Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why So Many Romance Stories Fail

I was looking back on my database yesterday of all the submissions I have seen since the start of 2014. What I saw was an interesting trend. So much so that I went back and scanned through the 2013 files and saw the same thing. There was indeed a common trend why I passed on so many story. I also believe this common trend is why there are so many romance stories out there that fail to succeed.

In simple terms - the author forgot the romance.

It seems that authors are so intent on telling their stories, creating fantastic lines or scenes, or in the case of the 50 Shades crowd, trying to see how far they can push the erotic barrier, that the element of the romance is completely lost. I don't care what the sub-genre is the author uses, time and time again I am finding that the romance is more of an after thought than the focus. We really see this with paranormals and romantic suspense stories. There has to be so much world building and so much plot development that there is simply no room for any development of a quality romance in the story.

Along the same lines, when an author does put the romance front and center, what we are seeing is not a romance building, but two characters being run through a gauntlet of scenes to get to the "happily ever after" that the author already has planned. What the authors have failed remember is that the goal of a romance, regardless of the sub-genre, is to show a building relationship. We want to see them fall in love.

What I find is missing from so many of these stories is the emotional impact of the building romance. Somehow, in the middle of the narration and the dialogue the author has so carefully crafted, the reader doesn't get to "feel" the authors falling in love. This is 100% the fault of the author. It is the author's responsibility to draw on those real emotions and to weave those thoughts into their story.

Think of it this way. Take a moment and remember the feelings you had when you were first "really in love." I'm not talking about the first love or the first crush. I am talking about "real love."

I'll wait..........

Now, what did you feel? There is a sense of giddiness. A sense of the world spinning out of control when that person is around or when you think of the person. Your rush home "just to be with that person." You can be lost to the world simply watching the person across the table from you at dinner or even something a simple as mowing the lawn. When you get into a slight argument, you feel as if your entire world is going to fall apart.  I think you get the idea.

It isn't about the sex. It is about saying "I love you." It is about all of those turbulent feelings screaming at you. And it is just this that is missing from so many romance novels today.

Sure the plots are good. Sure the dialogue is great. Maybe the Rakes are hotter than those "sexy fireman calendars." But is the romance there.

I also think this is the reason why we are seeing so many authors turning to genres such as "novels with elements of romance." I honestly think many authors are making this shift because it is too hard for them to draw on those real emotions. Look, I get it. Writing romance is not easy. I know this is one reason why I am such a proponent of it and am proud of authors who write romance as opposed to 100% plot driven stories. These are tough to write.

If you really want to write romance, you have to simply return to your own sense of reality. You have to "Remember the magic" (Thank you Disney for that line), and make those characters really "fall in love."


  1. Great insights. I don't write romance novels, but I always enjoy your posts and advice.

  2. This is just what I needed to hear today. I'm on my second round of revisions for an editor (first book) and I needed to be reminded of those giddy feelings. You may have just provided the key... Thank you!