Practicing Romance Writing: How to Make Yours Great
If you read a romance novel, it is not hard to notice that there is a unique style within the genre. With the descriptions and flowery phrases, the style can be hard for writers interested in breaking into the genre to pick up at times. And because this style is so unique, there is always the need to practice and develop the craft of writing a romance novel, no matter how long you have been writing romance or how many stories you have written. There are of course books about writing romance novels, but these deal more with understanding the genre and the ins and outs of writing the story. These guides don’t talk about the language used or how to teach yourself to write in the familiar style.
That's why I want to go over some of the best ways to practice this style, so you can write like the pros in no time.
The universal rule of being an author is that the more you read, the better you will write. Every writer has had this drilled into his or her head, whether the advice came from a high school English teacher or was read in On Writing by Stephen King. Because this rule applies to all genres, it applies to romance writing as well. Read all the romance novels you can get your hands on. Find the authors who are writing in a style and subgenre you want to write, and read their books. Through this, you’ll learn what you like and don’t like. You’ll learn what your writing should sound like and the elements that are included in the specific style you want to achieve. Eventually, it will become easier for your own writing to take on the characteristics you want it to.
The next step to mastering romance writing is to write. The more you write, the better your writing will become. Trust me, I know this from personal experience. The novel I wrote my freshman year of high school was better than my first romance novel written in sixth grade. The romance novel I wrote at seventeen and eighteen was better than the one I wrote my freshman year of high school. And the novel I have been working on today is better than the novel I wrote last year. Every time you write, you get better because the cliche adage, “Practice makes perfect,” is absolutely true.
Sometimes though, when you’re really wanting to work on your writing, specific exercises are more helpful. One that worked for me was to practice writing what other authors wrote. This process involves choosing a few books you enjoyed and looking through them. As you find descriptions or phrasing that you like, write them down. The goal is not to save them to use in your books later, that’s plagiarism, and nobody wants that. Rather, the idea is to have you practice actually writing the typical phrasing you might find in a romance novel. Remember in elementary school when you had spelling words and your teacher would make you write each word three times? But then, when you took the test later, you couldn’t have your word list in front of you? This is the same thing. Although, you don’t want to remember word for word what you wrote down, so only write each phrase once when you find it. This exercise allows you to practice writing what has already been written, then later when you write, you can call upon what you have practiced.
Another exercise you can try involves writing about your surroundings. When you have a moment, sit in one particular spot and pick something to write about. It can be the view of the fountain in the park, surrounded by people milling about the sidewalk and wandering to the grass to enjoy the day. It can be the couple sitting under a tree and talking while they sit on a blanket. Maybe you’re at Starbucks, and you choose the girl sitting a few tables over working on her homework. When you’ve chosen your subject, describe your setting. Create conversations. Describe your characters and give them personalities. Write their actions. Sometimes it is easier to work on the details of your writing when you don’t have to imagine every bit of it. You write what you see, and you get the hang of language, style, and cadence.
Many authors enjoy practicing their craft through writing prompts. They find a source which gives them prompts with which to write. You can find such prompts--which are available online, through apps, and in books on writing--and practice writing short scenes. This allows you to write while focusing specifically on your language and style. The prompt isn’t your own story, so the story isn’t winning out over other elements you should be focusing on in this case. Rather, the story is the tool by which you can work on characteristics you want your writing to take on.
The important thing to remember is that even though you must practice what has been done to master the genre, you should have your own style. If your writing matches Johanna Lindsey’s or Rebecca Sinclair’s exactly, you’ll have trouble because those novelists are already popular. But, if you can write at the same level of expertise, while adding your own flair, you’ll find yourself with your own avid following of readers.