Venturing into romance

Mevrouw Bee

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My experience of trade was having my debut novel categorized as a Romance (against my better judgement) when the couple in question broke up at the end. It wrecked my career.

I fully believe/hope self-pub is more flexible, but for those looking to trade publish? Goodness, be careful.
I would venture to say that a lot of romance fans don't know or care about the route the author took to publication. But they have the same expectations. Although the self-published often have cliff-hangers and sequels before they hit the HEA.
 

Marian Perera

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Either way, there wouldn't be much of a story if you always knew how it would end.
That's the challenge and the appeal of romance. The challenge is making the story interesting, maybe even tense, despite the reader knowing how it will end. The appeal is the security and comfort it offers readers. I pick up romances when I want to feel good, and I know I will feel good because the stories will end happily.

And even though romance readers don't wonder if the main characters will end up together, that still leaves plenty of room for suspense and uncertainty. I once wrote a romance where, at the end of the first chapter, one of the heroes deliberately shot the other in the back of the head, intending to kill him. I guess their relationship could only improve from there. :)
 

Mevrouw Bee

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That's the challenge and the appeal of romance. The challenge is making the story interesting, maybe even tense, despite the reader knowing how it will end. The appeal is the security and comfort it offers readers. I pick up romances when I want to feel good, and I know I will feel good because the stories will end happily.

And even though romance readers don't wonder if the main characters will end up together, that still leaves plenty of room for suspense and uncertainty. I once wrote a romance where, at the end of the first chapter, one of the heroes deliberately shot the other in the back of the head, intending to kill him. I guess their relationship could only improve from there. :)
Exactly. We read for the character arc...how the couple changes to end up together. The process rather than the result. I'm writing my first one right now and it's an incredible challenge as, at first glance, the couple shouldn't be together at all.

To make it interesting and plausible and give you all the feels...that's what romance is all about. Relationship fantasy. Since none of us would be here without romance (I hope), an important form of literature, imo!
 

Laer Carroll

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I've been a romance reader for almost 60 years. I began hoping to better understand women so that I could seduce them. But what they taught me was that women are people too. Just like me, they wanted a better life, an interesting job, friends, and family. They have heartbreaks, hopes dashed, and the usual exigencies of normal life.

I still read romances. What I get out of them is NOT the story arc, discovering just how the author turns a third-act disaster into a HEA. What I get out of them is the company of people I like to spend time with. I do get that in my real life, but romances give me more of them, a wider circle of friends. Romances for me are not an escape FROM, but a trip TO.

That's why I read my favorite romances over and over as the years go by. I'm revisiting my friends.

I even tried writing a romance three times, the last two after I'd published several books that continue earning still despite their ancient pedigree. I'm an accomplished writer. But good romances are HARD. So if you are having trouble writing one that is likely the main reason, not that you are incompetent.
 

Mevrouw Bee

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I've been a romance reader for almost 60 years. I began hoping to better understand women so that I could seduce them. But what they taught me was that women are people too. Just like me, they wanted a better life, an interesting job, friends, and family. They have heartbreaks, hopes dashed, and the usual exigencies of normal life.

I still read romances. What I get out of them is NOT the story arc, discovering just how the author turns a third-act disaster into a HEA. What I get out of them is the company of people I like to spend time with. I do get that in my real life, but romances give me more of them, a wider circle of friends. Romances for me are not an escape FROM, but a trip TO.

That's why I read my favorite romances over and over as the years go by. I'm revisiting my friends.

I even tried writing a romance three times, the last two after I'd published several books that continue earning still despite their ancient pedigree. I'm an accomplished writer. But good romances are HARD. So if you are having trouble writing one that is likely the main reason, not that you are incompetent.
Ooh, a different but equally valid viewpoint! I guess I do that too...
 
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SwallowFeather

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So this speaks to a question I've been thinking of bringing here:
Romance novels, or at least those I've read, are typically meant to create the warm fuzzies in the readers. I've found that writing a love story as the main plot does bring about the same sensations within me as reading about it - and even better, by writing it, we can add the triggers and plot developments that we find irresistable which will obviously make the process even better.
Is there such a thing as high-conflict romance, and where is its niche if so?

I've just finished my first romance and it doesn't create warm fuzzies, at least not till the very end. (HEA duly provided and it's very happy.) There's a lot of longing but there's also a lot of anger. The conflict that comes between the lovers is extremely serious, they become antagonists to each other on a matter of life and death, there are some lies involved and each feels bitterly betrayed by the other. Only drastic and courageous personal change enables them to trust each other again and reunite. But they do long for each other intensely, all through their anger. Still--not warm and happy!

And I'm not basing this just on what you said, Norsebard, but what you said seems to me to reflect what a couple of beta readers have told me--my book doesn't quite "feel" like a romance. My lovers don't spend enough time on the page together, and too much of the time they do spend is antagonistic. (And there's a lot of focus on the war their country's fighting.) Someone who's looking to feel good is going to have to really wait for it. I mean basically I can give them Chapter 2, Chapters 8 and 9, and Chapters 29 and 30. "Poignant" might be the word for the extent of the positive emotions in the rest.

If I understand correctly, the main definition of a romance (aside from the "givens"/expectations of the genre) is that the romance is the prime driver. If you can strip the romance out and still have a workable story, it's probably not a romance, though it may have strong romantic elements and possible crossover appeal.

But my book is definitely a romance by this definition--if you stripped out the romance, you'd be left with a number of episodic subplots and a single longer subplot that really doesn't qualify as a "spine," especially given it only really starts at the midpoint. And to my mind the nature of the third-act conflict precludes this from being called suspense or even romantic suspense. It's perfectly clear by then that both protagonists will survive--the war is over and the question really is what happens now, in the wreckage left behind; "will they be together at the end?" is THE question of the novel. (I mean for climax questions there's also "will Secondary Character X survive?" and "Why the hell does SC Y seem to want SC X dead?" But like I said, subplots. Resolving these wouldn't be enough.)

But it doesn't feel like a romance! Have I created an unsaleable hybrid?? Where is the "romantic drama" category?? (Outside of movies I mean.) If it's hiding somewhere, please tell me!

(I've wondered if I should try the litfic world. As possibly being the right refuge for someone who didn't write to genre, no matter how cogently she was told she should, but only to story. I haven't dipped my toe in yet. I may have some wrong ideas of what's out there, I don't know. I would describe my ending as "bittersweet and uplifting" and my perception of litfic is that "uplifting" could be disqualifying.)

Extremely grateful for any advice. So sorry for such a long post.
 
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Elle.

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So this speaks to a question I've been thinking of bringing here:

Is there such a thing as high-conflict romance, and where is its niche if so?

I'm not a romance specialist, but I would say some of the Colleen Hoover books I've read could be considered high-conflict. Spoiling the next bit for people who haven't read It Ends With Us and Reminders Of Him

Reminders Of Him deals with a woman coming back in town after spending 5 years in prison. The whole story is the conflict with the MMC between him behind torn between his loyalty to the victim's family and his feelings for the FMC. He could lose everything by sticking up or even being seen with her by the wrong people. There is also conflict between the MMC and FMC as he's keeping her from his daughter she's never met and he can't help but hate her for what she's done.

It Ends With Us deals with a woman falling head over heels for a man that seems perfect at first but ends up being abusive. Can she leave him, can she change him, but all gets more complicated when she bumps into her teenage love of her life. The two men clearly hate each other.

Or do you mean something else by high-conflict? As I said, I don't read tonnes of romance so far from being an expert.
 

SwallowFeather

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I'm not a romance specialist, but I would say some of the Colleen Hoover books I've read could be considered high-conflict. Spoiling the next bit for people who haven't read It Ends With Us and Reminders Of Him

Reminders Of Him deals with a woman coming back in town after spending 5 years in prison. The whole story is the conflict with the MMC between him behind torn between his loyalty to the victim's family and his feelings for the FMC. He could lose everything by sticking up or even being seen with her by the wrong people. There is also conflict between the MMC and FMC as he's keeping her from his daughter she's never met and he can't help but hate her for what she's done.

It Ends With Us deals with a woman falling head over heels for a man that seems perfect at first but ends up being abusive. Can she leave him, can she change him, but all gets more complicated when she bumps into her teenage love of her life. The two men clearly hate each other.

Or do you mean something else by high-conflict? As I said, I don't read tonnes of romance so far from being an expert.
Thank you!! Comparables are gold. I mean, I'll look those up and find out if they qualify as comparables, but I don't read a lot of romance either and seem to be crap at figuring out the lay of the land in any genre (such a moving target, too), so shoot, even a place to start is gold.

I guess by high-conflict I really mean the conflict between the 2 lovers, specifically, is intense--so I'm not certain if your second example fits the bill (though it certainly sounds interesting enough that I'll probably read it to find out!) but the first definitely sounds like it does.

Thanks again!
 
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SwallowFeather

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Wow, @Elle., it's even better than I thought--thank you!!! Reminders of Him and my book share themes of redemption and forgiveness, sympathy for the criminal, dilemmas of loyalty... and it sounds like they're similar in emotional tone too. I mean if an Amazon reviewer can absolutely love a "beautiful book that destroyed [them]" maybe there's hope for mine! There may be some big differences (my wartime setting for sure) but I could do one of those mashup comparables, "X meets Y" and I can already think of options for Y. Awesome!!
 
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