Does size matter?
How long is your manuscript?
How long should it be?
Is shorter better? Or is longer the way to go?
Here are the basic guidelines (the long and the short of it)*:
Then there are those publishers that don’t mention word counts as a hard and fast rule (Harper Impulse, Bookouture, Avon).
It’s a good idea to make sure that your book’s length matches the publisher’s or agent’s requirements before setting out querying. Or writing for that matter. No point writing a 150,000 word epic that no-one will publish.
I’ve just read through a series of pitches that were rejected because their word counts were either too short or too long. Don’t let that happen to you!
Different publishers have different rules about what length they publish. And some publish digitally up to a certain word count and only then publish in soft cover. I’ve mentioned a few romance publishers here but there are others. Do the research! Check, check and check again.
You don’t want to come short with your word count!
*This list is not exhaustive and all information is correct as at 19/02/2019
It’s meant to be.
It is written
Do you believe there is The One for you?
Love it or loathe it, The One is one of four key themes that drive all romance stories.
Whether we like it or not, romance is driven by the theory that there is that ONE SPECIAL PERSON who gets you. Who knows to bring you vegetarian burgers with extra sauce, or who cuddles up to watch Buffy with you (again). Someone who sees you for all the quirky goodness that you are, and still wants to park their slippers under your bed.
When we fall in love, we all like to think we’ve found our PARTNER FOR LIFE, our HAPPILY EVER AFTER (although sometimes it’s a HAPPY FOR NOW).
In a romance novel, we want our hero or heroine to find their ONE. The ONE who is obviously meant for them.
If you’ve written it right, there will come a point in your romance novel, where each will realise that the other is THE ONE. This is powerful stuff. It links to our primal urges to pair up and mate.
We have to believe that the couple we’re rooting for will make it because there is no-one else on this planet who will match up with them so perfectly. We have to believe they’ll make it - because if they can’t, then what hope is there for us?
THE ONE is one of four themes that every romance story should have, Want to know the others? Rock your Romance module: ALL ABOUT ROMANCE outlines the four themes of all successful romance novels.
Because it’s Valentine’s Day - the day of all things love and romance - I’m offering you this module at a 30% discount!
There’s a fine line between being a redeemable jerk and just being a jerk. But, how can you tell?
I’ve read a couple of MSs that crash and burn into the ‘complete dickhead’ category. Here’s some quick tips to keep in mind when writing about the Alphahole:
Want to know more about how to write great characters? Sign up for the HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE online course.
Have you got to that stage where you’ve written your first novel over and over again?
Sometimes, too much information can lead to too may rewrites: does this character conflict work? Should I add in more dialogue? I’m not sure if there’s enough description here, etc etc etc. The result? A novel that’s not quite finished with over-written scenes that seem to drift further and further away from the original plot.
What can you do?
The first thing would be step away from the manuscript. Down tools. Stop. Just stop.
Get someone else - preferably someone who edits romance - to read it.
Your best option? The Developmental Edit.
The Developmental Edit will look at the following:
From there, you’ll get a detailed report as well as a marked-up manuscript that will clearly identify:
A Developmental Edit is probably the best that the aspiring romance writer can do because it will provide you with detailed feedback. No publishing house or agent will do that for you.
Happily Ever After offers developmental edits - you can contact me here.
And, as part of the How to Write a Romance premium option, we throw in a full appraisal of your manuscript (which includes suggestions on where to publish/submit as well as a developmental edit).
Let’s talk about sex! Most romance novels have some level of heat. They can be ’sweet’ reads that end in one or two kisses that fade to black, or they can be ’steamy’ with open bedroom explicit scenes. They have one thing in common though: the heroine always gets off. Always. It’s about her pleasure. Her wants. Her needs. Her desires. Something that cis het women can’t always agree happens in their real lives.
As the author, Lareign Ward, states: "But I think the real issue Society in General has with romance novels is that they’re books centered on a woman’s desires, including her sexual ones, and they’re usually written by women. When done right, that sort of thing can feel revolutionary."
But how do you go about writing sex? There’s plenty written about bad sex scenes - including awards for the worst. The Guardian’s 2018 list included James Frey and Haruki Marukami. I expected better, right?
What makes a great sex scene? Your 5-step quick go-to guide (ahem!):
1) Know your heat level. A low level heat novel isn’t looking for graphic scenes that span pages and pages. And a scorcher novel isn’t looking for chaste kisses and closed bedroom doors. A book doesn’t classify as erotica unless the sexual relationship is the focus. In novels with high heat, the sex adds to the relationship -there’s a difference. Level 1-2 tends to focus on kissing with either no sex or fade to black. Levels 3-4 starts to move into the more detailed sex scenes, with erotica as its own category. As a romance writer, you’ll have to identify your heat level for prospective publishers.
2) Shiver with antici.........................pation. If they’re doing it from page one with no build-up (emotional conflict), the reader will be bored. You want the reader to be longing with you. Check out the Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz. What’s sexy is the stop-start, the will-they won’t they, the almost but not quite. But, if they are doing it left, right and centre, make sure there’s a strong emotional plot driving the series (Sleeping Beauty’s evolution, Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelare).
3) No purple-prosed euphemisms. Some of the worst I can think of: pulsating manhood, hunk of burning love, love sausage, meat injection. Pretty sure you’ve encountered worse. Again, check your heat level. Hard works great for most levels, cock, for those on the 3-4 scale.
4) Connection. If there’s no emotional connection, you’ve written a porn scene.
5) Using your senses. Sex is a sensual experience - literally all of your senses are on high-alert. This is the time to roll out your sensual writing. Taste, touch, smell, sight and sound...all important.
Writing sex is no different from writing any other scene. All the same principles apply - does it further the conflict of the novel? Does it reveal character? Does it make things more complicated for the characters? Yes? Then job done.
Maybe get a big glass of wine first though!
Are you horrified that I made such a comment? Where’s the motivation? The inspiration?
Relax, it’s here. But, this time of year is shocking for making really BIG resolutions/promises/goals. Like, I want to lose 25 pounds, or kayak across a glacial fjord (is that a thing?), and, of course, I want to write my first romance novel.
Here’s the deal: writing your first romance novel is a BIG thing. If it weren’t a big thing, everyone would be doing it. It’s Everest to the novice climber, the Comrades Marathon to the Parkrun plodder, and Masters’ Math to the eighth-grader.
So, what happens? This particular resolution/promise/goal gets shuffled along to next year, and the next, until, whaddayaknow? you NEVER write the book.
Is it the wrong goal? Almost, never. It’s the approach.
How do you eat an elephant? One spoonful at a time. Ditto, writing a romance novel.
Try break it down (and I mean really break it down):
No-one’s asking for you to whack out the entire first draft in two weeks. But 500 words a day? A thousand? Yeah. Doable.
Ask any tortoise - slow and steady wins the race and beats anyone still procrastinating.
By tackling the monumental task of actually writing the book in smaller steps, you’ll find that instead of putting it off, you’ll be looking forward to it.
Lists are popular. Five ways to leave your lover. Ten great gift ideas for the boyfriend who has no clue. Three sure-fire kick-starters for your relationship. When you squizz through the lists you’re hoping there’s no bait-and-switch. For the gift ideas, you’d be pissed if there was a suggestion to help more around the house. Yes, it could be thoughtful but is it strictly a gift? That would be a negative, Houston.
So, how come I keep reading lists like, 2018’s top ten romance list, or the best sex scenes in romance novels ever, and finding books listed that are not romance. Sure, they may have romantic elements, but they’re not a romance.
I recently read a manuscript, submitted to a romance publisher (the hint is in their title), that had no romance whatsoever. None. Did I suggest they accept or R and R? Of course not. It was a solid do-not-pass-go decline. This writer could have the best writing style in the world, but it was not a romance.
And, just before Christmas, there was an argument on Romancelandia Twitter about a writer who thought that a romance novel didn’t need to have a HEA in order to be a romance novel. What’s wrong with that? Um, everything.
There seems to be some confusion…if there’s sex, it’s a romance, if there’s some sort of yearning between two people, it’s a romance. Yes. And no.
What makes a romance novel a romance novel? Simple: the novel must be around the love relationship between two people which must have an emotionally satisfying ending, either a Happily Ever After (HEA) or a Happy For Now (HFN). If it isn’t about the relationship and the ‘happy’ ending, then it’s not a romance.
What about ‘Me Before You’? Is that a happy ending for the couple? Not a romance.
What about ‘The Notebook’? Is that a happy ending for the couple? Not a romance.
What about ‘Lace’? Is that about the development of a love relationship between two people? No, it’s about someone looking for their mother. Not a romance. Yes, there are romantic relationships within the novel but that’s not what the novel’s about.
Much like you wouldn’t expect to get to the end of a detective story and not find out whodunnit, you wouldn’t expect to get to the end of a romance and not have your two characters in some sort of relationship happy space.
Want to find out more about how to write a romance novel? The next course starts 25 JANUARY 2019.
There are plenty of writing courses out there. But how many are tailor-made for the romance writer? Happily Ever After will make your romance writing dreams come true!
Have you ever submitted your romance manuscript only to find you get a form rejection?
Did you revise the manuscript and still get a form rejection?
Want to know what was missing?
Every time I review a manuscript, I look for the one thing that will have me turning the page. And yet, time and time again, these well-written manuscripts are missing that one vital ingredient that turns a form rejection into a ‘yes’.
Most writing courses won’t tell you what that is. They’ll tell you how to write character sketches and how to use the senses in your writing…all good things but that’s not what makes a great STORY.
How do you know if you have a great story?
Some writers think this means obstacles. And they’re halfway right.
Some writers think it’s a great ‘hook’. And they’re about part way right.
Some writers think it’s lots of arguing. And they’re a little bit right.
The key to a great story will unlock your writing...every time. And it’s not about coming up with a gripping what ifscenario. Or some clever marketing plan. Sure, these things might help you along your way, but they won’t make your book unputdownable.
I’ve read countless manuscripts where the writer has worked on their craft and the paragraphs flow…but the story? There’s nostory.
Have you ever read a book and thought, but nothing happened, it was so boring? That’s because they’re not using the one thing that will turn their story around.
WHY EDITORS SAY NO is my bonus module to you when you sign up for the HEA Starter Kit.
With this module, you’ll be able to find out what drives your story – always.
Never get lost in writing your novel again!
Sign up today! Enrolment closes 6 December 2018!
Reading romance is often categorised under ‘guilty pleasure’, as though it were something shameful. But, the statistics suggest that there are a helluva lot of women indulging in reading romance. According to the RWA, over 80% of all readers of romance are women (you can read their full statistics here). And, that same shameful pleasure accounts for more book sales than ANY OTHER GENRE. What’s shameful about that?
Nothing, that’s what. The romance writing industry generates over a billion dollars per annum and it largely by women for women. Could this be the reason it’s considered shameful? As though something women-centric could not possibly be of any real value? Yet, the figures speak for themselves. Romance readers are voracious and flipping through one of their many authors, it’s easy to see why.
For starters, women are having great conversations, great careers, and great sex between these covers. Romance heroines can have it all.
The characters overcome some serious emotional conflict to reach their happily ever afters. No matter how dire the situation, love will conquer all. Is there something wrong in investing in hope? I don’t think so. Not in this age where any glance at Twitter or the media shows a world on fire.
Why not be part of that hope? Why not write something that will uplift your reader? Give them the hope they need? The smile? The cry? Isn’t it connection that we all crave?
If you’ve always wanted to write a romance novel, we’ve got the solution for you. Sign up for our HEA Starter Writer Kit and be part of this amazing industry.
HEA ROMANCE WRITING
Everything you need to know to write your own happily ever after.