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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Secret Formula of Most Romance Novels

Hello Fellow Writers!

Yesterday I worked on my plot for my romance novel, tentatively called "Snowed in with a Millionaire" (or maybe it will become "Snowed in with the Tycoon"). Usually I get my most work done when dear hubby returns from work so he can take the baby off my hands, but last night we watched a documentary online together, so there went two hours of valuable writing time. I don't know why I did that to myself - especially for a documentary I've already seen!

Today I will get as much done on the plot as I can - though it will be a busy day, with a doctor's appointment an hour's drive away for the baby, and then tonight (drum roll please).... I start my Advanced Writing Workshop! I'm very excited. The purpose of the class, from what I hear, is to learn how to revise your fiction to make it better. Everyone is supposed to bring a work in progress. I will be bringing my romance novel "Marrying a Movie Star". My husband has been reading it since Sunday and he says "it's like a book from the book store". Here's hoping he's right, and I'm not going to seriously embarrass myself in this class.

I've already decided that the category line I was planning to submit "Marrying a Movie Star" to (Harlequin Romance) isn't the right one - while my characters don't have sex, they have very explicit kissing and emotions - so I think if I take that to the next level and add in some romantic love scenes I can submit it to Silhouette Desire instead. (UPDATE: Marrying a Movie Star got a rewrite, sold to Ellora's Cave Publishing, and became Hollywood Spank!) (Another UPDATE 2/10/2014: Three years after selling Hollywood Spank to Ellora's Cave, I got the rights reverted back to me, and I self-published the book with fresh edits, a new cover, and a much lower price! I also put it in print using Createspace! You can see how it looks now here.)

Actually, I really want to submit it to a literary agent first.

I've been looking at a book I read awhile back, called "You Can Write a Romance" by Rita Clay Estrada and Rita Gallagher. The text is interspersed with fun quotes from published authors, like this gem:

Never give the reader the chance to ask why your character didn't take the logical action. Either explain before hand or at the time of the incident why there were no other choices. That's called "pointing to the hole."
- romance author Chelly Kitzmiller

The authors also point out that most romance novels are a twist on a simple plot. They say it's not a formula, it's a guide, but really, what do you call this?

  • Boy meets girl.
  • Girl has a secret.
  • Girl keeps secret from boy as they fall in love.
  • Boy finds out and they part in anger.
  • Girl loses all.
  • Boy returns, repentant, to declare what they both knew all along. He loves her.
  • Girl is now strong enough to turn him down or take him back (as an equal partner).

Although I did just read a wonderful romance novel by Sabrina Jeffries called "The Pirate Lord" where a woman was kidnapped by a pirate and taken to his secret island - that set up a really fun historical romance, no secrets necessary. So there are definitely exceptions to the rule.

Now, back to writing. I'll let you know how the writing workshop went (it's a five week class) tomorrow. But before I go, one more fun quote from "You Can Write a Romance":

Writing is an action verb. Do it, don't just talk about it.
-romance author Maria Ferrarella

Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

UPDATE!! For those who have stumbled upon this old post, I want to share the good news. Yes, I have a literary agent now (see how it happened here), and she got me a 6 book contract with Simon & Schuster Pocket Star! Please visit my website at ShoshannaEvers.com to learn more about The Enslaved Trilogy, out now!


  1. Hi. I'm new to romance, so please forgive my ignorance:

    In the formula / guide up above, the last bullet makes me think the woman has the last word. Why is that since she's the one who kept the secret? Shouldn't it be up to the man to forgive her?

    - Hadley

    1. Hi Hadley! When I wrote this post back in 2009, I was new to romance too! ;) Five years and multiple published romance novels later, I kinda disagree with the formula. There are just too many different types of conflicts to use, other than a secret.

      But the one thing that *is* usually kept secret (at least until the end) is that one of them is falling in love with the other, and doesn't want to be, for some reason - like commitment issues, or an issue with the other character, etc.

      In the scenario from the post, the Hero must have done something when they "depart in anger" that made the heroine feel that she couldn't/shouldn't be with him. Even when he comes back, she's learned something about herself and grown as a person. Then, since it is a romance after all (and all romances must end Happily Ever After), the heroine and Hero will make up their differences and be together.

      One important point: if the "secret" can be resolved with a simple conversation, then it's just not enough conflict to carry a story.

      Hope that helps!

    2. I become a fan Rita Clay Estrada, who is an US writer/author of romance stories as Rita Clay, she also composed non-fiction books almost writing passion novels. She was the first leader of the Romance Authors of America, and establishment member with her mom Rita Gallagher. I am academic writer for UK’s students, we are also providing writing services for the expert essay writers UK. This book is a decent starting opinion for anyone involved in writing romance and erotica. Thanks for sharing review about the secret formula of most romance novels.

  2. Good for you! I just happened upon your site. Its filled with great advice that I know works. Once again congratulations on your book deal.


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