Real Writers Don’t Write Romances . . . Or Do They?

At Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference a couple of years ago, I attended a workshop taught by an acquisitions editor for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. After putting on my wig, baseball cap, and sunglasses, I slunk into the chapel and slouched down in the seat. God forbid any serious writers saw me in a romance writing workshop. I’d lose all my street cred as a women’s fiction author.

Once upon a time, I looked with derision on those men and women who chose to write sappy romance novels. How hard could it be to create two characters who should be together, but because of obstacles hurled in their way, can’t get together until the final chapter. Easy, peasy, extra cheesy.

What I learned at that workshop astounded me. Love Inspired releases six books a month. Six books. Seventy-two a year! They sign their authors to two-and-three-book contracts. Wait, what?

Visions of contracts, large advances, and huge royalty checks swirled in my brain. Surely I could write one of those books. It would be my foot in the door as a fiction author.

I dreamed up two great main characters, Dale, an FBI agent, and Mark, a rancher. Side note: men in cowboy hats or in uniform are favorite romance book tropes. I had a suspenseful plot with lots of bold action. Love Inspired Suspense, watch out. “Lipstick and Gunpowder” would be their next breakout novel.

Until it wasn’t. The book was rejected. It wasn’t that the writing was bad, it just “Doesn’t fit our model.” Notice I said the book was rejected, not I was rejected. But that’s another blog post.

Finishing that book was a months-long lesson learned. Writing romance is hard. Creating believable characters and creating the tension between them requires a ton of work. Your dialogue has to be so strong the reader knows who’s talking without using a dialogue tag. The romance piece must tip toe around the physical aspects of a relationship, especially in Christian fiction, to avoid being prurient. Your characters must be fully formed, 3-D, and likable.

Writing romance is not for the faint of heart.

My friend and fellow author, Jim Rubart, says that he can tell all about you by your three favorite movies. Here are mine:

  • The Proposal
  • Dave
  • Christian Mingle

I liked to label myself as a “Women’s Fiction Author.” However, as a very good friend recently pointed out, I write romance. A few years ago I would have scoffed at the label. But check out the list of my favorite movies. Yup, all romances. Oh, and throw in a fourth – Young Frankenstein. Again, everyone ends up married at the end. Well, except for Igor.

But the point is, don’t discount the hard work it takes to stuff a love story or a suspenseful love story into 55,000 words. You are a serious writer. Don’t let anyone (like me) tell you anything different.

About Jane S. Daly 17 Articles
Jane Daly was awarded the Excellence in Editing award for her book, The Caregiving Season, and two Cascade Awards sponsored by Oregon Christian Writers. She is also the author of Because of Grace (2015) and the treasurer of Inspire Christian Writers. Jane Daly is a California girl living in an Oregon world. She and her husband and two cats relocated to a small town in rural Oregon from a big California city.

4 Comments

  1. Jane, I hope folks take time to read this. It’s true on two accounts. 1)Romance is more difficult than it appears. Like you, I thought I’d write a romance book for Love Inspired in order to get my foot into the book publishing world despite the fact I rarely read a romance novel. I spent months writing and polishing a great story line in my mind (ha) but it wasn’t a go. However, the discipline of writing helped me write what I really love…creative nonfiction. 🙂 So there was a happily ever after for me. 2) Thanks for pointing out the publisher rejected the book and not you. Like the dating apps, we can’t be a match with everyone we meet.

  2. This is a great post, Jane! I tried to write romance for the same reason, and found out that it was much harder than I expected. I also figured out that a woman with a relationship track record like mine has no business trying to create love lives for other people, even if those people are made up. But, to quote you, “That’s another blog post.”

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