Writing Romance with a Passion
Copyright 2001; 2012 by Patricia Anderson
There are several good reasons for a first-time novelist to consider writing a romance.
First of all, though competition is increasing (as in all areas of publishing these days), a new writer can still break into the romance field with, or without, an agent. Romance publishers, such as Avon, Harlequin/Silhouette, Kensington, and Random Romance imprints, all make their guidelines readily available.
The romance genre also comes with outstanding professional support and information for novices as well as seasoned authors. Most notable is the Romance Writers of America, an organization whose membership includes both published and unpublished writers. There are local chapters all over North America, most offering a newsletter and free critiquing services for members. The RWA's official publication, the Romance Writers' Report is a regular source of romance news and tips on writing, markets, agents, and contracts.
Romance writing is a varied field catering to many reading—and writing—interests. Sub-genres include contemporary, historical, inspirational, paranormal, suspense, and western romances. Romance writing can also be your "absolute best place to learn the craft [of novel writing]," according to best-selling author Tess Gerritsen, in Romance Writers' Report. "Romance novels focus on character and conflict and relationships—in other words, the people in the story."
Finally, romance writing makes money. Recent statistics indicate that paperback romance novels account for more than half of all mass-market paperback sales in North America. Often advances paid to authors, especially new ones, are modest—as low as $2,000. But with the wide appeal of romance, the payback comes with royalties. One Harlequin romance, for example, can earn the author anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000.
While these are all strong practical reasons to rush to your computer and create a directory called "Romance," they are not sufficient in themselves. To be successful, you also need to be genuinely passionate about the genre. As one important study of romance reading and writing, Reading Romance, by Janice Radway, reported, "Most of the women romance writers had been avid readers before they tried their hand at romance writing." If you don't have that true passion for romance novels, you can't fake it—your indifference will show in your writing, however polished it might be.
And you need passion to carry you through the long haul to publication. Anyone who figures they can knock off a saleable romance over the weekend had better think again. Though it's true that many of the series romances are formulaic, within those bounds any author who is going to get published has to demonstrate high levels of originality and writing ability. Today's romances are fresh, carefully plotted, and well crafted.
Many new romance authors have worked for years and, in some cases, produced several unsaleable manuscripts before they finally come up with that first winner. That's perseverance. And while they are writing, they are also continuing to read romances, study the market, read reviews, and hone their craft. That's dedication—that's writing romance with a passion!