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How to Start and Finish Your Romance Novel

When you have an idea that you think could make a fantastic romance novel, you may be so swept up in the excitement of the concept that you sit right down to write the book. Love! Romance! Happy endings! We get it. We love fresh sparkly ideas too, and there is no better feeling than falling in love with a new book idea.

 

But what happens after you give that idea the come-hither look? Once it’s just the two of you—writer and story—all alone, things can feel a lot less…romantic. Have you ever fallen out of love with an idea? Started a novel and abandoned it for the next sparkly thing? In this post, we’ll share tips for not just starting your romance novel strong, but making sure the spark leads to more than just one sizzling night. We want you to develop a long-term relationship with your romance novel idea. Committing through the highs and lows and making sure that your idea, that sparkly, love-eye emoji concept you have ends with a happy ever after—for both you and your novel.

The LTR

LTR stands for long term relationship. We don’t mean you need to delete that dating app off your phone. We’re talking about the idea you have for a romance novel. Once you come up with an idea—whether it’s a fairy tale retelling, an enemies-to-lovers historical, a gay space opera, or anything in between—ideas feel so, so good. But committing to a long term relationship with your sparkly new idea means day in, day out, navigating the highs and lows. Putting in the time. And reaching out for help when the going gets rough. If you want a happy ever after ending with your romance novel idea (and by that we mean you finished the book!) try these tips for starting strong and creating habits that will help you finish your romance novel.

How to Commit to a LTR with your Romance Novel

Know your functional writing speed

Do you know how many words you can write per minute? Per hour? If you don’t, time yourself. See how long it takes you to write just 250 words, but try this exercise two ways: 1) with no plan, just a vague idea for a scene; 2) with a rough outline for what you’re going to write. The average writer can write more than 1500 words an hour with a clear outline or plan for what to write. Time yourself with and without a plan. You don’t have to use a plot grid or complicated planning tools. You can just simply know you want to write the meet-cute, the first kiss, the dark night. Whatever it is, have a goal for your writing session and limit yourself by setting the timer on your phone. Try this several times and determine the range of how many words you write per hour. If you write 1500 words per hour with an outline and 350 without, you don’t HAVE to always have an outline, but you’ll be able to more realistically manage your time if you know what to expect. If you don’t have an outline, don’t expect to write 1500 that day. Setting yourself up to succeed over the long term starts with knowing what’s reasonable for you—on both super productive days and on your least productive days.

 Functional Writing Speed

Set a short-term goal and choose something you can measure: writing or revision

Once you know what to expect from a writing session, set a very short-term goal to accomplish some aspect of the writing process. Look ahead 30 days and choose either writing new words or revising existing words. Why? Studies have suggested that simple acts that take small amounts of time (approx. 15 minutes per day) can change behaviors permanently in around 66 days. 

Our society is structured in 30-day increments. Bills are due monthly, for example. Starting fresh every month is something we’re conditioned to 

understand so there’s no “new” effort involved in a monthly or 30-day long practice.

 If we function best looking at short horizons, keeping our goals simple is another way to ensure we meet the goal. If you’re setting a goal to accomplish some aspect of writing your romance novel, try spending the entire month making only one type of progress. If that goal is writing word count and making measurable progress on a draft, don’t confuse progress toward the goal of new words by spending time on something that requires a different focus, like revising. Set the goal clearly: you want to write 5,000 new words in 30 days. At the end of 30 days, you can evaluate your progress based on clear, objective measurements. Remember your functional writing speed? Knowing that will help you set an attainable short-term goal, not one that’s impossible or unrealistic for you.

Commit to minutes a day (not hours)

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Most authors fit in writing around everything else in life: chores, job, family, health issues, the worries of just being alive. Don’t think you need to write three hours per day. If you know your functional writing speed and can plan for 15 minutes a day, you can set up a goal that’s attainable over the long run. If it takes 15 minutes over 66 days to change a habit, then aim for the minimum of 15 minutes a day and aim for 30 days to start. If you can put in more time per day, you’ll just be that much closer to hitting the goal. And after the first 30-days, set another goal for the next 30. And repeat!

Plan a daily activity that you can easily manage

When you’re in a relationship, you’d expect to at least hear from the other person every day, right? Probably several times a day! The same applies to your romance novel. If you can spend 15 minutes a day on some activity related to your idea, you’re putting quality time into the process. Just like you wouldn’t ignore the object of your affection for a week and then expect things to feel perfect when you get together for date night, plan to give your novel attention every day, even if just for 15 minutes.

Vary the ways you spend your time

But…those 15 minutes a day do NOT (and I repeat) do NOT need to be spent actually writing. Non-writing time is like having a date night with your book idea.  Are you continuing to read romance novels? Are you working on understanding your brand, building a platform, or otherwise connecting with your community? These are valuable ways to stay connected to your romance novel. Doing research, creating inspiration boards—all of these count as tasks you can invest time in to make sure that when you do get back to the word count or revision goal that you’re fresh but not disconnected from the work.  

Give yourself days off

This is kind of like the hall pass in relationships. Even trying to build a 30-plan for keeping yourself on track to meet your goals should involve some rest or down time. Plan for them if you can, but know that there may be days when you have an expected setback or when your body, mind, or circumstances won’t give you even 15 minutes to yourself. That’s okay. This isn’t a race. You’re working toward building a long-term relationship with not only this book but your writing practice in general. And that means sometimes taking a healthy break from one another. It will be a true break (and not a break up) if you have a 30-day plan. Rest on Day 15 but then Day 16…back to goal!

Reach out to a support system

If your significant other was driving you bonkers, would you reach out to a friend? Doomscroll social posts? The same tools and resources are available to you as a writer. Maybe you’re not comfortable with a group or a Zoom or a workshop. That’s okay! Do you have writer YouTube channels or bookstagram accounts you follow? Connecting with others is a way to get out of your own head (literally) and remember why you’re doing this at all. Find your support system, and if you can’t find the one you want, create it.  

Track your progress

Do this in writing. Just like you wouldn’t write your book in your head, don’t let your goals be simply ideas. A 2015 study showed that people who write down their goals were 33% more successful reaching them than people who just kept the ideas in their heads. 

Use a notebook, a calendar, or take a course that provides daily checkpoints. 

Where did you start? A great idea and 300 words of notes? What’s your functional writing speed? Now figure out over 30 days how to spend your time so you make the most of your habits and schedule. Look at what’s possible if you spend ONLY 15 minutes a day for 30-days:

A person writes on average 1500 words spends 15 minutes a day writing. The same writer writes 17 days out of 30, spends 6 days outlining or roughing out a plan so they can be efficient on the writing days, and spends 5 days reading romance or working on blogging and social media. This writer takes 2 days off completely over the 30-day period.

How many words with only 15 minutes a day on 17 days out of 30 will the writer produce? 6,375 WORDS!! That’s literally 10% of a 60,000 word first draft. How did you accomplish this in only 15 minutes of writing time over 15 days? With a goal, a plan, and daily activities to get there.

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Know when you need professional help

Just like seeing a therapist when your relationship feels rocky, you may need professional help if your idea simply isn’t coming together. You can build healthy support into your 30-day plan. Attending free events for writers, taking courses, or reading craft books can help you get better at the mechanics of writing a romance novel. If you have a plan, a goal, and are sticking to it but you’re not feeling great about the work, reach out. There are so many blogs, tool, and even professional editors and book coaches who can provide expert guidance on writing craft.

Writing a romance novel is exciting and fun…until it’s not. The hard work and day-in-day out production of words can make your idea feel more like an enemy than a friend. By writing down clear, attainable goals to either write new words or revise an existing draft, including setting a realistic plan that involves small daily actions steps, you can take that romance novel idea from meet-cute to Happy Ever After.

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