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How To Write Great Romance

Over my publishing career I've had a lot of Big Ideas, probably the best known of them is The Baby-Sitter's Club¸ but this might be my biggest idea yet.
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Over my publishing career I've had a lot of Big Ideas, probably the best known of them is "The Baby-Sitter's Club¸" but this might be my biggest idea yet.

At Swoon Reads, we're opening the doors to traditional publishing and inviting you all in. Writers can upload their finished teen romance novels for submission, and then our community of readers can read, rate, and comment on them. This allows, you, the Readers and Writers, to choose the books that you want to see published. Think something is brilliant? Let us know. If enough Readers agree, the most Swoonworthy manuscripts will be published in both print and e-book formats.

And it doesn't end there, when we say we're opening the doors and pulling back the curtains, we mean it. These Swoonworthy novels will be given the full publishing treatment - a standard Macmillan Publishing contract (with a $15,000 advance), editing, cover art, interior design, marketing, publicity, sales - the whole deal. And the community will be involved every step of the way.

In the meantime, I'm sure several of you are in the process of writing the next great teen romance novel. As you do, here's a few writing tips, compiled by my co-pilot on the project, Holly West, to keep in mind.

1. Read Romance. More specifically, read YA romance. As author Jennifer Cruise says in her essay, "Emotionally Speaking: Romance Fiction in the Twenty-first Century," "you have to read widely in the genre to understand the subtleties therein. If you're a lifetime romance reader, you're way ahead of the game."

2. There is no formula. Sorry.Trust me, as an editor and publishing professional, I would LOVE to discover the magic recipe for instant mega-bestseller. Unfortunately, it just doesn't exist. The books that really resonate with people are never the ones that were written with the current marketplace in mind. Look at author Beth Revis. In a post on the blog Writing Teen Novels, she talks about her clever plan to write the perfect publishable book-- which failed miserably. Then, as she puts it " I sat down and decided to write something else. Something different. I didn't care AT ALL about whether it was right or wrong. I only wanted to write the thing that I cared about writing... And in the end, I realized that I had zero chance of selling this book. There was no market for a weird sci-fi." That book was her New York Times bestselling "Across the Universe."

3. Write. As popular YA author Jessica Brody says, "Get the story down on paper." Computer screens are also acceptable - type it, write it long hand, tweet it a bit at a time -- just get the story written. As the legendary Nora Roberts once said, "You can't fix a blank page."

4. No one is perfect. No one is completely perfect. Not even the insanely hot hero of your novel. Or the amazingly wonderful heroine. Really, it's a person's flaws that make them interesting, and give them room to grow. Don't take that away from your characters. Instead, make them real and flawed and interesting and believable.

5. A romance is a love story with an optimistic, emotionally satisfying ending.This is a paraphrase of another bit of wisdom from Jennifer Crusie's fabulous essay. And it's really the best definition of romance I've ever seen. A great romance will grab you, and pull you in. You fall in love along with the characters, and really root for them to overcome their problems and get together. And in the end, you want to have that feeling of emotional satisfaction, of catharsis, that you get when the story unfolds as it should.

6. Finish it. We can't fix it if it's not finished. Remember, nothing is perfect. And your novel doesn't have to be perfect either. That's what editors are for!

7. Submit to Swoon Reads!Or share it with a writing group or an agent or self-publish... there are many different options out there, just remember that your novel isn't going to change anyone's life if it stays locked away in a trunk or a hard drive somewhere!

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