Drunk on Love: Finessing the Unputdownable Romance Novel

creative writing genre Feb 14, 2019

"I was always hungry for love. Just once, I wanted to know what it was like to get my fill of it—to be fed so much love I couldn’t take any more. Just once."—Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

As one who has discovered that my One True Love just so happens to be moi, I might be perceived as being ironical right about now—a romance cynic writing an article about love. Ha!

I don't knock love, and I'm not REALLY a cynic—though I do poke fun here and there. I have a sense of humor...what can I say?

I love love. I just don't happen to be in active pursuit of the kind of love that most people think of when they think of love—you know, sensual and playful or even enduring love.

I'm all about self-love at the moment. And when I love myself, it sure is easier to see others in high pursuit and chuckle rather than scoff at the inevitable…

…the cycle of addiction.

Because that's what you see when you observe folks with this insatiable appetite for romantic love.



And there's no denying that love is addictive. There's also no denying that we look back on our stints of love the way we do a drunken night: hazy, blurry, led by pure emotion and rarely by intellect. (I'm reminded of a time when I stood in the middle of a sidewalk in College Station, Texas and made out with my "soulmate" for so long that I lost myself. I was drunk on love and lust (who we kidding? and little alcohol), and looking back, I am in shock that I would EVER make out in public, much less obstruct pedestrian traffic to do so.

But I did.

And it was all that mattered in my world in that moment in time.

And that's the kind of passion that must be realized in the romance novel: magical, awe-inspiring, mind-blowing, world-changing, high-inducing, light-headed.

Visceral passion.

But like any addiction, after the high comes the crash—a broken heart that trumps the worst of hangovers, lasting for weeks or months, not hours or a day. And no first-thing Bloody Mary is going to cure. You've got to get it back. And so after some time to heal, the pursuit for happily-ever-after is back on, obstacles and all.



…and the emotions evoked while reading romance and championing your favorite characters while they pursue their brazen desire for love—and are curious about the creative aspect of writing or critiquing a romance novel, you've landed in the sweet spot. Let's hash it out, shall we?



Well, for starters, it's wildly popular. If you find your romance reading habit something akin to a dirty little secret, afraid friends might toss snarky remarks your way if they find out you're a closet romance junkie, let me put your mind at ease—you're not alone! Romance is the number-one selling genre in fiction in the Amazon Kindle store.

Numero Uno!

That means MILLIONS of readers (29 million in the U.S. alone, to be specific) share in your love of reading about love. Seems to me we've got an abundance of closet romance addicts who just need to fess up already.

So it's either like a Fight Club or an AA situation, right? The first rule of Love Club: You do not talk about Love Club. The first step of conquering an addiction? Admitting you have a problem. Though you'll never find any remedy for reading addictions here…I'm the figure in the shadows, hoodie and all:

Wanna book, little girl?

The romance genre has a very loyal audience—even if they are a hidden one—and one with concrete expectations. So let's talk a little bit about what you as a writer or someone who wants to work with writers can do to deliver.



  1. Don't write a psychological thriller packed with saucy love scenes and call it a romance. Just like in life, makeup sex doesn't make it love. The love story must be the central story. The main plot centers around people falling in love and struggling to make it work. There can be subplots—and for depth and interest, probably should be—but the love story must be the main event.
  2. The characters—the ones entangled in this titillating tango—must be developed as people that the readers can identify with: a sympathetic heroine and the irresistible hero. Now, that doesn't mean that these characters are perfect—in fact they shouldn't be; flaws help to round out the characters—but they must be people that the reader keeps flipping pages for, in hopes of realizing their blissful fate.
  3. But the future pages can't be all easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy for the two. There must be conflict, emotional tension; otherwise…BORRRRRRRING.
  4. The romance reader must have their satisfying ending—and I don't mean the big "O" moment found scattered about the steamy erotica flicks. Readers count on that emotional payoff to counterbalance all the struggle the characters endured to find unconditional love.

Give it to 'em, baby! Too far? Sorry…

What I mean is, these two must have their happily-ever-after. Period. If not, the author of the book can kiss their dreams of gushing awe-struck fans goodbye.

Because. They. Will. Be. Pissed.



While there are very set expectations or conventions placed upon the romance novel, it doesn't mean that the work should be predictable. Readers still want to be entertained, surprised, swooned. So creativity is key. The romance novelist has an abundance of creative license when crafting characters, settings, time periods; when implementing tone and style; and when determining the level of sensuality—ranging from sweet to erotic. It is these distinctions that form the sub-genres:

Action & Adventure • African American • Anthologies • Billionaires • Clean & Wholesome • Contemporary • Erotica • Fantasy • Gothic • Historical • Holidays • Inspirational • LGBT • Medical • Military • Multicultural • New Adult & College • Paranormal • Regency • Romantic Comedy • Romantic Suspense • Science Fiction • Sports • Time Travel • Vampires • Werewolves & Shifters • Western

…and these break down into even more sub-subgenres!

Because of this diversity, a reader can find themselves laughing out loud on the Western front, crying silently in a 25th-century prison, or blushing while making love on a far-away planet. (Houston, we have…)

The point is, aside from the Naked Essentials, limitations do not exist for the romance novelist. All the readers really want is a [fill in the blank:  inspiring, funny, sexy, entertaining, dramatic, challenging, thought-provoking, thrilling…] fix for their love addiction.

MORE is all anyone really wants once they've experienced being drunk on love, amiright?


So this Valentine's Day, my wish for you is MORE.  More love, more joy, more peace, more adventure, and most of all…more unputdownable books.


If you are a voracious romance reader (or even someone curious about the loyalty the romance genre draws) and want to learn more about the books that can make the coldest of hearts melt, I have a few resources and special offers for you:

Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels (How to Write Kissing Books) by Gwen Hayes. A highly recommended book for anyone wanting to learn about story structure for romance novels.

Prefer a course for your learning experience? Writing Romance in Today's Market OnDemand Webinar is being hosted by Writer's Digest and is offering the course 50% OFF! The course is 90 minutes and only $39.99. Maybe treat yourself to a little romance education. Offer ends 02/14/19 at midnight.

Romance Writers of America: The Voice of Romance Writers is a website and association created to advance the professional and common business interests of career-focused romance writers. This site proves invaluable to anyone interested in working with the romance genre, whether writing, editing, beta reading, etc.

Harlequin.com, synonymous with romance novels, is THE go-to site for your romance fix. Today, they are offering 50% OFF your purchase. Offer ends 02/14/19 at midnight!

And then if you're interested in learning more, in general, of the structure of a novel and a bit more about other bestselling genres, I'd love to gift you (FREE!) my ebook: Learning the Fundamentals of Fiction


So on that note, here's wishing you a day of roses and tingles in all the good places…wherever that may be.

Love you long time,




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