ROMANCE NOVELS ARE USUALLY THOUGHT OF AS LIGHT READING. That they must therefore be easy to write does not necessarily follow.
A hero and a heroine are the basic necessities, of course, so let’s think about their characters. They must be human, (have faults as well as endearing qualities) but be true to their natures, rather than having sudden changes of perspective. They must be easy to get to know and to love: not too bold, not too meek. Your other characters must also be real, not like cardboard cutouts. Spend a little time getting to know their strengths and failings, their human attributes.
Romance v Sex
Romance doesn’t necessarily mean sex, and such scenes are not necessary to sell the book. By all means add them if you are comfortable doing so, otherwise don’t. Will you worry what your friends will think? Can you suit the action to the time period or the culture? Will the action be steamy or restrained? What goals, besides romance, do your main characters have? Even if your book covers genres other than romance, do you want it classified as romance?
Modern novels are shorter and are paced faster than many of the older classics: every page must engage the reader. However, a furious pace will not allow for enjoyable relaxation; there must be space allowed for that.
- The opening must hook the reader.
- Information must be fed in slowly, not dumped.
- Vary the sentence length.
- Dialogue should be used freely: each character may have certain speech characteristics. Beware of dialects; don’t try to be accurate, just give hints of the dialect, pointers.
The hero and heroine will encounter danger or risks that should be easy for the reader to understand and appropriate for your characters. As well as external conflict there should be some internal conflict. This the reader can identify with as part of being human. Can you maintain the conflict for the greater part of the book? It is what drives the characters and the story. Resolution of conflicts must be believable and not dependent on chance or coincidence.
The reader should be able to feel involved with at least one major character: to worry, to laugh, to grieve, to be angry, to rejoice on their behalf. Let their dialogue and actions show their inner feelings, always appropriate to their nature. When you re-read, you yourself should feel the emotion generated.
Use active rather than passive phrases. Language may vary in the speech of each character, but in the narrative sections use your own voice. Don’t try to imitate other writers. Be true to yourself.
– Ruth Strachan