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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

All I Need is Love - or I used to...

I write a lot of different genres, which explains why I'm in 8 groups for the current Platform-Building Campaign, but primarily I see myself as a romance writer, I've even dreamed up Romantic Friday Writers so like-minded souls can practise their romance writing or get feedback on their romance WIPs. But romance writing is no longer straightforward or simply formulaic as it once was accused of being. Today romance comes in just about every guise known to man or woman.

Once upon a time a romance writer had a heroine coming up against a classic, alpha male, jump through some exciting hoops, then resolve everything by the Happily Ever After ending. Well, the alpha has become an endangered species, with the vampire becoming the new alpha male, at least for now. He wants to suck blood, mate for a very long life. Well, there's not just vamps, there's werewolves, zombies, and all sorts of paranormal monsters making appearances.

Anyone who's been writing and selling romance fiction for a long time would have had to change with the times. The earlier romances had a single POV (usually the heroine's), sometimes two (hero and heroine), and there wasn't much in the way of sub plot. My, haven't things changed! I just read an interesting post over at Nas Dean's Romance Book Paradise, where multi-published romance author Kate Walker was stressing how romance writing has changed from when she published her first book, 60 books ago! To continue her success, she changed with the times.

Romance-writing boundaries have expanded like a waistline subjected to too much junk food. Now there are multiple viewpoints, subplots aplenty, mystery, suspense and all types of paranormal activity - the whole spectrum from angels to vampires to shape-shifters. But some things don't change...

Love is still central. 

Nowadays romance books are harder to categorise. Some, like me, prefer the title women's fiction. Whatever you call them, these stories reflect the growth of the ever-popular romance genre and the expanding preferences of women (and men) who read them. We all want romance, don't we, and we crave more, just like in real life. 

Want to read more? There is a great article by Agent Scott Eagan on Romance Vs Women's Fiction. He belongs to Greyhaus Literary, who only accept submissions from romance writers.

He likes the traditional take on the romance genre where he says:
      • The relationship is the central plot arc of the story.
      • There is a happily-ever-after.

With women's fiction he says:  I have always tried to define this genre as a story that shows the female journey. 

If you write romance of any sub genre, it would pay to read the whole article. 

So if you've thought, romance, ugh, I could never write that, just know that romance has grown over the years and it's still the genre that at last survey, offers the best chance for writers to find publication. And that is encouraging for romance writers of any sub genre. 
  • Can you spare another few minutes to tell me what you think? Do you write any sort of romance? 
  • What is your favourite type of romance story?


  1. I'll tell you straight up - romance is harder for me to write than scifi and fantasy. The relationship you have to capture must meet everything going on with the story, while staying just slightly above it - front and center.

  2. I agree that the romance market has changed - I'm not completely frightened away from it anymore!

    I don't write romance exclusively, but it seems a little bit always ends up in my stories. Otherwise, I mainly write fantasy.

    I don't know that I have a favorite type of romance story yet, I'm still forming my opinions on that matter :)

  3. Without romance in it, any story from any genre is lifeless to me. Whether you're talking THE MALTESE FALCON, CASABLANCA, THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, or STAR WARS -- romance adds the life to the plot. I'm a fantasy kind of guy, so all my fantasies, urban, historical, or Native American have romance in them. Roland

  4. I like to hear persons of the male persuasion like Roland and the dark knight say they like a little romance in a story. That's why I think rigid categories like "romance" aren't working any more.

    I write comedies. They usually have a little romance. But they also have dead bodies and mysterious assassins and plots that would have given Barbara Cartland a case of the vapors.

    I've been trying to market them as chick lit, but both my new editors are men and say my stuff appeals to their gender, too. So my editors don't want pink covers with cartoon fashionistas. Interesting. Things are changing fast Great to read this and also get input from the comments.

  5. I consider myself a romance writer but I'm exploring a number of different sub-genres. For example: my last WIP was a contemporary, friends to lovers, romance while my current WIP is a fantasy menage.

    I have to agree with Scott Eagan in that my take on romance is that the relationship is the central plot and ends with a HEA or at least happy for now.

    But I also agree with your other commenters that a romantic story thread adds depth to any story, any genre.

    Great post and I hope it generates a good discussion :)

  6. All my stories, whether they be paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, or any combo of the above have one thing in common ... Romance. Even if it's a subplot, though that's not often. ^_^

  7. I'm liking all the changes in the genre; but as you and the author state, the happily ever after is still pretty much the core of the writings. And the relationship focus.

    But I've read some novels that I didn't mind the romance being the core of the story, as long as the overall plot was something else. Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series comes to mind.

    I write romance into my stories, but they are just the subplot, not the main story. Even in my women's fiction trilogy I'm not sure the relationships are so much about "romance" as they are about - relationships. And the happily ever after is interpretive; someone at least ends up satisfied with the outcome :)


  8. I'm loving hearing this discussion. With comments like this it makes a blog post worthwhile! So many changes have come along and we shouldn't ignore them.


  9. Hi,

    I think I've always been and odd-ball where romance is concerned. I've never liked romance written to pseudo rules as laid down by many romance publishers. I've always sought romance novels that go beyond the basic element of stereotypical characters and cosy HEAs. Most of the novels I liked best were never categorised as romantic novels not even romantic suspense, yet all the stories had a central romance running parallel throughout. Even Gone with the Wind is not about romance, it's about one women's selfish desires yet a bond/romance develops between her and Rhett Butler and undermines the very foundations Scarlett has thought of as romance: her insane and pointless desire for Ashley Wilkes. :)

    The Thorn Birds, again as much about the hero's journey through life as that of forbidden love, though only forbidden by the church.

    Poldark: another journey, love and loss and love rekindled.

    Over at Festival of Romance there's been a bit of debate about why men don't read Mills & Boon type romances(instigated by a man). His POV is an interesting take on why men want more that just idealised romance from a novel. Would be good for Roland to get in on that and voice his romantic opinions.


  10. Since it's not my genre, I'd have to say my favorite type is subtle. Is that a category?

  11. An excellent post and discussion. I think Roland hit the preverbial nail with his comments. Romantic episodes and relationships are everywhere in life, I can't ever forsee my own writing being without any. Right now I'm concentrating particularly on Romantic fiction and want to deliver two strong POVs, some enchanting minor characters and a cracking ending as well as an interesting tale.

    On the M&B front, I've read that more men are reading that kind of genre due to e-readers hiding an obvious cover!

  12. I don't write or read romance, although I do have one sex scene in my book. But its more of a way for a female assassin to try to kill my MC rather than two people simply having sex.

  13. Yep. I recently finished my WiP2, a period romance set in Texas.

    So yes, I also write a variety of genres, although I find romance a bit more challenging. I guess that's because most of my other stories involve some decidedly unromantic things...


  14. Hear hear!
    Great post, Denise. I love writing romance I think mainly for the thrill of writing those initial tingle-up-the-spine scenes when the hero and heroine are flirting and getting to know each other and finding that they can't be without the other.
    Now I've got to figure out which Romance subheading my story falls under...

  15. Well, the last two books I reviewed have been Chick lit romance types of books. I have to admit they were fun and amusing.

    As for writing? Well, my second novel definitely has a strong love/lust triangle, so does that count?

    In my first there is the beginnings of "puppy" love. SO I guess I touch upon it a bit in my writing, but it is not my focal point.

    Now that I think of it, I did write a short story which did underline a young man's past relationship. But in all my writings I would never categorize them as Romance novels.

  16. As long as you're able to get involved in the story it doesn't really matter what genre it is.

  17. Francine mentioned Gone With the Wind which would be a strong favourite for many romance lovers, yet as Francine says, it would not be categorised romance really. Mitchell created a flawed, yet sympathetic MC, an alpha male in Rhett, fascinating characters all round, a backdrop of a war, several issues current during the era, yet that sizzling love Rhett felt for Scarlett and her silly Southern rejection of him moved the story along. No HEA for Scarlett or Rhett, but man, what a story. No wonder it's one of the highest sellers of all time.

    Thanks so much for the conversation! I'm loving hearing about your opinions and your writing.


  18. Stunning post, Denise, I enjoyed all the comments above as well!

    I like to read a book with a HEA, or ending with solving all the mysteries be it whatever genre.

    But it a thriller or a mystery/ paranormal, any genre, it is so much better with the thread of romance going throughout! Be it subtle like Alex says or deep meaningful relationship.

  19. Hi Denise - what a great post and thank so much for linkikng to my article over on Romance book Paradise. I think that romance writng - well, like any genre writing - is a growing, devloping thing. It reflects the time and the age in which it is published and read - and some of those values stay around for a long time, others are there only from the moment. When I teach classes (or in my 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance ) I define a romance as being about the emotional journey between the hero and heroine , resolving the conflict bewteen them and resulting in a happy ever after ending. This is what the readers demand and the successful romance writers/publishers have given the readers what they want. As you've said, Women's Fiction/Romantic novels have a much wider brief and can encompass much more in a story.

    That happy ending is really the only 'rule' that authors need to follow when writing romances - because that is what a romance promises to the reader. That's another thing I teach in my courses -

    Rule#1 - there are no rules!

  20. I write erotica romance and have always loved the romance genre. I love how this are of publishing has expanded to include all sorts of different types of characters, plot lines and themes, etc.

    My favorite types will always feature very strong women, like but-kicking warrior women or sharply intelligent women. I don't do secret babies, nor do I like alpha males paired with soft women. If my man is alpha then the woman has to be equally strong. If he takes apart a gun two minutes, she does it in a minute and a half. :)

  21. I'm not a romance writer, but I agree with a few of the other commenters that romance is indeed a needed ingredient in one's work. There's just something about having the growth or death of a relationship that really makes it relational to the reader. After all, everyone experiences love in some format during one's lifetime. I actually think it's nice that the genre is changing (although not in favor of the paranormal, because now that has saturated the market). The "keep to the formula" ones really get boring after a while.


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