Writing Your Romance Novel
I'd like to tell you that it's easy to write a romance novel, but I'd be lying. It's not easy to write any kind of novel, and romance is no exception. And if you want to write a romance book AND get it published, that's even harder. But publishing is for another how-to article. So is writing the best romance novel ever. This one's simply on how to write a romance novel--the basic steps.
Familiarize yourself with the romance genre. If you've never read a romance--or read less than five romances--you probably don't know the genre. There's a huge variety out there. You need to know what's already been done, what's been overdone, what's worth doing again even if it's been done a million times, and what's never been done and SHOULD be done, as well as what's never been done and SHOULDN'T be done. You need to learn the romance conventions. Contrary to what many think, romances aren't written to a formula any more than mystery novels are, but there are literary conventions you need to be familiar with.
Now that you have a good idea of your competition and the conventions of romance novels, forget everything you just learned! Come at writing a romance novel as if you've never read one.
Think about what you'd want to read if you were reading a romance novel. Do you want to read about a hero who's dark and tormented? Do you want to read about a heroine who has a funny sense of humor? Do you want to read a romance novel about a rancher or cowboy? Do you want to read a historical romance novel set in an underwater fantasy city?
Write what you want to read. The reasons are twofold: 1) You won't get bored writing it, and therefore stop, and 2) You'll be writing from the heart.
Get to know your characters. Romance novels are character-driven. Even if they have strong plots--and many do--romance novels feature well-developed characters.
Identify your conflicts. Think of a strong emotional conflict that drives your lovers apart. The emotional conflict might be, "Mild-mannered George is really a suave international spy, but Eunice thinks he's an incredible geek and would never give her heart to such a dork." The emotional conflict is a strong part of the appeal of many romances. Think of one that would hook your readers as well as yourself.
Now think of a strong plot-based conflict that drives the story. For example, "To foil the international plot against his country, George must infiltrate socialite Eunice's social circle. But Eunice's snobbery stops him cold. What can he do?" It's hard to have too many plot-based conflicts in a romance book. The more the merrier.
Now that you know your main characters and main conflicts, write the novel. There are no simple instructions for doing this. Each writer has a different technique. Learn the best way for you to write the romance novel by doing it, making mistakes, and doing it again. See the Resources section for articles on how to squeeze writing into your day, how to write a novel in a month, how to write a hook in fiction, how to write description in fiction, and how to show and not tell in fiction.
Include love scenes. Most romance novels have love scenes--whether what's happening is a look, a kiss, or lovemaking. So write them. But don't write too many, unless this is an erotic romance, and think quality over quantity. Make sure the love scenes fit into the story, that they happen at the right time and that the characters act consistently. Avoid, in other words, making your love scene gratuitous and generic. Write what you want to read. If they don't thrill you, don't include them.
Put the essentials into your romance novel. A hook that grabs the reader and doesn't let go. A compelling, believable conflict. A building tension that culminates in a heart-shattering climax. A fully-realized resolution to your driving conflicts. A happy ending where the hero and heroine decide to get married or affirm their commitment to each other.