Lately I’ve been seeing an interesting phenomenon in manuscripts as wide-ranging as Regencies, paranormals and romantic suspense. Over and over I’m bouncing manuscripts back to my authors saying, “your suspense/action/adventure is swamping the love story.”
In the Romance category, the love story MUST be the center of the book. Elements of suspense or action/adventure in a romance are an exciting and interesting way to enhance the central relationship, cause tension or conflict, and move the story forward. But when the love story is subsumed into the action/adventure or the suspense elements, the book no longer belongs in the Romance category, and that’s problematic.
Sometimes when I talk to authors about this, I discover that the characters and their relationship are fully fledged in the author’s mind, and they can tell me everything—the love story is more developed when they talk about the book, but somehow, that’s not translating onto the page.
Any time you have a scene where either the hero, the heroine, or both are not in the scene, you must ask yourself: is this scene furthering the love story, the suspense/action/adventure, or neither?
A straightforward way to evaluate that is to do a scene by scene outline. It can be sketchy if it’s just for you. If you want to go over it with your editor or critique partner, you may want to make it a little more fleshed out. At minimum, you should have who’s in the scene and what happens (a sentence or so should do the job).
World-building and backstory are important; suspenseful and thrilling elements are fantastic—as long as these work to develop the central love story.
Romance is the top-selling category in adult fiction. Romance readers are voracious, intelligent, and loyal. Still, if you’re publishing in the romance category, your readership expects a love story. Romance readers like being challenged. They embrace fresh and new plots, interesting mixes of subgenres, inventive world-building, and suspenseful elements.
Romance authors are some of the most passionate, creative, dedicated, and inventive writers publishing today. Romance readers will follow writers to the most unexpected places, beyond the beyond—just as long as you deliver the romance.
Here’s what I’m looking for editorially—single title romance fiction in all subgenres that meets these criteria:
*a heroine the reader can relate to
*a hero she can fall in love with
*a world gets created
*a hook I can sell with in 2-3 sentences
*a career arc for the author