chapter 2: Romancing the Marketplace: Identifying Your Options 17

Knowing Your Reader 18

Meeting the romance reader 18

Meeting the romance reader’s expectations 19

Starting from Square One: Reading 20

Drawing up a reading list 21

Reading like a writer 21

Getting to Know Your Genre 22

Historical versus contemporary 23

Mainstream versus category 25

Subgenres and niche markets 28

Related women’s fiction markets 34

Choosing Your Path 35

What do you like to read? 36

How do you fit into the market? 37

Chapter 3: Setting Up for Stardom 41

Finding the Perfect Place and Time to Write 41

Creating at-home office space 42

Making time to pursue your dream 43

Building a Writer’s Tool Kit 45

Counting on your computer: Technology is your friend 45

Plugging in: Phones, faxes, and photocopiers 46

Sharpening up your office supplies: More than just pencils 47

Dusting the shelves: Your home library 48

Booking it: Accurate financial records 48

Accessing Resources for the Would-Be Writer 50

Joining writers’ organizations — romance-related and otherwise 51

Going where the writers are: Conferences and more 51

Taking advantage of courses and critique groups 52

Searching the Web 52

Part II: Laying the Foundation: The Building Blocks of a Great Romance 55

Chapter 4: Creating Compelling Main Characters: Alpha Males and Fiery Females 57

Depending on Your Characters .57

The Key to Every Romance Is the Heroine 58

Drawing the reader into your story 59

Making your heroine feel real 59

Introducing imperfection .\61

Naming your heroine 62

Creating Your Hero 64

Heroes are for loving 64

Holding out for a hero: Alphas and others 67

Looking for love in all the wrong places 71

Hello, my name is 71

Keepin’ It Real: Secondary Characters 73

Remembering their roles 73

Avoiding stereotypes 74

Speaking up 74

Naming the baby (and everyone else) 75

Factoring in the future 75

Laying Concrete Strategies for Creating Characters 75

Chapter 5: Crucial Ingredients for Every Plot: Conflict, Climax, and Resolution 77

You Can’t Have a Novel without a Plot 78

Where do ideas come from? 78

Letting your characters drive the plot 81

Suspense: Every Story Has It 82

Using romance to create suspense 82

Other ways of creating twists and turns 83

Making Sense Matters 85

Emotional Conflict and Tension: The Only Reason to Turn the Page 86

Emotional versus intellectual conflict 87

Internal versus external conflict 90

Personal versus situational conflict 91

Handling Conflict Effectively 92

Keeping them together 92

Letting conflict complicate your plot 93

Taking two steps forward and one step back 93

Using sexual tension to deepen conflict 95

’Twas but a dream 96

Saving “I love you” for the right moment 97

And They Lived Happily Ever After 98

Making your reader believe 99

Climax: Timing is everything 100

Resolution: Endings made easy 101

Chapter 6: Setting the Scene 103

Deciding Where Your Story Takes Place 104

Following the lead of your characters and plot 104

Joining the real world or living in your imagination 106

Keeping your setting in check 107

Telling Time 107

Using Your Setting to the Fullest 109

Illuminating your characters 109

Making your setting a character 112

Chapter 7: Outlining Your Romance 115

What’s an Outline? 115

Mapping Your Way to “The End” 116

What can an outline do for you? 117

What belongs in an outline? 117

Outlining additional advice 119

Using Your Outline Effectively: Write, Write, and Then Rewrite (Maybe) 121

Listening to your creativity 121

Remembering the marketplace 122

Avoiding the rewriting trap 123

Part III: Putting Pen to Paper 125

Chapter 8: Finding Your Own Voice 127

Speaking Up for Yourself 127

Revealing where readers hear your voice 128

Making the language your own 130

Choosing your words wisely 130

Mixing what you say with what your characters know 131

Putting the Show in Show and Tell 132

Knowing what you need to say, and then saying it 133

Speaking metaphorically 134

Describing your characters 134

Making every word count 134

Talking too much 135

Telling It Like It Is 135

Keeping your writing clear 136

Moving right along 137

Chapter 9: Hearing Voices: Letting Your Characters Speak 139

Giving Your Characters Voices 139

Making every character unique (and real) 140

Giving every character a consistent voice 142

Meeting the secondary-character challenge 143

Writing Great Dialogue 144

Using dialect and accents effectively 144

Keepin’ it cool: A word about slang 146

Using dialogue to convey information naturally 147

Putting dialogue on paper 148

Point of View: How to Choose and How to Use 150

What are they thinking? 150

Knowing whose voice to use 152

Internal monologues and how to use them 154

Chapter 10: Pacing: The Secrets of Writing a Page-Turning Romance 157

Pacing Doesn’t Mean Racing 158

Pacing and Plotting: Two Halves of a Whole 158

Knowing what readers care about 159

It’s not only what happens, it’s when and where (in the book) 163

Knowing what to tell and what to leave out 165

Avoiding the Dreaded Sagging Middle 166

Recognizing a sagging middle 166

Stopping the sag before it starts 167

Dealing with it 168

Show It, Don’t (Always) Tell It 169

Harnessing the power of dialogue 169

Telling it like it is: Using narrative effectively 171

Finding the balance between showing and telling 173

Prose That Goes and Prose That Slows 174

Chapter 11: Taking It All Off: Writing Love Scenes 177

Comparing Sex and Romance 177

Knowing Where and When 178

Creating sexual tension 178

Deciding when the time’s right 180

Using love scenes to increase the tension 181

Using love scenes to support your pacing 182

Writing the Scene 183

Knowing your market 183

It’s not what they do, it’s how you say it 184

Part IV: Putting It All Together: Mechanics Count, Too 189

Chapter 12: Starting and Stopping 191

Starting with a Bang: Mastering the Winning Beginning 192

How to hook your reader 193

How to bore your reader 194

The cute meet: Necessary or not? 195

Putting Theory into Practice 197

Finding your starting point 197

Backtracking to the background 199

Opening lines that work 202

Constructing Can’t-Miss Chapters 204

Viewing every chapter as a new beginning 205

Leave ’em wanting more: Effective chapter endings 206

Keeping transitions fresh 209

Moving from Scene to Scene 210

Stringing scenes together 210

Seeing scene endings as mini-chapter endings 211

Intercutting scenes 211

Chapter 13: Getting Your Story Straight: Doing Research Right 213

Getting It Right: Priority Number One 214

Making Research Work for You 214

Figuring out what you need to know 215

Avoiding information overload 217

Getting Down to Business 219

Timing is everything 219

Organizing like a pro 219

Finding the Facts 221

Surfing the Net: Great information — and misinformation 222

Supporting your local library (and bookstore) 223

Developing a nose for news 224

Taking time to stop, look, and listen 226

Traveling for fun and profit 226

Talking to experts: Firsthand is the best hand 227

Getting Permissions 228

Determining when permission is necessary 228

Filling out the paperwork 230

Chapter 14: Neatness Counts — and So Does Grammar 231

Minding Your P’s and Q’s 232

Grammar’s not in the kitchen baking cookies 232

Making a point with punctuation 234

Breaking the rules (after you know them) 236

Reining in the runaway thesaurus 237

Proofreading: Its knot two hard too reed yore own work 238

Formatting for Success 239

Margins are more than marginally important 240

Using the right fonts and spacing 240

Breaking your story up 241

Remembering a running head 242

Counting your words accurately 242

Creating your cover page 244

Reviewing the Manuscript Preparation Checklist 245

Part V: Submitting Your Manuscript — and Making the Sale! 247

Chapter 15: Targeting the Right Publisher (and Editor) 249

Researching the Market 250

Finding out who’s who 250

Tracking the elusive editor 252

Submitting Made Simple 254

Writing a successful query letter 256

Coming up with a complete 259

Preparing a partial manuscript 259

Deciding Whether You Need an Agent 261

Understanding an agent’s job 262

Examining the author-agent relationship 263

Finding an agent 265

Chapter 16: Rejection and Revision: Don’t Let Them Get You Down 267

What Are They Really Saying? 268

Regarding rejections 269

Reading about revisions 270

They Like It, But 271

What exactly do they want you to do? 272

Tips on technique 273

The importance of time 274

When great minds don’t think alike 275

Handling the resubmission process 276

One Editor’s Insight into Common Editorial Comments 277

Your heroine isn’t as sympathetic as she needs to be 277

Your pacing is erratic 278

Your hero’s too strong/arrogant/tough 278

Your plot lacks the necessary complexity 279

Your characters’ motivations aren’t clear 279

Your characters seem more like types than real people 280

Does No Always Mean No? 281

Interpreting a rejection letter 281

Dealing with rejection, emotionally and professionally 283

Chapter 17: Closing the Deal 287

Getting “The Call” 288

What will your editor say? 288

It’s okay to go crazy! 289

Coming Up with Questions 289

Asking the money question 289

Asking about everything else 291

Sizing Up the Contract 293

Reading and rereading the fine print 293

Getting help 294

Strategies for a Win-Win Negotiation 295

Chapter 18: Tracing the Steps from Page to Press — and Beyond 297

Working with Your Editor 298

Making the relationship work 298

Revising your book one last time 299

Line editing set straight 300

From Manuscript to Bound Book 301

Diving into details: The copy edit 302

Reviewing the edits 302

Seeing your book one last time: The galley 303

Covering your bases 304

Asking for quotes: It’s all in who you know 308

Including dedications, acknowledgements, and more 310

Living in a Post-publication World 311

Keeping your expectations realistic .311

Advertising and PR: What can happen? 312

Practical strategies for personal PR 313

Dealing with family, friends, and fellow writers 317

Part VI: The Part of Tens 319

Chapter 19: Ten Plots Every Editor Knows — and Why They Still Work 321

Marriage of Convenience 322

Stranded with a Stranger 322

Runaway Bride 322

Secret Baby 323

Reunion Romance 323

Back from the Dead 323

Mistaken Identity 324

Woman in Jeopardy 324

The Dad Next Door 324

Even Sketchier Setups 324

Chapter 20: Ten Tips for Coming Up with a Successful Title 325

Speaking the Reader’s Language 325

The Long and the Short of It 326

A Few Words about Single-Word Titles 326

Matching Title and Tone Perfectly 327

Hooking Up 327

All about Alliteration 327

Coining a Cliché 327

Naming Names 328

Making Connections 328

Following in Others’ Footsteps 328

Chapter 21: Ten Common Writing Mistakes Beginners Make 329

Remember the Reader’s Expectations 329

Don’t Overwrite 330

Ya Gotta Love It 330

Characters Are Key 330

Effective Conflict Comes from Within 330

Make Sure You Have Enough Plot 331

Keep Your Story on Track 331

The Name of the Game Is Entertainment 331

Don’t Forget the Details 331

Keep It Moving 332

Chapter 22: Ten Reasons Why a Manuscript Gets Rejected 333

Bad Writing 333

Arrogant Heroes and Unlovable Heroines: Unsympathetic Characters 334

Cardboard Cutouts: Unrealistic Characters 334

B-o-r-i-n-g Spells Boring 334

A Tsunami in the Alps and Other Lapses in Logic 335

Outdated Story Line and Characters 335

Inaccurate (Or No) Research 335

When Your Romance Isn’t Really a Romance 336

Wrong Editor/Publishing House 336

Incorrect Formatting 336

Chapter 23: Ten Ways to Beat Writer’s Block 337

Working Your Way Through It 338

Selecting a Different Scene 338

Looking at the Last Scene You Wrote 338

Writing a Scene That You Won’t Use 338

Viewing the Scene from a Different Angle 339

Forgetting about Perfection 339

Looking Forward — Not Back 339

Analyzing Your Outline 339

Re-energizing Your Creative Instincts 340

Starting Another Project — If All Else Fails 340

Chapter 24: Ten Questions Every Romance Writer Needs to Ask Herself 341

Should I Write Romance Novels? 341

Why Can’t I Get Started? 341

What Can I Do When the Ideas Don’t Come? 342

How Can I Focus and Stay Positive When Things Go Wrong? 342

When Is It Research and When Is It a Waste of Time? 343

When Should I Send My Manuscript into the Big, Scary World? 343

Do I Need an Agent? 343

How Do I Handle a Friend’s Manuscript Selling First? 344

When and How Do I Follow Up on My Book’s Status? 344

When Do I Let Go of a Book? 344

Index 345