Shannon Stacey

10 Very, Very Random Things About Writing Romance

Many writers post writing articles on their websites. Romance writing how-to and such. But anybody who’s been even a semi-regular visitor here knows that comprehensive non-fiction articles and persuasive arguments aren’t my strong suit. So instead I’ll just randomly offer thoughts on the writing of romance. Very random. Your mileage may vary.

(1) Once the hero says “I love you”, the story is over. Wrap it up.

(1a) If the hero does not say “I love you”, but instead flies off to Mozambique, leaving the heroine to simply bask in the warmth of her own personal growth, it is not a romance and your readers will be pissed if they dropped $13 because it said Romance on the spine. It may not be your responsibility to tag your book for market, but it is your responsibility to know how your publisher does.

(2) Exclamation points outside of dialogue (or even in it) are melodramatic! They jerk readers out of the story! And they are the secretest secret agents of Telling Instead of Showing.

(3) If you’ve based a scene on something you’ve done and your editor and/or test reader declares your heroine a “psychotic bitch”, don’t take it personally. And ixnay on the pseudo-biographical moments.

(4) Take as much time with secondary names as you do your protagonists’. If your book is a hit and a sequel is called for, you don’t want to be stuck with a hero named Alfred. Okay, maybe you would, but if you don’t it’s something to keep in mind.

(5) To calculate word count, write the damn book. Then, if you’re subbing to an e-pub, hit the word count button. For NY, doublespace and multiply page count by 250. For Harlequin/Silhouette, get drunk, hit print and send it out, because who the hell knows.

(6) Your characters cannot see their own faces without a mirror.

(7) Responding to edits with “But I really talk like that!” isn’t going to make it better in the eyes of the person rejecting your dialogue, now is it?

(8) If you ever think “Eh. It’s good enough”, imagine the woman who’s buying it despite having to feed her husband hamburg instead of steak because she enjoys your books that much.

(9) Characters in the beginning of a relationship won’t come out of the bedroom the same as when they went in. If your sex scenes are skimmable, the intimacy is not impacting their relationship enough.

(10) One of the greatest joys of being published: No torturous query and cover letters to your editor. If I remember correctly, my letter accompanying 72 Hours was something along the lines of: Here’s 72 Hours. I hope it doesn’t suck.

16 comments to “10 Very, Very Random Things About Writing Romance”

  1. Karen Templeton
      · May 24th, 2006 at 12:05 am · Link

    Heh. Actually, I have had the hero say “I love you” before the end of the story. It works if there’s a big ol’ “but” afterwards. His or hers, doesn’t matter.

    And, uh, about those secondaries who become heroes. . .that’s what I get for deciding Darryl Andrews needed a story six books down the pike. . .

    :thumb: on the exclamation points. Contrary to popular belief, the only emotion they increase is reader irritability. At least this reader’s irritability. And I’m guessing yours.

    on the H/S word count.

    And :lmao: on #10. My last “query” for my editor was: “PRIDE AND PREGNANCY. Surprise pregnancy story. Troy from M,I, Karleen from PFK.”

    Her response: “Yes, yes, and yes.”

  2. Heather Rae
      · May 24th, 2006 at 2:20 am · Link

    :baby: I needed this before all those edits. Apparently, I left the comma’s behind and dare I say had 120 exclamation points in THE LAST THING I EXPECTED before my editor reeled me or should I say :whip:

    Have I told you lately how much you totally rock?

  3. Anna Lucia
      · May 24th, 2006 at 3:04 am · Link

    Ooooh, I’m with Karen, I can’t agree with (1) – although I do with all the others.

    Rousing applause for 8 and 9.

    And Thank GOD Sil has moved to computer count… :woot:

  4. Charli
      · May 24th, 2006 at 8:31 am · Link

    Poor Ed. I sent in Miss Lonely Hearts with “I promise to fix it” for a query. :baby:

    I tend to send my EC editor the title and one-line description for a pitch. :coffee:

  5. Charli
      · May 24th, 2006 at 8:36 am · Link

    Oh, 1a, the authot doesn’t always know how the book will be labelled at the time of sale. The first Aphrodisia authors didn’t know the books would be labelled erotic romance, for instance.

  6. Bryan
      · May 24th, 2006 at 9:30 am · Link

    I’m striving for #10. Alas, a mere babe :baby: in the company of giants.

    I might put it a #1b that says if the hero says “I love you” with a peck on the cheek, that doesn’t really count. Otherwise I need to rewrite chapter 5.:write:

  7. nataliedamschroder
      · May 24th, 2006 at 11:11 am · Link

    As for #6…

    Putting your heroine in front of a mirror so she can describe herself, because apparently she hasn’t noticed the color of her eyes in all of her thirty-whatever years, is the surest way to send me down the road to Wallbangersville. Takes some serious redeeming after that.

    Putting your hero in front of a mirror so he can describe himself? That road stops right there. I HATE IT. I haven’t read a Clive Cussler novel since he had Dirk Pitt do that. That book did have many, many other flaws, but that was like the cherry on top of the Flaw Sundae.

  8. Jaci Burton
      · May 24th, 2006 at 4:34 pm · Link

    Addendum to #6. Please, for the love of :wtf:, don’t do this to a reader. I hate hate hate characters describing themselves. No one does this. Okay maybe in 1st person they’d say, “And I bought the pink dress to go with my emerald green eyes.” But honestly. No one describes themselves. Good writers don’t do this to their characters. Or to their readers :cursin:

    Find some other way.

  9. Karen Templeton
      · May 24th, 2006 at 4:35 pm · Link

    Re: Characters describing themselves — I’m guessing Shan’s probably talking more along the lines of (in heroine’s POV, for instance) “Her blue eyes sparked with anger.” Um. . .why would she be thinking about her own eyes at all, color or otherwise? Yeah, it’s done all the time, and in the grand scheme of things it isn’t important, but it’s almost as weird as having a POV switch during a flashback (which takes place in one char’s head, so where the heck did this other viewpoint come from? :eyebrow:).

    I don’t think Shan was saying the characters HAVE to use a mirror in order to describe themselves (which, yes, we all know is hackneyed and tired but sometimes ya gotta), just that some descriptions are otherwise illogical. I don’t generally worry too hard about the POV char description in that first scene, except to drop in the occasional hint about his/her height or figure type or whatever. The reader really doesn’t necessarily NEED to know she’s blond or he has blue eyes within the first two pages of a story. There’s no harm in waiting until the POV changes.

    But I know, until you get used to the idea, it can seem strange to have this temporarily formless creature on the page. :wink:

  10. Bryan
      · May 24th, 2006 at 4:43 pm · Link

    Well, heck… All this talk about #6 is really blowing holes in some of my most recent scenes. I’ve got the heroine literally assesing herself in the mirror as she puts on a new bikini. She’s about to lay some serious flirt on hero dude while out sailing. At least I’ve got her questioning whether she can pull this off. That’s something… right? maybe? :???:

  11. Shannon
      · May 24th, 2006 at 5:27 pm · Link

    Oh, that’s totally different. A woman putting on a new bikini in front of a mirror is going to self-assess herself to death. Or to drinking. If it’s natural for a character to be doing it at the time, then it’s not going to bug the reader (as a rule).

    And yes, that’s it exactly, Karen! And it’s especially noticeable when it’s the eyes.

    It IS especially hard when the two POV characters don’t run into each other for a while, but describing oneself as one is walking out the door just doesn’t cut it. :doh:

    As to 1a, quite true on the initial Aphrodisia authors. But now we know, and the reaction to that from readers should be penciled into the mental compilation of market info we all carry around in our heads.

    I knew that #1 would gather some dissension, which is cool. I think my feelings on that come from being a total Alpha lover, and those guys hold out until the last possible second, no?

    In a more extreme case, I read a romance recently (and do you know, I can’t remember which it was…maybe a KMM?) in which the hero and heroine were totally and admittedly in love by the halfway point, and everything after that was trying to overcome external forces. Now, I know those external forces could impact the HEA, but the internal conflict was resolved. External conflict alone can’t carry the second half of a romance novel. (And yes, that’s my ever-so-humble opinion only, :roll: but one I tend to stick to.

    Now, I have to go make supper while thinking about my dark brown eyes and freckled birthmark, perhaps even pausing to gaze at my little nose and blah blah cheekbones in the toaster.

    Oh wait…we don’t have the shiny toaster anymore. Just a white one. Maybe I’ll have an opportunity to crouch down and look in the oven door.

  12. Shannon
      · May 24th, 2006 at 5:27 pm · Link

    And I’m getting really tired of my blog allowing 983 spammers a day through, by sending my own comments to moderation.


  13. Anna Lucia
      · May 24th, 2006 at 5:48 pm · Link

    ggg My alphas tend to the line of, “I love you, but since I Know Best, I’m deciding that us being together would be the worst possible thing for you, so it doesn’t matter. Carry on.”

    Gotta love it when they’re so…. CUSSED.

  14. Karen Templeton
      · May 24th, 2006 at 5:55 pm · Link

    Okay, try this — two people know they’re in love. . .but also know that love does NOT necessarily conquer All. “All” being whatever internal crap preventing their making a commitment to each other. Not the fact that he has to take care of his dying mother in Bermuda when she’s got a business to run in Milwaukee, or that he had to go into hiding indefinitely because the Mob’s after him, but because there’s some enormous emotional Bogeyman standing in the way of their HEA. Personally, I think that’s seriously heartbreaking. :cry:

    Of course, I tend to write Gammas/Betas. And I actually like stories where somebody decides to convince the other one that, yep, this will work, and I’m not gonna give up until I’ve convinced you of that. Makes for a different kind of black moment, but that’s okay. Personally, I think love can be very, very scary — especially if the last time or six didn’t work out s’hot s’good — so I really get off on the scenario where the guy says, “Hell, yes, I love you” and the gal has apoplexy on the spot and goes screaming in the opposite direction. :thumb:

    After all, the deeper the couple gets into it, the MORE conflict and tension there can be, right? :eyebrow:

  15. Crystal*
      · May 24th, 2006 at 7:13 pm · Link

    “I hope it doesn’t suck.” *snicker* That’s how I preface ALL my queries. :angel:

  16. Shannon
      · May 25th, 2006 at 10:10 pm · Link

    Hmmmmmm…that’s interesting, Karen. I’m in the depths of camping prep right now, but I might bring up this issue in my next RTB column. :nod:

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