Zoë Folbigg is author of Amazon number-one bestseller The Note, based on the true story of how she met her husband on her daily commute. Since then, she's gone on to write The Distance (2018), The Postcard (2019) and her new romance novel, The Night We Met, is out this month.
In this guest post, Zoë shares her top five tips for writing romance.
1. Read your genre
Romance readers are discerning and read voraciously, so you need to too. Know your audience and your market, know what does well, know the tropes. These are common in romance: enemies become friends; friends become lovers; star-crossed fate; second chances to love again… You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, as these tropes have worked for years – and most people know what it feels like to have been in love or been broken hearted. But reading plenty of romance novels will help you craft your own version of the love story, and find your own voice that stands out.
2. Set your scene
The world is your oyster in the romance genre, with bountiful backdrops to help bring your love story to life. Romance in Rome? It’s been done a lot but for a reason. Paris? Je t’aime. Beautiful evocative locations can weave well into a story. Equally, you can find love in a hopeless place… love has no boundaries or limits, so you can set your story anywhere, but do think about your backdrop. Your passion for a place can enrich your romance. I used to live in Mexico and loved my time there so much, I knew I wanted to write a story partly set there, which I did with The Distance. If the setting is somewhere you’re passionate about, your book can be a love letter to a place, too.
3. Be true to your intimate self
Think how you feel about intimacy and write what you’re comfortable with – some romance authors do it brilliantly, some with hilarity, some are pure filthy. But some read really awkwardly, and I can tell when the author didn’t feel comfortable writing it. If sex scenes work for you, write them: I tend not to write sex scenes as they often feel clumsy to me. I’m not a prude, I just feel they’re best left to the people who really want to and who are great at it: my sister and I still parrot lines from Jackie Collins’ to each other and laugh about how giddily we read them as teens – so there is definitely a place for them, if it feels right for you.
4. Make your main couple strong
You need your leading man to have a certain appeal and you want your leading woman to be brilliant and sisterly: no one ever rooted for the bad penny or the wet drip. Your characters can have a past and be flawed and not entirely loveable, but you need your reader to champion your hero and heroine and feel that hope for them – as hope is the thread that runs through most romance books. Will they/won’t they? Which brings me to my next tip…
5. Don’t be afraid of a happy ending
I was amazed when a YA author friend of mine said she always has to write sad endings in her books as teens love tears. Women’s contemporary romance readers mostly expect a happy ending – the very genre is escapist, uplifting and life affirming, so a sad ending can be a curveball, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. My new book The Night We Met is the most emotional book I’ve written; One Day and Normal People didn’t have joyful endings. But equally, there’s a reason most romance novels have happy endings: readers want them.
The Night We Met (Aria/Head of Zeus) is out on ebook 11 February and paperback 13 May 2021
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