F is for Formula – Romance Writing from A to Z
Ha! Sucked you in, didn’t I?
You want to find out what the secret formula to writing winning romance is, don’t you? Well, there is no formula.
I’m sorry. I lured you here under false pretences. But I can tell you that there are two types of romances – the category romances (think Mills & Boon) and your other romance (basically every other kind of romance in the world).
The closest thing to a romance formula
is how a Category romance follows a strict set of rules. Each line has a guideline as to word count, what page(ish) they believe the hero and heroine should meet and among other things, when the happily ever after should happen. So, if you are looking to write one of these stories for Mills & Boon, you definitely need to research what they would like to happen and when. Visit the Mills & Boon submission page for more details.
As to every other kind of romance in the world – the sky is the limit. As long as you have your HEA (Happily Ever After) it doesn’t really matter what you stick where (pun intended).
What about plotting & structure?
Some people would call plotting a formula. And do you know what? They might be right. I went to the Michael Hauge Workshop at the recent RWA conference and he’s discovered that most popular movies have a similar structure. So has Blake Snyder from the Save the Cat fame. There’s a certain point in the story when you see your inciting incident. There’s also a mid point reversal or ‘mirror moment’ and if you want to go deeper, there’s an ‘all is lost’ moment right before the climax.
But these plotting tropes often go with any genre of writing, not just romance, so I can’t really say this is the secret formula you’ve been looking for. It might help you write a story that follows expectations but there will be a familiar element that links it to all others.
If you really want to stand out, you need to break the rules. Liane Moriarty is a great author who plays with conventions. She often moves time frames around and reveals parts of the story before and after important events. I reviewed her latest book here.