Romance as a genre is one of the most generous communities out there. Are there problems? Sure. But as a whole, the authors are unbelievably generous with their time and experience, and the readers are nothing short of amazing.
I think that’s what happens when you’re the most commonly maligned target of all types of literature. There’s nothing more empowering than standing arm in arm against misogyny — either blatant or internalized — with literally millions of women worldwide who are voracious readers. (I say women because the vast majority of our readers and writers code female. We do have a growing number of male authors and readers, but our industry still leans heavily to women.)
Romance writers tend to be extraordinarily business-savvy in a way that many other authors have never had to be, all while delivering story after story that our readers crave. And the majority of us now do it all ourselves, sometimes while still writing for traditional publishers, as well.
Regardless of the opportunities available to authors these days, it’s not easy to write a romance novel. There’s no machine out there cranking out pre-recorded tropes that you can just mix and match. No matter how much readers love certain tropes, they won’t pick up your next book unless you’re also giving them great characters, solid plots, and meaningful conflicts. There are infinite ways to screw with your characters before they get their happy ever after.
Speaking of those happy endings: yes, they’re a must if you want to sell your book as a romance. Don’t even argue. Just accept it. The same way you’d never tag a book as a mystery if you didn’t reveal the murderer, them’s the rules for romance.
The only other requirement of the genre is that the relationship is the central focus of the story. Within those two parameters, the entire storytelling universe is at your fingertips. If you don’t want to adhere to those rules, that’s fine. Write whatever you like. But you’re writing a love story, and I’d strongly advise against marketing it as romance unless you’re wearing flame-retardant underpants.
There are no length requirements, and you don’t have to write sex scenes if you don’t want to. Literally anything goes. Blue alien barbarians rescuing kidnapped human women? Go for it. Time-traveling Scotsmen wooing modern day wedding dress designers? Write on. Bikers and billionaires and shapeshifting rodeo bulls? Do it. If you want to write sweet Amish romance, there’s a market for it. If you want to write a lawyer and a mechanic coming together in a BDSM dungeon, please do.
There is no shortage of real-life awfulness in the world. Writing stories that readers can depend on to deliver a smile or a cathartic emotional experience that ends in joy can give people what they need to make it through their toughest days.
You’re writing love. And that’s all we need.
Sela Carsen was born into a traveling family, then married a military man to continue her wandering lifestyle. With her husband of 20 years, their two teens, her mother, the dog and the cat, she is finally (temporarily) settled in the Midwest. Between bouts of packing and unpacking, she writes paranormal romances, with or without dead bodies. Your pick.