Does reading Nicholas Sparks or Jane Austen novels inspire you to write your own? Romance novels are without a doubt one of the most popular genres in literature. While they are fun to read, first-time romance novel writers discover soon enough that it isn’t as easy to write. It is important to know the right romance novel formula that contains the best ingredients for an effective story.
Follow the Romance Novel Formula
As mentioned above, all effective romance novels follow a specific formula. This formula exists for a reason – it is effective!
This is how the formula works: boy meets girl. Boy loses the girl. Boy reconnects with the girl.
You can try to reinvent the wheel but there is no point in doing so. Romance readers fell in love with this genre because of this specific formula. They expect that the boy and girl will end up together in the end.
While this is the generic formula, there are different ways to write this story to make it unique.
Pick a Plot Device
Now that you understand what a romance novel formula looks like, it is important to identify what device to use.
One example is to choose two friends that have become lovers as your protagonists. Another common device used in romance novels are lovers who have become separated but are given a second chance at love. You can also go for the classic rich guy-poor girl scenario (or vice versa).
You want to make your readers immerse themselves in the story. You want to inspire feelings that they, too, can find romance.
Pick a Subgenre
When you want to write a romance novel, you must determine the specific subgenre you want to focus on. By working in a specific niche, you are able to target a specific audience.
For example, in the realm of romance novels, there are a variety of subgenres such as historical romance (such as Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook), contemporary romance (Nora Roberts’ Vision in White), erotic romance (EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey), romantic suspense, and paranormal romance (Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight).
By choosing a subgenre, you can focus on the parameters of your story and make it more compelling.
Know Your Audience
This is an important tip that every novel writer needs to know, not just romance writers. But when writing a romance novel, knowing your audience is important in terms of not just identifying a demographic. You want to build a profile for that audience.
For example, your target reader is a woman in her late 20s to late 30s. She is a Southern woman who is dreaming of an affection from a Southern gentleman but is also seeking out hot romance.
Based on the audience profile you built, you are able to craft a story that would appeal to them.
It is important to drill down to the specifics because choosing to target women as an audience is a lame approach. Statistically, over 80% of romance novel readers are women. Most of these women have read romance novels throughout their lifetime. You won’t entice them with the plot but with the interesting characters you develop.
Set the Scene
The scene is a highly crucial component of a successful romance novel. It is integral to a successful romance novel formula.
The setting helps to build the atmosphere and to serve as base for your characters’ background stories.
A few examples of your setting would be the 1980s in the South or modern-day New York. Based on the setting, there are specific story ideas that can be explored (and also ideas that can be ruled out).
Creating a memorable setting can build a vivid backdrop that will entice your romance audience.
Characterization is Key
While you build your setting, you also need to put in time in developing the right characters for your story. In fact, since romance novels are formulaic in nature, it is through your characters that you are able to compel the audience.
You need strong, memorable characters. They must have a rich and complex set of characteristics.
How do you do this? You need to develop a compelling backstory that will impact their viewpoints and choices about life and romance. It can also be the source of conflict in the story.
Oftentimes, these viewpoints that a character holds are complicated when it becomes a source of tension.
Ending it Right
True to the romance novel formula, you need a happy ending. This is what romance novel readers expect, so you need to give it to them.
If you don’t, you can ruin the story for your readers. As with the plot, you can stick to the formula but there are different ways to go about it. Consider an ending that would bring the highest level of satisfaction to your readers based on their journey. Seek editorial advice on this part of your manuscript too, it goes without saying that this is critical to the success to any novel, and especially a romance novel.