Advice From Romance Novel Writers

David Trammel's picture

You can roll your eyes at the genre of "romance" but many of those writers put out a tremendous amount of books. Here's some advice from those writers on how to stay on track and produce.

"Writing is not a sexy business. It’s not a rare butterfly that floats down and gently kisses you on the nose with a brilliant idea that conjures a hurricane of cash. It’s frustrating, and it’s lonely, and for most people, it doesn’t pay.

But one genre consistently makes it work. Romance writers who are able to get published or sell their books through self-publishing are true hustlers. The women who succeed here are not just writers, they’re business people, and they spend hours keeping up with fans online and doing their own marketing, in addition to writing.

That means that every hour of the day is precious. H.M. Ward, a self-published romance author who’s sold 13 million books, says she writes two hours a day, averaging about 2,500 words an hour. (For context, that’s two of these articles in the time it takes to eat lunch.) “Phone is set to silent. Stop watch is timing me. Door to office is shut,” she writes in an email."

Back in another millenium I tried my hand at romances. Back in the day each romance line had some sort of spec sheet--story length, how spicy it could be, etc.--and a structure. A Harlequin or a Silhouette or what have you was about 55,000 words, which worked out roughly to 10 chapters: 5500 words or 22 pages each. And the plot line was something like: protagonists meet, don't like each other! get thrown together again, spark of chemistry, misunderstanding, meet again, wowsers!, fall in love, have a big fight over the original misunderstanding, resolve it, and live happily ever after. And you could flow chart this over the ten chapters. Get your character sheets together, so you didn't have to look up eye color every other day, and get your research together. Then you are ready to bang out 4 or 5 books a year. And, of course, you are continually fillling file folders with research materials for future books. A steady supply of red wine and Nabisco devil's food cookies or similar fare helps fuel the process.

And readers don't really expect their favorite authors to depart from their particular formula. John Sanford has written maybe 30 thrillers, and I know exactly what I'm going to get from the new one If you are organized and you have a formula, you can knock out a lot of books.