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~Romance 101~

What is the Romance Genre? Part 1

Here is the most crucial piece of advice a newcomer to romance writing will ever receive: Before you write, read!  

It's essential to get to know the market you are entering; find out what your readers will be looking for when they pick up your book.  So grab a romance novel, settle in somewhere comfy and get studying. Dissect and critique that story as if you were tackling the works of William Shakespeare. (Don’t just grab any old story though, be sure that it appeals to you and is written in the style in which you also would like to write.)

For more information on how to become a romance novelist, look into societies such as the Romance Writers of America, and purchase tutorials such as “How to Write Romances” by Phyllis Taylor Pianka, or “How to Write a Romance and Get It Published” by Kathryn Falk, founder of “The Romantic Times” magazine.  (And don't miss these helpful writing websites.)

If you have an unpublished manuscript you would like to have evaluated, click here.

 Other must-haves for your how-to-write library:

"Writer's Digest" magazine
"Story" by Robert McKee
"Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Brown, Dave King
"Rewrite Right: Your Guide to Perfectly Polished Prose" by Jan Venolia
"Copyediting: A Practical Guide" by Karen Judd
"Writer's Inc." by Patrick Sebrenek
"The Observation Deck: A Toolkit for Writers" by Naomi Epel
"Characters and Viewpoint: Elements of Fiction Writing" by Orson Scott Card
"Building Better Plots" by Robert Kernen
"Dynamic Characters: How to Create Personalities that Keep Readers Captivated" by Nancy Kress
"Scene and Structure (The Elements of Fiction Writing)" by Jack M. Bickham
"Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Your Romance Published" by Julie Beard
"Writing Romance" by Vanessa Grant
"The Romance Writer's Phrasebook" by Jean Salter Kent, Candace Shelton

Hopefully the brief overview which follows will help to familiarize you with the various sub-genres that are covered by the broad umbrella that is romantic fiction.

Wherever possible, recommended reading titles feature “curvy” heroines of various sizes.  As writers of BBW stories, we make it a point to show larger heroines in a positive light.  Some authors prefer to write a heroine as being curvier than what society deems acceptable, but do not reflect upon her weight beyond her description. Other authors choose to delve into the more difficult experiences of being an abundant woman.  There is no one "right" way to work with a BBW heroine, and both types of stories are needed to show the world that bigger heroines are both beautiful and valuable. 

What is the difference between women’s fiction and romance novels?  Are they the same thing?   The short answer to this is no, the romance genre may be considered a part of women’s fiction; however women’s fiction is a broader category overall.  If you pick up a "women's fiction" novel, you'll notice that the romantic piece of the story (if one is even present) takes a back seat to other issues in the book.  Good examples of mainstream novels are “She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb and Maeve Binchy’s “Circle of Friends”.   

One subcategory of women’s fiction is the genre called “Chick Lit”, which tends to be stories about single women in their late twenties and early thirties.  While there can be some elements of romance in this story, there's usually more focus on the main character's other life experiences as well, hence the reason it is considered women’s fiction and not romance.  “Bridget Jones’s Diary” by Helen Fielding is probably the best-known title of this genre, but Marian Keyes’ Walsh sisters from “Watermelon”, “Rachel’s Holiday”, “Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married", and “Angels” are all nearly as popular with fans of the genre as Bridget is. "Good in Bed" by Jennifer Weiner is another excellent example of this type of book.

In a novel billed as a "romance", it is the development of the relationship between the two main characters that is the main focus of the story.  Most romance novels are written from the heroine’s point-of-view, though some will include glimpses here and there into the mind of the hero.  There are a few brave authors who have started writing from the POV of the hero first and foremost.  An example of this would be Van Whitfield and his novel “There’s Something Wrong with Your Scale.”

Another thing you need to decide about reading or writing a romance is: how sensual do you want your story to be?  Just kisses?  Groping?  The full monty in graphic detail?  Not all romances have the same level of sensuality.  The best recommendation is to just go with what you are most comfortable.  If you blush at reading a hot and heavy sex scene, then don’t even think about trying to write one!   

 On to Part Two: The subgenres of Romantic Fiction

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