Writing Craft Books for Romance Writers

Are you a first time romance author? Or are you well into writing a series, or have you published a few books already? (If you are published, congratulations!) There are so many writing craft books out there to choose from, so I have created a list of a few books as a place to start.

From planning, to writing, to revision, there are books out there to help you along the way in your writing journey. If you have a great idea, but aren’t sure how to map it out into a full novel, people out there have suggestions for you! If you get stuck in the middle of your book, there are people out there who have solutions! If you are ready to start revising (congratulations!), there are people out there who have excellent questions and suggestions to help you get the best out of your project.

Hopefully the books below are a help to you in your writing journey!

Story Genius

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

Want to create characters and story that people just need to read? Cron’s book helps writers dive into why we love stories, and how to create stories that captivate readers. She walks through the importance of creating backgrounds for your characters that you can draw on as you write (create a full character). She also emphasizes that writers ask “why?” and “and so?” every time they create a scene: write with purpose to develop the story of your character. Transformation, change, and depth. Cron’s book is definitely one of the books I often recommend to those with a great idea, but need some help to fully develop their characters.

Lisa Cron also has a book called Wired for Story that includes a lot of checklists and questions that can be very helpful, and practical.

On Writing Romance

On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels

Michaels offers lots of practical tips for romance writers, like sections on how to start, how to create a chapter break, how to (and how NOT to) end your novel, and how to show and not tell. She also has a great section on dialogue. This is a great resource for writers who are just getting into the romance genre.

At times some of her ideas are a bit old-school (like gender roles, etc.), so read some of her advice with a grain of salt and a foot planted in the 2020s.

Romancing the Beat

Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes

Beats: ways to measure movement of story for pacing and content. If you dive into the world of romance writing, folks are constantly talking about the beats, and how to develop the plot and characters in their story to meet the audience’s expectations of a romance. In this book, Hayes walks through how to plan your novel for the romance audience so that you can create a fabulous HEA (happily ever after) or HEN (happy for now) story. Haye’s book shows up in writing groups all of the time because of her knowledge of what readers are looking for in a romance novel. One of the phrases and ideas I like in this book is that characters should move from “hole-hearted to whole-hearted.” Yes! That’s what romance readers are looking for. For writers struggling with the middle of their story, or struggling to plan out a fully-developed story, this is a great read. She suggests using beat sheets, and you can find templates of these all over the internet (or you can even make your own based on the information she gives in this book).

Writing Romance in the 21st Century

Writing Romance in the 21st Century by Vanessa Grant

Grant encourages writers to show the readers that love wins. She advocates for character-driven plots that provide thoughtful motivation and conflict that answers a question. One of the best parts of Grant’s book (in my opinion) is her list of archetypes and ideas and sparks. She also offers some great advice, like if you are going to write about controversial issues, don’t make the issue an add-on. Dive into that issue and provide hope for readers who might have similar real-life experiences with that specific issue. This book is a good resource for writers starting out in the romance genre, and who are looking for some specific advice on how to structure and build their story and characters.

Craft in the Real World

Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses

If you are looking for some great revision questions to help you get the most of our your finished manuscript, this books is an excellent source for you! Salesses offers advice on how to break out of some of the conventions and write the story that represents you and your reader. He focuses a lot of writers’ workshops, but has some excellent revision questions and activities to help writers revise and polish their work.

Refuse to be Done

Refuse to be Done by Matt Bell

Bell’s book offer encouragement to authors to keep going! In his book, he walks writers through the three draft phases that he uses when he writes. From generative revision, to rewriting, to staying determined, he has advice for writers on all phases of their projects. One of the ideas I love in his book is to celebrate along the way. Writing is hard, often lonely, work, so don’t forget to celebrate accomplishments as you make them. The best piece of advice in Bell’s book? “There’s as much to be gained by actively opposing a craft lesson as there is in following it.” Find a routine that works for you, and get writing!

Keep Going

Keep Going by Austin Kleon

Creative work is hard work. But keep going. Kleon gives 10 steps to keep your creativity going. Some of the highlights for me were that “creative is not a noun: do the verb;” JOMO: the joy of missing out; you are allowed to change your mind; creativity has seasons, so plant your “garden” accordingly. This is a great resource for writers who need a boost and some encouragement.

Other helpful resources

There are endless resources out there. And if you ask around romance writing forums, people might have some great resources as well. Here are just a few more that might help you out (but I haven’t personally read):

Happy writing! And may love win the day.

Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash

Semicolon to the rescue: The Supercomma

Superheroes are all the rage these days. It turns out that society loves a good story about someone saving the day. There’s something that keeps us interested when we see people who on the outside might seem ordinary, but once they change their clothes they become someone extraordinary. We love them! Batman. Wonder Woman. Superman. Sailor Moon. Spiderman. The Hulk. Batgirl. Ironman.

Thinking about people who play different roles got me thinking about a conversation I had with an editor friend about semicolons. Here’s the gist of our conversation about semicolons: either you know how to use them and seem like a superhero, or you avoid them altogether. But what about the lesser known role of the semicolon, the role that it only performs when absolutely necessary and when other punctuation marks can’t take on the job…I’m talking about the supercomma!

Supercomma definition

We know that in the punctuation world a comma separates or sets off information. And the semicolon links information. But what happens when a comma needs some extra help when it is separating items in a list? It calls in the semicolon! A semicolon works to separate phrases or clauses in a sentence that already contains internal punctuation. AKA: the supercomma.

Fun fact: The semicolon is stronger than a comma, but can’t do the work of a period.

Aside: One thing that I find interesting is the difference in opinions about the semicolon. As Mary Norris suggests in her chapter “A Dash, A Semicolon, and a Colon Walk into a Bar” from her book Between You &Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, British folks (including Canadians like me) like the semicolon, whereas Americans tend to avoid the formality of them. Interesting! On the other hand, American Patricia T. O’Conner has no problem with the semicolon in her book Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English.

Supercomma

It’s probably overkill to use the name supercomma, when semicolon works just as well, but it’s definitely not as fun. What is a supercomma (after all of this buildup)? Here are some examples:

  • My English teacher, Ms. Ireland, had never been out of the country; my Biology teacher, Mr. Finn, was actually Irish and traveled all over the UK; but my Art teacher, Mrs. Mave, was the most travelled of them all.
  • My next travel adventure, which I hope to take very soon, will most likely include stops in Paris, France; Vienna, Austria; and Budapest, Hungary.
  • My favourite bookstore has new, local, and bestselling books on the main level; children, general fiction, and travel books on the top level; and nonfiction books on the lower level.

Was the work super? Maybe not. But using a comma to separate these phrases would have muddled with the clarity of the ideas. This is a job for the semicolon.

Send out the supercomma signal

Are supercommas for everyday, every page? Not really. Like all superheroes, they aren’t necessary to include all of the time. In fact, if the problem can be solved without the hero, that’s probably best. But if your sentence starts to get phrases and clauses with punctuation in a list, you better call in the extraordinary. The supercomma.

As always, punctuation is a tool for writers to add clarity into their writing. If you find yourself constructing a sentence that needs something more powerful than a comma to separate lists, don’t be afraid to try the semicolon. It can handle the job!

Happy writing.

Photo by Esteban L√≥pez on Unsplash