This product was mentioned in
with an average of
My favorite Romance writing resource is Gwen Hays Romancing the Beat. It's a very quick read. I'd give even odds that you've already read it, but if you haven't it might be worth flipping through on your vacation. I know you enjoy writing craft books.
3 explicit sex scenes out of 40k words would be a pretty standard number of sex scenes for a romance that was not explicitly attempting to hit the Sweet-&-Clean or Christian romance markets.
Romance has to follow a particular story arc from meet cute through to Happily Ever After or Happy For Now. That's it. Everything else—the precise story arc, the amount of sex, the number of side charac ters, the presence of lack of magic, dragons or space ships—is irrelevant to whether or not your story is a romance. You could have written a book about a spacelord dragonrider bear shifter who shoots lasers out of his eyes and spends the entire book with his dick inside your heroine as he battles an army of sentient seahorses, and as long as it goes through the necessary romance beats and the romance arc is the A plot, you'd still have written a romance book.
There are a few places to find out the exact beats that are expected, but nobody lays them out quite as well as Gwen Hayes, and nothing will distill the lessons she teaches you as much as reading a LOT of books in the genre/niche you intend to write in, so you can internalise the wy the beats play out in different stories.
>Is there a list of the top most common tropes in Romance that EVERY romance must have one of?
No, there isn't. You might be confusing tropes with beats? Like the plot points and specific events in a romance to qualify it as a romance. This book breaks down the required scenes in romance really well.
Stuff like this:
>"enemies to friends", "instant love", "fake dating" as well as the popular "portal" trope
definitely isn't required in every single romance novel. Romance is so broad, the most popular tropes are always going to shift according to market demands. It's never stagnant enough to make a definitive list.
Certain subsets of readers will always have their preferences too. Some will only read billionaires but never vampires. Some only want sweet, charming heroes, others only want mafia bosses who kidnap the heroine.
You might be talking about writing erotic romance? Romance books have a very distinct set of "beats" they need to hit, and I'd highly recommend reading Gwen Hayes' Romancing the Beat to get a decent handle on them. Romance books can have as much or as little sex as you like and at any heat level, but you'll want to find the sort of thing you want to write on Amazon and read a few of those books to get a feel for what reader expectations will be. This applies even if you decide that you don't want to write stories that fit the romance genre and end up writing erotica novels. Find similar books and read them for patterns. If you can't find similar books to what you want to write there is a very high probability that the market for them doesn't exist.
As for the second part, yes, it can work, but you generally want the toxic relationship to be just-or-recently ended, or ending, when the story begins. Readers don't generally want to read about one of the main characters being with someone else, and the dude ending up in the dust would always be a sort of secondary bonus to the HEA/HFN and building relationship of the main couple, in a romance novel (even a filthy, smutty one). The romance arc is always the A plot. A shitty ex can work as a side plot, but my experience is that spending a great deal of story time on the emotional dynamic between one of the main characters and a side character doesn't work well.
Hope that helps!
"I guess I need to figure out just how seksi-time I'm going to make my romance novels. Are erotic romances where it's at? Or should I aim for straight up romance (i.e. less graphic seksi times, less seksi times in general)?"
Romance is wide-open (er, so to speak) in terms of how sexy you make it, but there's something that many erotic authors discover when they start writing romance: romance readers have their own expectations, and it's important to meet those expectations when you write romance. Pick up a copy of -- at least -- Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes. (And there are a lot of resources about romance floating around the Net.) Romance readers are more interested in the developing relationship between well-written characters -- the chase -- than the capture: "seksi times". Doesn't mean that erotic is right out the door: you just have to make it part of the story rather than the whole story.
Update (for my own satisfaction):
Hit 3.4K on the first few scenes of a possible romance novel. I also completed a first draft of an outline using Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes, which I am sure I saw recommended somwhere here on EA and it was a massive help.
Romance doesn't say it can't be explicit. Romance can run the gamut from explicit sex scenes all the way to implied sex scenes behind closed doors after the couple is married.
Romance has to have a happy ending, either happily for now or happily ever after. It has to have the relationship as the main plot (although you can have character driven stories in romance, the readers might think they are odd, but they won't ding you for it - in fact, if you do it well, they might even like you more for it). There needs to be a dark night of the soul - this is usually a break up, but it could just be considering that the they are going to give up the relationship and not actually follow through with it. Romance needs a grand gesture. This is the extraordinary act where the heroine (usually) is finally convinced that the hero is all in.
The explicitness of the sex scenes should never be a consideration of whether or not it's romance. If it hits all the Romance beats, then it's Romance.
If you don't know what you're writing, chances are you don't understand Romance. I strongly suggest Romancing the Beat. It will be the best $4 you ever spend.
Romance is actually very simple. All romance novels
follow a similar formula. To write effective romance, you need to understand two things: romantic story arc, and how to write emotion and conflict.
I’m going to point you to two resources I recommend to all my romance writer clients:
First is a book called Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes (a fellow romance editor). It costs less than $6 on Amazon and you can read it cover to cover in less than an hour. RTB will explain the formula for romantic story arc. Once you understand that, you can just plug your chosen setting, characters, etc. into the formula.
The second is Writing With Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: by Cheryl St. John (a romance writer). This book will teach you how to take your emotional conflict to the next level to really gut-punch your readers right in the feels.
Now go wrench some hearts, little fledgling romance writer. You got this. 👊🏼
Read this book
Read this FAQ (a lot of it is applicable)
Read a LOT of books in your niche. I don't care if you don't like them. Read them.
Everything from pacing to heat level to blurb style will depend on your niche choice, so you need to know it well if you want to succeed.
Yay! Welcome to the land of kissing books!!
Step 1: read romance.
Step 2: read more romance. (Repeat steps 1-2 many, many times)
Step 3: read Gwen Hayes' Romancing the Beat
Step 4: I found A LOT of support about writing and self-publishing from the r/eroticauthors sub. Really generous community with highly practical advice. I highly recommend digging through that sub, especially u/the_gorgon's wonderful posts like this one about research.
Best of luck!
Buy this book.
Study a romance sub-genre (like this one: [link]), then test the market with three or four short (15-20k word) novellas. You'll know when you hit. Releasing new ones every 2-3 weeks is golden. Make sure your covers and blurbs are top notch.
Killer book on the romance beat structure: [link]