Rules for Writing a Romance

Well, not really. They’re actually more like guidelines. And they’re only for me. But, hey, it’s a brand new blog and I’m currently my only reader.

1. I will never use the phrase ‘alabaster mounds’ in my writing (except ironically).

Why? Because it’s what everyone expects to find in a romance novel.

2. I will never call any of my heroes ‘Colin’.

Not that there haven’t been some awesome Colins. Julia Quinn’s Colin Bridgerton leaps immediately to mind. But I’m from the UK and, to me, it’s the name of a middle-aged man wearing a cardigan. I’m pretty sure he’d take a dim view of bodice ripping too. I was going to say you’d never catch Colin wearing breeches or a billowy white shirt, but that all falls apart because of Colin Firth. Damn him.

3. None of my heroines will ever ‘giggle’ or ‘titter’.

Never mind that I myself do both of these things. I’ve come to expect better from my heroines, thanks to the likes of Loretta Chase, Courtney Milan, and Sherry Thomas. You wouldn’t catch Melanthe from Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart giggling. Although, never say never. What about a lady pimpernel who giggled and tittered by day, but skewered men with swords by night? That might be kind of awesome. (Like I said, they’re just guidelines.)

4. I will never refer to the male member as a ‘sword’, ‘staff’ or ‘rod’.

Unless my future publisher asks me to, because I’m not just a writer. I’m a young, hungry writer with questionable will-power. And I want to be pleasant to work with, so they’re keen to keep me around. But, by and large, as a reader as well as I writer, I prefer ‘c*ck’. It’s got a certain Anglo-saxon bluntness that I admire. Oooo, fun fact. According to the etymological dictionary, “c*ck-tease” dates from as early as the 1890s. (Hey, look at that. My first post and I’ve already veered into adult content. I have to star letters out or they won’t let me publish.)

5. My heroes won’t ‘growl’ (unless I go paranormal and write a werewolf. Werewolves are cool).

Again, nothing against those growly heroes. It’s just personal preference. I really, really should do a werewolf romance though. I just read Kristen Callihan’s Moonglow and wished I’d written it.

6. I will not confuse ignorance with innocence.

Gone are the days when your leading lady had to be all virginal. Not that there’s anything wrong with a virgin heroine (I’m sure I’ll write some), but I’m going to try really hard not to depict virginity as either vice or virtue.

7. I will follow the example of my favorite romance authors and write about men and women with flaws.

I think heroes have always been allowed flaws. Heroines maybe not so much. And because one person’s minor annoyance is another person’s major deal breaker, creating flawed characters can mean treading a fine line. But I think it will be worth it. All of my favorite heroines are far from perfect: the uptight Bryony in Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite a Husband, Lawless Lily Lawson in Lisa Kleypas’s Then Came You, the devious Marcelline Noirot from Loretta Chase’s Silk is for Seduction, and so many others.

8. I will follow the example of my favourite romance authors and love the genre I write.

I love romance novels. I do. No buts. I get that there’s a lot of snobbery out there because … I don’t know. Because romances tend to be light-hearted? Because they’re written to a very loose (happy-ending required) formula? Because they’re about women, and falling in love, and sex? Who knows? Who cares? Reading them makes me happy. Writing them (when I’m not tearing my hair out in frustration) is a blast.

9. I will not hit people when they call romance novels ‘p*rn for women’.

It’s kind of related to 8, but it gets its own slot because this is something that’s been said to me on numerous occassions by people that I otherwise respect. I used to defend the genre, quote the Song of Solomon, and generally bend over backwards to change their minds. Now I just say, “If ten pages of explicit content in a 350 page novel is p*rn, then, yes. I am a proud purveyer (or aspiring purveyor) of p*rnography.

2 thoughts on “Rules for Writing a Romance

  1. ‘Undulating’ is a good one. I also dislike manipulative adverbs like ‘achingly’ and ‘heartbreakingly’, though perhaps that’s a less concrete example. I remember thinking they were quite effective back when I first started reading romance.

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