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  • CJ Hawthorne

How NOT to write romance.

It’s February. You know what that means...

Howdy, friends! In honor of Valentine’s Day- not a holiday I’m usually big on- I thought I’d offer my meager perspective on writing romance. For me, romance in a book tends to be a secondary thing. As such, these tips will mostly apply to romance as a subplot. Even if you’re looking to write an entire romance novel, you could probably apply some of these things too. So, without further ado, here’s how I DON’T write romance.


1: Don‘t force it.


This applies across the board. If your romance is a subplot, make sure it doesn’t detract from the main plot of your book. Not every story needs a romance, but every romance deserves to be carefully thought out. If you decide to include one, it should be because it came naturally from the interactions between two characters. Which leads into my next point...

2: Make sure your characters click.


Maybe this is just me, but I find that if I’m going to write a romance of any kind, I have to think about it a LOT. Why do the characters like each other? How does their relationship progress? I find that I like to pair characters who are somewhat opposite, at least enough so thar their strengths and weaknesses compliment each other. The good news is, once I start thinking about a romance arc, I spend a few days thinking about nothing BUT that arc. As a result, I have lots of romantic moments planned out in weird detail compared to other subplots. Bottom line, if you’re going to add romance to your story, give it the thought and planning it deserves.


3: Don’t overdo it.


Again, this is wholly subjective, but I am of the mind that if your romance is just a subplot, it should stay as such. Don’t let it overpower the main plot. That said, if you went into your novel knowing that romance would be a pivotal of main part of it, the by all means, go crazy! Romance done well is enjoyable to all sorts of people, and will prove an engaging point for your readers.


4: If it’s working, don’t undersell it.


Aaaand here’s the part where I contradict myself. As I mentioned, romance done well is actually pretty nice. So, if you’ve got a good thing going, don’t leave your readers hanging. Not enough romance can be just as frustrating as too much- more so, for a lot of people.


5: Have fun!!


Really, this is what it comes down to for all aspects of writing. You wouldn’t be writing a book if you didn’t enjoy it on some level. Likewise, you shouldn’t write romance unless you feel like you can have fun with it. Reconnecting to that sense of enjoyment writing can bring is a crucial thing to try for. After 50,000 words, writing may start to feel more like a self-imposed chore than anything else. When in doubt, remind yourself why you started in the first place, and get back to the roots of why you love writing.


So there you have it- my slightly cynical take on romance arcs. I could come up with more in depth posts on this topic, so let my know if that would interest you. My book Exodus does feature some light romance, which I plan to expand on in later books. What are your thoughts on romance? Do you enjoy it, or is it overrated? Either way, happy Valentine’s Day, y’all, and fly safe!


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