An Editor’s Guide to Producing a Compelling Romance Novel
Romance Book Editing: What to Look For
Before you set out to edit a romance novel, or even write one for that matter, it is essential that you are aware of the expectations of the romance reader. The most successful romance novels are able to transport their readers away from their everyday lives where romance may not be the norm, and let them experience the excitement, frustration, elation, and despair love brings with it.
As an editor, your primary concerns are to ensure the story's plot, characterization, and dialogue create the right chemistry and sexual tension between the hero and heroine to evoke these experiences and emotions within the reader.
The Romance Genre in Numbers
It is a fact that the majority of romance readers are women. According to Romance Writers of America, romance sells more books than mystery, science fiction/fantasy, and religious/inspirational genres. More than 8,000 new romance titles were released in 2010, translating into sales of over $1.3 billion annually since 2006. Women account for 67 percent of sales of romance novels. The essence of every great romance novel therefore needs to address subjects of particular intrigue to the fairer sex.
Types of Romance and Reader Expectations
There are two main types of romantic fiction. First is contemporary romance, set in the present day, and the second, probably more abundant, is historical romance, usually set between 1066 and about 1900. Your first step as an editor is to identify which of these two subgenres the story you're editing falls into.
Once you have determined what type of romance novel you are editing, your goal is to make sure the story is fit for the market. Here are the seven foremost expectations of romantic novel readers.
- From Relationship to Love: Detail how the relationship between the hero and heroine flourishes and blooms into love.
- Communicate the Boundaries: Explore in as many ways as possible the difficulties men and women have in communicating with one another. Writers can portray this frustration through petty arguments, farcical misunderstandings, or charades that culminate in catastrophic consequences.
- Conformity versus Individuality: Depict how the hero and heroine negotiate the intricacies of their roles within their relationship and how this conforms to societal expectations and individual interpretation.
- Prominent Protagonists: The hero and heroine must not be apart for lengthy portions of the story. In this case, absence does not make the reader's heart grow fonder.
- The Fairy-tale Finish: The story will draw to its conclusion when the potential for a loving relationship has reached its optimum level. Both hero and heroine are expected to be alive, well, and blissfully in love with one another at the conclusion of the tale. In other words, when the hero and heroine appear most likely to "live happily ever after."
- Character Development:
- Drive your story by continuing to develop your characters throughout the story. Do not reveal everything about them within the first few chapters as your storyline will falter and become less compelling.
- Make sure you do not create the perfect person. A character with no personality flaws will alienate the reader. Use your character's flaws to help your plot and help the reader warm to them.
- Make your historical romance authentic by being factually correct. Focus your research on fashion, read magazines published during the period, and read diaries and journals written at the time to capture a feel for the era in which your story is set.
- Alternatively, you can use the fairy-tale approach to historical romance. This is extremely popular with readers as the writer does not set their story in a specific time, but appeal to a romantic ideal of what a certain period might have been like. Be careful your characters' ideals and opinions reflect the era to maintain some semblance of realism, however.
- Dialogue: Dialogue is immensely important to any novel as it simultaneously develops characters and tells the story. For historical romance, try and balance authenticity from the period with readability for the modern-day person. This is particularly true when writing in a dialect unfamiliar to the majority of your readers. If most of your readers cannot understand what the characters are saying, they are not going to enjoy the book, no matter how well it has been written.
Now you can enjoy a romance novel with your loved one this Valentine's and see how well it meets your expectations as an educated romance reader and editor.