The romance genre is one of the most popular in the world. Look at the New York Times bestseller list and you will see almost half the entries are romances. Romance novels bring in more than a billion dollars every year, according to Romance Writers of America. So is writing romance easy or hard?

Writing romance is not harder than writing any other genre. The fundamentals of story telling apply to romance writing, just as they do to other forms of story telling. If you master the basic principles of fiction writing you should be able to write romance as easily as any other genre.

Stories range from sweet romance to erotic romance and span multiple sub-genres.

These sub-genres include historical, futuristic, suspense, comedy, and contemporary to name just a few.

So, what should someone anticipate with good romance writing, and what is considered bad romance writing?

What is Bad Romance Writing?

If your story contains errors, whether they’re grammatical or factual errors, readers will not finish the book.

Nor will they buy anything else you have written.

You must either work with a professional editor or make certain you can deliver a clean and accurate manuscript.

Purple prose no longer graces the pages of most romance novels.

Long passages of descriptions and pages of backstory written in huge chunks have also become scarce.

Readers, especially those with limited time, want quick action and snappy dialogue with details woven into the romance when needed.

Readers want to get roped into the story immediately.

When writing romance, you need to look at your story from the reader’s point of view. Give them a reason to keep reading from the first page.

If you don’t and they grow bored, they’ll go on to the next book.

You shouldn’t write perfect characters. Everybody has flaws. Write realistic heroes and heroines.

With villains, it’s especially important to write a realistic character. Including an evil character who has some good qualities — such as a soft spot for children, seniors or even pets, for example — makes him or her more believable.

Nobody is all good, and nobody and is all bad. Writing predictable, stale, or cardboard characters will make readers toss your book.

Don’t write spicy romances if you’re uncomfortable depicting graphic sex scenes. A bad sex scene can ruin an entire story.

In erotic romances, readers expect frank language and sexual details that involve all five senses.

You’ll need to read a lot of novels to understand the differences between sex scenes in traditional romances and erotic romances, and so you also don’t stray into erotica.

Romance fiction is one of the most popular genres with readers today.

Writing about relationships, and combining that into an interesting plot with internal and external problems that your characters need to overcome, is a challenge.

However, when you meet the challenge and become successful, you’ll have created romance novels that readers will enjoy and happily recommend.

What Makes a Romance Good?

As with any genre, effective writing starts with good grammar, sentence structure, and an excellent grasp of vocabulary that will allow a writer to tell a story in a compelling manner.

The story should flow unhindered, so the reader doesn’t even notice the actual writing, just the story.

Always focus on the relationship in the story.

The relationship is the core that drives the purpose of the characters. It’s not an afterthought.

You need to show the development of the relationship and how the couple overcomes their problems, often while also weaving in an external plot.

You’ll see certain common story themes in romances such as friends to lovers, reunited lovers, and first love among others.

Your job as a writer, if you do choose a common theme, is to deliver a fresh twist on it to keep the reader engaged.

Because over 80% of romance readers are women, writing a strong heroine is a must.

She can have problems. She can need and accept help from the hero.

However, she should ultimately evolve into a woman who can stand on her own when she needs to.

A romance tale usually ends happily ever after or, at least, has a happy-for-now ending.

If your romance doesn’t have a happy ending, it might tell a story about love, but it might not be a romance.

A romance reader usually knows that the couple will end up happy. They want to experience the journey the couple takes to achieve that happiness.

Is it OK to Write a Romance?

Some worry that romance is viewed negatively by literary award judges, and that the genre is seen as lacking critical integrity. But don’t worry about this as romance such as A.S. Byatt’s Possession has won the extremely highly regarded Booker Prize, and that novel is titled ‘A Romance.’

Why Does My Wife Read Romance Novels?

People read romance for a wide variety of reasons. Romances offer the reader an experience of love, which is a feeling that many women (and men) seek out and enjoy. Don’t worry if your partner is reading romance, you are lucky to be wed to someone who enjoys the feeling of love.

Do Men Read Romance Novels?

Yes, lots of men read romance novels. While 80% of romance readers are women, the majority of the remainder are men. If you enjoy reading romance as a man, just be glad you have found an enjoyable hobby and indulge as much as you like!

Can a Man Write Romance Novels?

If you scan the best seller lists you may notice that the majority of thriller writers are men and the majority of romance writers are female. But there are highly successful male romance writers like Nicholas Sparks: nearly everyone has heard of classics like The Notebook.

How Much Does the Average Romance Writer Earn?

Surveys suggest romance authors can make an average of up to $10,000 from their writing. But of course the answer depends on who you ask. Romance is the best selling genre at about $1.5 billion per year, which is more the double the next highest genre of crime (and mystery).


Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.