I don’t want to call these rules or anything like that. Of course “common sense” felt right, but then read one article about romance not written by someone in the world and… well, not-so-common sense I guess. So, let me get us kicked off. You can add your thoughts in the comments.
First off….the most obvious:
USE A COVER FROM THE LAST 24 MONTHS
Fabio. We get it. He was a big deal when I was still riding a school bus. A reader just asked me if he’s even still alive.
When I see a Fabio (or equally old covers) as the header of an article, I immediately know (or assume usually correctly that) this person:
- knows nothing except out-dated stereotypes about romance;
- is trying to prove a point that’s out-date/was never true; or
- is purposefully going to make fun of the genre, readers and writers
Credibility you had just for writing an article is quickly dwindling.
DON’T WRITE THE ARTICLE WITH MINIMAL EXPERIENCE
So, you read three romance novels and a couple of blogs? Unless this is an incredibly fair-minded person openly discussing their lack of knowledge, first impressions, and general thoughts…you have basically no right to pass yourself off as an expert. That’s pretty much true of any topic.
Romance is a huge topic, going down to sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-genres and occasionally further. It has a rich and long history woven thru classics, pulp, genre and feeding into most cultures at tons of different entry points.
MAKE SURE YOUR EXAMPLES AREN’T FROM MORE THAN TWO YEARS AGO
Actually, romance is the fastest to adapt, fastest to change, most open-minded, envelop-pushing genre.
If your examples are all from two years ago, you’re still outdated.
DON’T BE A MAN WANTING TO MAKE A POINT ABOUT WOMEN
The fact that I need to point out that… well, no. Just no.
Not only are all women different, but every woman will get something different out of reading the same book.
Plus, a lot of women don’t read romance, so what about them? Are they secretly men?
DON’T ASSUME ONLY WOMEN READ…AND WRITE…ROMANCE
Not true. So not true. The number of men who read romance (and are willing to say so on surveys) grows every year.
And, while all but 3 guys I know who write romance do so under a female-sounding pen name, there are plenty of them out there writing it too.
DON’T DISCUSS HOW ROMANCE IS HURTING WOMAN
How many times are we going to see the whole, “If you read true crime books does that mean you’re going to become a serial killer” example?
Women understand that a book is a book. They understand that life is hard, not everyone gets to meet the perfect person and never have another problem again, sex is not a fix all, the difference between love and sex, that a romance book is a work of fiction and that it’s not a road map for life…the list goes on of the shocking things women understand. I mean, STOP THE PRESSES! WOMEN KNOW STUFF!
But more to the point… the fact that they understand all those things IS the reason they read romance.
Why do you read your escapist fiction? To stop killing people? Well…if so, then where can I send you more books?
DON’T COMPLAIN THEY ALWAYS END WITH THE COUPLE TOGETHER
Yes. That’s what they are. Books that end with an HEA. If you don’t understand the difference between a love story and a romance, go back and start your research over.
<Insert old, the mystery is always solved in a mystery, example>
DON’T ASSUME EVERYONE HAS THE SAME TASTE AS YOU
There are books that I roll my eyes at, think are cheese and over-written, find the plot unbelievable, and get annoyed with plot holes…and occasionally those books are even in the romance section.
This is true of every genre and its sub-genres.
MAKE SURE YOU AREN’T SHOWING YOUR SNOBBERY
Seriously. What’s the point?
AVOID CALLING THEM ALL PORN OR TRASH
First off, romances have different heat levels, starting right down at no heat whatsoever. So, if you’re assuming they’re all porn… My friend, you’re seriously running out of credibility points.
KNOW WHAT PARODY IS
There’s been a big movement in romance parody. It’s making a lot of money and giving a lot of readers a lot of laughs.
If you don’t get that…well, maybe we need to back further away than just from romance and head all the way back to English 101.
UNDERSTAND WHY TROPE IN ANY GENRE IS IMPORTANT
Trope isn’t just a tool to make fun of romance novels. Tropes are centuries old and do the important job of making sure that readers expectations are met. Want a book about man against nature? Then don’t pick up one that advertises itself as man driving to the mall.
Yeah, yeah. Stupid, boiled down. But you get the point.
DON’T WRITE ABOUT HOW ANGRY YOU ARE THAT ROMANCE MAKES SO MUCH MONEY
It does because it’s readers love it and are voracious. When your readers read as many as 400 books a year, your genre will be making more money too.
And, let’s kill the myth that all romance authors are making six-figures.
My answer to that: I. Wish.
UNDERSTAND ROMANCES’ ROLE AS A REFLECTION AND TOOL FOR WOMEN FOR A COUPLE CENTURIES
Romance not only reflects the struggles women have had (yes, men have struggles too…and romance addresses a lot of those) but it also often allows women to see that they aren’t alone in their struggles and ends with hope.
DUDE, you got a problem with hope? For real?
Personally, I’d like to add:
DON’T WRITE ABOUT RAPE, UNLESS…
Rape is a hard topic and to just throw it out there as, “Romance novels support the idea of rape as not rape” or some other really general, misleading, link-bait thing…just don’t.
If you want to write about rape and culture and literature (including rape) and have done the research and thought — go for it. It’s an important and complex topic that deserves to be tackled hard and discussed openly.
If you’re just talking about how all romance is about rape on some level…maybe back up and think that through again.
IF YOU’RE WONDERING WHAT’S LEFT TO WRITE ABOUT…
….then see example #2
What would you add as a How To Write About Romance Novels Guideline?