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Romance Novels

Re: Not Feeling the Love

in Characterization/Romance Novels by

Dear Editor…

There’s a romance in my novel. An early reader said she’s not rooting for the couple like she thinks she should and I know that’s bad (obviously), but I don’t know what to do about it. Help?


Dear R….

Ask the reader if she’d root for the individual characters. After all, if we’d root for Jess no matter what Jess’s problem is, and we’d root for Chris no matter what Chris’s problem is, then we’d probably root for Jess and Chris as a couple. Help us know each character beyond looks, job/school status, and key problem. We’d learn those on a first date. What would we discover on the second date? The sixth? That’s the stuff to reveal as the story rolls out. What are their habits? What topics provoke/calm them? How would their reactions to others differ if you change the others’ gender, politics, class, ethnicity, etc? What fears/hopes do they have besides the Main Goal? What would they not want revealed? What would they yearn to share? Flesh out characters with action that reveals moods, opinions, judgments. When we know two individuals well (the good and bad) we’re intrigued to see how they interact as a couple—and we care about the outcome.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Good Characters, Bad Hook-Ups

in Characterization/Romance Novels by

Dear Editor…

I’ve got a romance in my novel, but beta readers tell me they don’t care enough when the couple gets together. They like the characters themselves, though. Suggestions?


Dear R….

Whether your story stops at romantic kisses or goes further with explicit sex, you can score that satisfying physical scene by selling it long before it happens. One way to do this is to first build your case that these two need to be together—even if they don’t know it yet—and then deny them (and readers!) that togetherness. Attack that relationship. Use outside forces to shove the lovers apart when they crave nothing more than togetherness. Use misunderstandings to cause one or both lovers to pull away when readers crave nothing more than togetherness. Trigger the lovers’ fears so that they run away just when readers think they’re about to score togetherness. The anticipation will grow so excruciating that when they final get to hook up, the scene will seem to write itself. At that point, you won’t need to convince anybody of anything.

Happy writing!
The Editor

Revision Week: Marie Force

in Creative Process/General fiction/Revision Week/Romance Novels by

Dear Readers…

Revision Week ends with a flourish thanks to the fabulous Marie Force, author of some of our favorite contemporary romance series. Marie has sold more than five million copies of her books worldwide, some self-published, others traditionally published. She is talented, prolific, and here to give us a glimpse into her process. Today also brings us to the grand finale giveaway: a Free Full Manuscript Edit by the Editor. Read the full post for giveaway details and Marie’s interview.

Marie ForceMarie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of over 50 contemporary romances, including the Gansett Island Series, which has sold more than 2.3 million books, and the Fatal Series from Harlequin Books, which has sold more than 1.2 million books. In addition, she is the author of the Green Mountain Series as well as the new erotic romance Quantum Series, written under the slightly modified name of M.S. Force. For more intriguing insights, pop over to Marie’s website and read her full bio to learn about her experiences as an author who works with traditional publishers while also self-publishing to great success. The tenth book in Marie’s Fatal Series, Fatal Identity, comes out July 26.

Marie’s interview follows the Rafflecopter form/entry link for today’s Free Full Edit by the Editor giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You’ve told me you work toward a publishable first draft. How does being a “pantser” affect your efforts to reach “publishable” in a one draft? I write from the beginning and go straight through, going back repeatedly to the beginning to edit, tweak, refresh, update, and remind myself of what I need to get done in the remaining pages. Re-reading is a huge part of my process and usually sparks new plot ideas. I just did a re-read on my work in progress today to get back in the writing groove after the weekend.
At what point will you typically stop to re-read? I stop to re-read whenever I feel the need to remind myself of where I started. Sometimes I do it frequently during the writing of a book and other times I only do it once or twice. It’s always a good reminder of where I’ve been and where I’m intending to go with the story.

MaidforLoveWhat role do critique partners, beta readers, or professional editors play in your process? I’ve never had critique partners. I don’t want another writer’s voice inside my head when I’m writing. I have three longtime beta readers and one of my team members acts as a front-line reader, too. They are helpful in identifying missing words (my specialty), questions that need to be answered, and any plot holes that might need to be addressed. I have a copy editor and proofreader for my indie books. My traditionally edited books get some minor developmental edits and line edits, but they are never much.

Treading WaterYour first book took you three years to write. Can you share a key insight or change in your process that have contributed to your current ability to write books in weeks and months? I learned all the biggest and hardest lessons with my first book, Treading Water, which I massively overwrote. I ended the first draft with a bloated 155,000-word manuscript in which I was highly indulgent of my muse. I’ve roped her into submission since then, and that’s never happened again. My second book, the follow-on to the first one, was written in 90 days and came in at 90,000 words. I’ve hardly touched a single word of it in the nearly ten years since I finished it. Whereas I continued to tweak and fine-tune the first one until I published it six years after writing The End. By then, it was a much leaner, meaner 92,000 words, and it was the same exact story. Those are the kind of lessons I didn’t need to learn twice. Now if a scene I want to write doesn’t move character X’s story forward in a meaningful way, it doesn’t get written. I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to getting rid of the bloat and keeping my story zipping forward.

VirtuousNewHow do you know you’ve got the final draft? The last thing I do is read the manuscript on my Kindle, the way a reader would. By the time I get to The End, I’ve already edited the first half numerous times, so final edits tend to focus on the second half. Once I am able to read the book all the way through without stopping for any reason, it’s done. That usually happens fairly close to actually finishing the writing, because I’ve been fine-tuning all along. That’s how my first draft becomes a finished book.

Thank you, Marie!

You can follow Marie on Facebook, Twitter @marieforce and on Instagram, join one of her many reader groups, and get on her mailing list for news about new books and upcoming appearances in your area. Contact Marie at marie@marieforce.com.










re: Writing a Romantic Scene for a Novel That’s Not Romance

in Characterization/Plot/Romance Novels/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I need your help! I’m writing a book, and I don’t know how to incorporate a romance scene without making the whole book a romance. It’s a YA Novel, and I don’t want to ruin the book.


Dear H.…

You’re trying to force a plot or character shift with an unearned moment of mushiness, and that won’t work. The fun of reading a romantic scene is feeling the emotional threads that author has been weaving between two characters finally tighten with satisfying resonance. The story hits an emotional peak, and it’s oh so lovely. Ahhhh. Without those emotional threads, no peak. Just dialogue lacking emotional underpinning and awkward touching. Ick. You don’t want to write that, and I don’t want to read it. What relationship shift is true to your characters? Their internal arcs and relationship arc haven’t been about attaining rewards found in romantic love. What’s their emotional need? Is their forced team-up finally shifting to true friendship? Are they revealing vulnerabilities to establish true trust? Identify why the characters you’ve written must connect emotionally at this moment, then write that peak. You’ll enjoy that scene, as will we.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: How Can I Make Readers Cry?

in General fiction/Romance Novels by

Dear Editor…

I cried when I wrote my romance manuscript. My beta readers aren’t crying. What am I doing wrong?


Dear Boo-Hoo…

A cathartic cry is a whole story in the making; no single plot event triggers it. Examine your entire story to be sure every plot point amps up emotional tension. Since plot serves character arcs in romances, events should pierce the characters’ deepest fears and most passionate hopes repeatedly. Does Female Lead hope to vanquish Bad Guy by herself but fear that Male Lead wants to take over? Have her misread his offers to help as attempts to control. She fears being insignificant or thought incapable. Then let her reconsider, get hopeful about him, only to doubt again because she always returns to that fear. Each time she opens up, sock her in that fear so she scurries inside herself again. Keep the characters hopeful or determined enough to keep opening up until finally you don’t sock them but let them have what they’ve earned. In this case, Female Lead will see that her guy wants to be a partner, not the power holder. Hopes and fears are universal, so readers relate to them. Emotion lurks in that link— attacking it is to attack readers, making them vulnerable and game for a good cry.

Happy writing!
The Editor

Revision Week: Laura Griffin

in Revision Week/Romance Novels by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week continues with New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin. Laura has written eleven award-winning novels, six of them in the popular Tracers series. She’s just put the finishing touches on the seventh book in the series, Exposed, which will release on June 25.

Please join Laura and The Editor for Day 2 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Laura GriffinLaura Griffin’s background as a journalist serves her well as a novelist—she’s constantly interviewing experts and researching facts for her novels in an effort to ground her fictional adventures in enough reality to give them a sense of possibility. For her bestselling Tracers series, which features a forensic photographer and an FBI agent who form an uneasy partnership to find a vicious criminal, Laura interviewed FBI agents, private investigators, crime scene investigators, and forensic artists. Her hard work is recognized by readers and reviewers and has earned her various awards, including both a RITA Award for Whisper of Warning and a Daphne du Maurier Award for Untraceable in 2010. Her debut novel, One Last Breath, won the Booksellers Best Award in the Romantic Suspense category, and her novels Snapped, Unspeakable, and Untraceable were all nominated for Reviewers’ Choice Awards by RT Book Reviews magazine. The Editor is honored to have Laura with us for Revision Week.

*After Laura’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?
Thanks for inviting me to be part of Revision Week! Every author I know has a different process and it’s interesting to hear how people do it.

For me, I become more and more confident about my character and story choices as I near the end of the first draft. Sometimes after the book is finished and the story is “percolating” I will realize some aspect of the plot isn’t true to character, so I’ll go back and make changes.

exposed_225How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?
My editor will send me a revision letter with lots of ideas about what is working and what needs more focus. Sometimes I will overhaul an element of the suspense plot or develop a character more fully. Sometimes I will cut a character or subplot altogether if it’s distracting too much from the main story. I try to get all of my major changes into that round of revisions so that I don’t drive everyone crazy at the line-editing and copy-editing phase.

Do you use critique partners?
Nope, never have.

whisper_225 Your romantic storylines are as prominent in your books as your thriller plotlines. How does this dual prominence affect your revision strategy?
I think it’s important to have a balance, but I always try to remember that no matter how compelling a plot is, the reader is really in it for the characters. So I try to make sure I focus plenty of attention on character arc so that the story will have an emotional punch.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?
I write suspense stories, so sometimes the logistics get complicated and I feel like I’ve hit a wall. But I have learned to tap into the experts I know for help. For example, I had a plot problem once involving an airplane flight, so I called up a pilot friend and explained that I needed my characters to be crossing a border at a certain time and place and he came up with a plausible way to make it work.

Sometimes you just need to get some distance from your story and a plot solution will come to you.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising? lastbreath_225
Cutting scenes always feels drastic to me. I try not to get hung up on all the time I spent creating something that ends up on the cutting room floor, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?
I don’t ever really feel like the story is final. I certainly never feel like it’s perfect. But you pour your heart and soul into it and then eventually let go and hope what you’ve written will touch someone.


The Editor is giving away another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 26, 2013, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 27, 2013, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.


One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Picture Book Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. DO NOT send your manuscript or any portion of it. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) *If you do not want your title announced, please use an alternate working title.*

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

re: Help! Unromantic Me Can’t Write Romantic Scenes

in Characterization/General fiction/Romance Novels/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I’m trying to write a romantic scene for a YA novel that I’m writing but I’m the most unromantic person I’ve ever met. Do you have any advice as to how I can get over my unromanticness and write good romance scenes?


Dear Taylor…

Freeze! Put the flowers down. Back away from that box of chocolates. This isn’t about you, it’s about the characters. A great romantic scene grows out of the characters’ emotional connection with each other across all preceding scenes. Ask yourself what each character needs emotionally, then find ways for the other character to satisfy the need. Work this into each shared scene until, finally, a situation arises that brings that need to a climax. That’s when the romance rolls out. A girl who feels epically misunderstood will go weak in the knees when a boy shows that he knows her. Maybe he reads to her from her favorite book when she’s sad. The sound of his voice as it embodies her beloved characters is a turn-on. The way he holds the book in his hands—those gentle yet firm hands she so wants to hold her—is a turn-on. The way he trips over words yet plods onward shows his vulnerability … and is a turn-on. She can’t help it, she reaches out and makes the physical connection. Build up from emotional to physical and your characters (and readers!) will be putty in your hands.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Tips for Writing Romantic Scenes that Aren’t Cliche?

in Dialogue/Romance Novels/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

The romantic parts in my YA novel are hard to write. They sound corny and feel cliche. Help?!

Elle S.


Dear Elle…

It’s tough to write the kissie stuff in a fresh way. And with the intense close-up on bodies and words, the burden of conveying the emotion can fall on the dialogue, making it sound hammy. Step back and look around your characters. The props in your setting can freshen up the scene with subtext. Subtext refers to what’s going on behind the spoken words and the obvious action. Subtext adds depth to a scene, undermining, contradicting, or reinforcing what’s being said. Imagine a scene where the couple makes out on a couch that the boy’s mean mom loves, making the girl struggle to push away images of his mom. This is great subtext for young lovers sneaking around behind parents’ backs. Or move them to his bed where a pillow sewed by his ex-girlfriend rests. You can almost write that scene around the pillow and all its significance. Settings and props particular to your couple’s history avoid cliché, and subtext liberates your dialogue.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: Tips for Non-Corny Romance Scenes?

in Romance Novels/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I am having trouble writing the romantic parts of my YA novel.  They sound kinda corny and feel cliché. Any advice?

Struggling with the Smoochie Stuff

Dear Struggling…

You want your characters to get physical? Then get physical with them! First, move them to a new location. Chose an uncommon setting for the kids to get mushy, one that affects how they express their emotions. Think sneaky smooching behind a noisy car wash instead of a dreamy kiss at the school dance. Then, make their bodies do the talking. Hammy, overwrought, or melodramatic scenes happen when the dialogue does all the emoting. Because teens lack the words and experience to express themselves well in romantic situations, they try to read each other’s body language and become hyperconscious of their own bodies. Mine that! The characters can reveal their emotions through interactions with setting elements (like fussing with a skateboard wheel to avoid terrifying direct eye contact, or wiping stray car wash suds from their hair) and, yes, with their love interest’s body. It’s time to get physical, after all.

Happy writing!
The Editor

re: What’s So Wrong with UN-Happily Ever After?

in Romance Novels by

Dear Editor…

I’m writing my first romance novel. I think my ending is creative and powerful. My critique group agrees . . . but they still want me to rewrite it. I don’t end with the two lovers together. My group says they have to be, that a romance novel MUST have a happy ending. But that’s so predictable. Does it really have to?


Desperately Seeking an UNhappy Ending

Dear Desperately Seeking an UNhappy Ending

Only if you want that romance novel to sell. Fans of romance novels are a loyal group—when they find an author they love, they stick with that author, book after book. But if you disappoint them, you’ll be needing more than roses and chocolates to win back their hearts. A super way to disappoint them is to deny them their Happily Ever After. They’ve got an acronym for it—HEA—so you know they’re serious. Sure, exceptions that KIA the HEA have value and are legitimate, but the masses demand HEA. There’s a certain escapism going on for Romance readers; they read for the affirmation of true love, and HEA endings deliver that. But why do you think Happily Ever After equals predictability? How you bring about your HEA is where that creativity of yours can shine. Ditch the picket fence, can the fairy tales, and bring those lovers together in a way that no one could predict. You are in control, not the genre. This way, everyone gets their dose of happy.

Happy writing!

The Editor

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