How to Write a Romance Novel – 8 Tips From a Published Writer

These tips on how to write a romance novel are from a published author of many romantic books. Here’s what novelist Mary Jo Putney said at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in British Columbia — these are her best tips on the writing, editing, and publishing business….

Here’s one of the things she stressed:

“When your book comes out, there will be errors in the text.”

Okay, this may not seem like a brilliant writing tip, but I love it because 1) it increases my faith that I will soon a published book author (fellow scribes, keep saying to yourself, “When my book comes out, when my book comes out,”…and one day you will be published!); and 2) her tip reassures me that no writing is perfect, no matter how many readers or editors have combed through it. Even published writing isn’t perfect.

To learn more about writing romantic novels, read Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel.

And, here are Putney’s writing tips for historical romance…

How to Write a Romance Novel – 8 Tips From a Published Writer

1. Remember that writing, editing, and publishing is an unstable business. “As a writer, you’re dooming yourself to insecurity,” says Mary Jo Putney. Even successful published authors worry. “If your numbers are slipping, you worry. If your numbers stay the same, you worry.”

2. Be wary of critique groups. Putney says she may not have been published if she had a critique group. She didn’t know the “rules” of writing…and if she had, she may not have written her first book. (Note that a writer’s group is different than a critique group).

3. Learn what writing advice to follow, and what to ignore. This is a gut instinct that you’ll develop, says Putney. When you’re writing a romance novel, you must continually refine your judgment and learn what is essential to your story.

4. Think about getting a literary agent. Agents know the markets better than writers, and they’re a buffer to the business aspects of writing. Putney recommends getting a literary agent, but cautions that it is difficult. It’s easier for agents to deal with professional writers, so it’s hard for new writers to land an agent. But, she says, even a bad agent is worse than no agent at all.

5. Read popular romance novels. Make sure your writing is marketable, but don’t let market trends dictate your work. Vampires, for instance, are incredibly popular, but not every writer can write about them (or wants to). So, Putney advises knowing the popular trends, but not chasing them.

6. Get resilient! “Being a successful writer isn’t just about talent,” says Putney. “To be a long-term writer requires a special type of resilience. I once spent a solid year without any income.” This was after she was already on the New York Times list, and after she already knew how to write a romance novel. For extra help with dealing with rejection as a writer, read 17 Reasons Book Manuscripts are Rejected.

7. Learn the business of writing. “Lots of people have talent, but to keep going back and keep writing takes a particular personality type,” says Putney. “It’s not necessarily smarts or talent.” She also says that publishing is a business, so it’s good to have a business background and approach.

8. Get used to editing yourself. Stories need to move quickly, and anything that doesn’t contribute to the story shouldn’t be there. Writing chick lit or romance novels follows the same writing rules as any other genre!

For more writing tips from published authors, read 5 Secrets of Good Writing – Examples of Sensory Details.

If you have any thoughts or questions on writing romance novels, please comment below…

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2 thoughts on “How to Write a Romance Novel – 8 Tips From a Published Writer”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Lily,

    Thanks for your comment. I think resilience may be one of the number one tips for successful writers….if we can’t bounce back from criticism, failure, and rejection, then we’re doomed.

  2. Get resilient! I love it. It’s exactly the kind of attitude I try to promote among my romance novel students. Useful post as always…