Most of the submissions we had so far—and most lesbian fiction—are romance novels.
The success of the book stands and falls with the writer’s ability to develop a believable, satisfying romance. Unfortunately, many of the submissions we received failed in doing that.
So what does it take to write a great romance novel?
- Avoid clichés: In some stereotypical romances, the main characters meet, start bickering instantly, fall in love for some unexplainable reason, but then one big misunderstanding happens that tears them apart until all is cleared up, and they sink into each other’s arms. Don’t go down that road. Try to make the romance feel fresh and fitting to your characters.
- Develop the relationship slowly. Don’t let them fall in love at first sight, instantly recognize each other as soulmates, rent a U-Haul, and live happily ever after. They might be attracted to each other from the start or even a bit infatuated, but true love takes time to grow. Let the characters get to know each other slowly.
- Romance readers usually expect a happy end. They want to walk away from the book knowing that the relationship will work out. That doesn’t mean that all of the characters’ problems need to suddenly disappear. One book that impressed me with its ending is Reluctant Hope by Erin Dutton. I don’t want to give the ending away, but it leaves the characters in a situation where they might face serious problems. What’s important, though, is that readers know that they’ll face whatever comes together.
- Delay the “happily ever after” as long as possible. Don’t give them their happy end too soon. Create realistic conflicts that keep them from getting together. Conflict doesn’t mean constant quibbling or a misunderstanding. It arises from incompatible goals. Read more about how to create conflict in one of our previous blog posts.
- Create characters that are inherently lovable. While they shouldn’t be perfect by any means, the characters should have a few admirable traits. Your readers should be able to fall in love with your characters too. You don’t have to spell it out on the page, but the reader needs to understand what attracts them to each other and what makes them fall in love—and it should be a better reason than just their good looks. I’ve read books in which one character acts like a spoiled brat or the potential lovers fight all the time. If they had any sense at all, they should want to run away, not spend the rest of their lives with each other.
- In most romances, there should be an instant awareness of each other. They should notice each other when they first meet. It doesn’t necessarily need to be in a positive way. Then you build on that awareness. Gradually build up the attraction. As they get to know each other, they find more traits that they find appealing about each other. They start to bond emotionally.
- So if you combine the conflict and the growing emotional and sexual attraction, you get a constant push-and-pull. Their feelings for each other are growing, but they can’t yet act on them.
What do you think makes a good lesbian romance? What pitfalls should be avoided? Feel free to leave a comment.