Thursday, July 16, 2009

Writing 101: How do I get started writing a romance novel?

Good morning. Today starts the first of a writing series titled Writing 101. These articles will be cross-posted from my column.

Kensington, 2000
How do you get started writing a romance novel?

Like any kind of fiction writing, in order to write a romance novel, you need to know the basics of creating a work of fiction. The author should have command of the English language and understand the elements of story.
We'll explore various elements of writing the romance novel over the next couple of months as the 101 series continues.
So, let's get going! Here are six basic steps to get you started.
  • Read romance novels. If you want to write a romance novel, you must read romance novels. By reading them, you will get a feel for how a romance novel plot generally unfolds and how the characters interact with each other.
  • Join a professional organization. There are a number of professional writers organizations that support aspiring romance novelists. One such organization is Romance Writers of America (see previous article, as well). RWA hosts an annual conference each year and publishes a monthly magazine on romance writing for its members. The organization has chapters in almost all states, which provides writers an opportunity to network locally. They sponsor several on-line chapters, as well.
  • Find a critique partner or group. Once you begin to network within an organization, it is likely you will meet other people who are interested in writing the romance novel. Consider if there are people you have met who would be willing to share information and critique with you. This is usually a mutually beneficial situation, where aspiring authors learn from each other. Some networks or chapters provide times for published authors to mentor or critique aspiring authors.
  • Buy a couple of good books on story structure and one on motivation. Many books on story structure exist. Ask other authors/writers about their preferences. Some favorite books about story structure that live on my bookshelf include: Story by Robert McKee; Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham, and Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. Along with your books on structure, find a book that motivates you in your writing. For me, that go to motivational book is, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.
  • Study the markets. Although you are just beginning to write, it doesn't hurt to start learning about the various markets for publishing your work. When you read a romance novel, notice the publisher and the name of the imprint (if applicable). Take note of books you read that are similar in style to what you want to write. Who publishes that kind of book? Also, you may want to subscribe to various on-line or print venues for learning about markets, such as Writer's Digest. Professional organizations also provide market news. Even though you are just beginning, it is wise to begin with the end in mind.
  • Write your first book. No author can sell a book until it is written. Writing your first novel can be a huge learning experience, in so many ways. Write, write and write some more. Don't stop until it is finished.
For more info: Maddie would love to hear what your questions are about writing the romance novel so she can answer them here. Feel free to email her at Please put Romance Novel 101 in the subject line.
  • Next: Writing 101: What are the different romance genres?
Copyright © 2009 Maddie James

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