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How to Write Your First Romance Novel

Roger Sanderson, who you may know as the Mills & Boon author Gill Sanderson, offers aspiring writers simple guidelines for finishing the first romance novel of many.

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So you want to write a romance? You can feel it inside you but 50,000-120,000 words is a lot of words. Writing them needs a lot of time, a lot of heart-ache. All over America there are drawers crammed with manuscripts — just started, halfway through, nearly done. All collecting dust.

I should know, I had a drawer full myself. But now I’m working on manuscript number 49 and I’ll finish it.

After the excitement of writing the first few thousand words, you slow down, the end is so far away. You give up.

So try writing your romance this way:

  • Write a hundred-word outline of your story. You can think about it for a week, but writing it will only take an afternoon. Establish hero and heroine, names (important!), jobs, characters. Set the time and place. Are you going to write sweet, passionate, mysterious, religious, supernatural? Decide. Last and most important, what is the problem that is keeping your hero and heroine apart?

  • Recognize what you’ve written. It’s a blurb, the pitch on the back of a book that makes readers want to read it. Or you to write it.

  • Start with notes if you like, but write it out as properly connected prose. This is the acorn that’s going to grow into a tree.

  • Next step, expand your blurb into an outline of your story, about 1,000 words long. Cover things like the first meeting, the first problem that develops into bigger problems, then the big climactic scene, and the happy ending. Don’t get carried away! Be concise. Your tree is still only a small shoot.

  • You should now know how long your story is to be. Do a third expansion — aim at a minimum of about a tenth of the ultimate length. 5,000 word for a 50,000 word book. Or you might prefer to try to write a fifth, 10,000 words for a 50,000 word book. Your choice.

  • This is where the real — and most enjoyable — work begins. Divide your story into chapters. And this time you can write in notes. There’s a great temptation to get carried away, to write at full length because ideas are coming so fast. Don’t. Finish the plan. You’re halfway there!

  • Now you can start the writing proper and with the detailed notes you have, you’ll find it will roll. No fear of writer’s block. You know where you are going. On a really good day you’ll manage 5,000 words or more. Before you know it, you will have written your first romance.

Go for it!

Read Sanderson's tips for getting your romance novel published »





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