Writing Romance Novels Online: Three Things I’ve Learned So Far

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Like many others romance readers out there I can’t help but write my own stories, taking inspiration from the likes of Jane Austen, Janette Oke, Talia Hibbert, and Jenny Han (I have a very specific palette that has been perfected over the years). I even hope to be able to share my stories one day with a wide audience that’ll love my characters as much as I do. (Fingers crossed)

In the meanwhile, I’ve always been very big on sharing my work online. I’ve written on this blog before about how I started sharing my work online on a blog and then on the now extinct writing communities, Inkpop and Figment. I could never really get a hang of Wattpad, but have recently started trying to post in hopes of finding a writing community similar to the one I had before… Spoiler, it hasn’t been working too well, but honestly, that’s on me. I haven’t been trying as hard as I should. But, I digress.

There’s a ton of things that go into making a romance novel work. And there’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re sharing your process with readers in real time. This isn’t a how to write a romance novel post. This is how I’ve learned how to share a romance novel online, without compromising my story.

1. Don’t put three-act structures in every, single chapter

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Releasing chapters weekly mimics the style of an episodic show. I refer to is as the monster of the week syndrome. The writer will have a chapter that sets up a problem, action rises, and it’s resolved by the end. Wash, rinse, repeat.

This style worked for me considering I was focused on making my chapter as exciting as possible for my audience, once a week. And it’s almost always necessary for any writer who specializes in this version of serial fiction in the 21st century – where attention spans are decreasing because of the endless content begging to be consumed – to keep the conflict rising and falling. But, since I want to one day edit my online works into novels it’ll be difficult time revising 50k+ words of so many highs and lows. It’s smarter to keep the bigger picture in mind and not just how I’m going to make this chapter as attention-grabbing as possible.

2. Flesh out my leads before I post anything

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I have this habit where I really pay close attention to my lead male while leaving my lovely, leading lady on the back burner. Maybe I’m just living out my fantasies – there’s nothing wrong with that. But, when it comes to really getting serious about having a well-round plot I need both characters to be fully formed individuals.

If my characters aren’t fully formed before I share them with people online I’ve noticed they begin morphing into stereotypes. People would comment on one of my character’s personality and I would take whatever they observed and ran with it – especially when it came to side characters. And this was a lazy co-op because I figured since the readers already had a sense of who someone was I didn’t have to work hard enough to create a more human character.

3. I’m not writing the Gospel, so changing it later on is perfectly acceptable.

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Fix it in post is a film-making phrase I’ve adapting in many aspects of my life. It embodies the mood of keep moving forward. And it works perfectly for novel writing online. A first draft is going to be crappy. No matter if I’m sharing it online or not. Sure, I clean up the grammar and spelling before I hit that publish button on Wattpad. But, whatever I write I have to understand that it’s not going to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be perfect to share. And most importantly, it’s not going to be forever.

I’m not married to anything on that page. And if I decide to change a major plot point in chapter fifteen when my readers on now on chapter twenty, so be it. Either they’ll be fine with going back or fine with finding someone they thought was dead is now back and fighting for the lead’s hand in marriage… You get the idea.

I have to keep in mind that putting down words is all that matters at first. Got to get out of the bad before I start chipping away in search for the good.

 

It’s definitely a push and pull when it comes to sharing in-progress work online. But, a part of me will always be interested in hearing others’ opinions about my newly developed drafts. Maybe one I’ll learn to keep things to myself until they’re fully formed. But, for now, I’m happy with sharing my stories when they’re in their genesis.

Falling Again for a Talia Hibbert Novel: Untouchable

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What happens when a bad boy becomes a man? 

I was introduced to Talia Hibbert earlier this year when she was interviewed on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. And I can honestly say at that moment, I was a fan. Not with just of her writing – which is incredible – but her story. Our lives seemed to intersect in strange ways that made me feel like maybe if she could do this writing thing, I had a shot at it too. I look up to her in so many ways, but I digress – as much as I could gush over her, I’ll focus on the book review.

When I read A Girl Like You – the first book in the Ravenswood Series – I saw myself in Ruth in ways I’ve never myself in a book character… ever. Once Untouchable was announced and I learned the heroine, Ruth’s sister, Hannah suffered from depression, anticipation set in. I have suffered from depression since I was in my early teens. Reading about a character of color that not only was open with her depression but was able to find a partner who didn’t look for ways to fix her made me feel more hopeful about own mental health journey.

The Premise:

Untouchable‘s hero, Nate, a reformed bad boy, and widower moves back to the small town of Ravenswood with his two young children. He cares for his sick mother and is a creative consultant/photographer. He keeps all the fun parts of teen/early twenties rebellion: tattoos and piercings. But is mature enough to understand his emotions and not become too broody that he makes the reader want to scream in dissatisfaction. When Hannah bumps into Nate – who also so happens to have been her childhood crush – she learns he’s searching for a live-in nanny and she decides to offer her services… No matter the obvious attraction the two still have for one another after all those years.

The Romance:

Hannah and Nate are partners in every sense of the word. There’s plenty of steamy and swoon-worthy moments throughout the novel – a garden scene that will simply blow your mind – but my absolute favorite scenes between the two happen when Hannah is being as open as possible about her mental illness. And Nate listens with an open heart and even offers insight to his own experiences with feeling depressed in the past.

One of my favorite exchanges between the two comes towards the end of the novel (spoilers, perhaps?) where Hannah is pulling away from Nate in fear of their relationship is centered around sex. Nate is quick to let Hannah he’s willing to do anything because “Sex isn’t as important as being close to you” (Chapter 20). And afterward he checks in to make sure she’s in an okay mental space and it’s just… *sigh* So incredibly genuine and kind and a perfect representation of how someone can respectfully support their partner when mental illness is in the picture. Hibbert knows how to balance heart and lust. Like all of her novels I’ve read before, Untouchable had amazing representation and a couple that reminds me why I love romance.

10/10 would recommend if you love smart, complex heroines, supportive men, mental health representation, and steamy romance.

Aesthetics: 

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Some of my favorite lines:

There’s a difference between refusing to feel shame and setting yourself up for a fall. (Chapter 5)

Jesus. She hadn’t been this into a shadow since she’d watch Peter Pan as a kid. (Chapter 8)

Because people, she knew, could care about you – could love you, even – and still fuck you over if they thought is was necessary. (Chapter 22)

“Well, you pin all your self-worth on external validation, you have to be the best at everything to consider yourself even slightly accomplished, and you apparently don’t think someone can like you enough to put up with a week of weird behavior and an awkward moment in a garden.” (Chapter 23)

What Happened When I Consciously Looked for a Meet Cute

From the outside, the dating world terrified me. At twenty-two years old I’d never had so much as a first kiss let alone a boyfriend. And that fact made me self-conscious and hesitant when it came to talking to a romantic interest. Being shy and socially anxious didn’t help matters. Back then, I looked at my life as though it was a story, purposefully unfolding with grace. Since my love life had yet to commence then, it meant it wasn’t time. I continued believing this up until my senior year of college.

At the beginning of my senior year, I was finally on the road to recovery in terms of my depression and anxiety. The messy battle that included a dark breakdown made me realize my life isn’t some book plot. It’s much more complicated than anything on paper and here’s no writer carefully plotting my HEA (happily ever after). Hell, there wasn’t even one plotting a little bit of flirtation. And if there was one they were doing a terrible job at getting things started. I got tired of trying to figure out if my author was suffering from writer’s blocks or planned to leave me single until further notice. It was time to shake off the notion that something would unfold without me triggering the rising of action. My plan? Like many other people of my generation, I joined a dating app. Creative, huh?

Even though I had a new attitude towards putting a conscious effort in my dating life I still tried to keep a little skepticism in my every interaction online. We’ve all heard of horror story after horror story of people coming across a mixed assortment of the sleaziest individuals dating online. I decided if anything this would be an experiment on how life would look like if I cautiously put myself out there. I told myself to not have any hopes of finding “the one.” Just pure curiosity on what it felt like to date. And after two months of text conversations with guys ranging from Marines to gas station owners, I found him.

He scares me in a ‘wow, maybe there was some writer busy penning this character’ way. Perhaps the reason they took so long is that it is complicated to write a decent hero. Ask any romance writer.

We meet on Bumble and spoke on there for one night. I cut the conversation short so I could get back to finishing an assignment, but not before offering him my actual number. Two months later we met at a movie theater to see a horror movie he was beyond excited to watch. I hugged him when I walked up to greet him and when I pulled away I translated his expression to one of surprise. And after talking to him before the lights dimmed and the movie started I concluded he wasn’t interested in me in a romantic way anymore. He had kept his eyes forward most of the time when answering any of my questions. I would laugh but his smiles were harder to come by. His answers to my questions were amazing though and right off the bat, I knew he was someone I wanted to know. The feeling didn’t seem to be mutual from my perspective.

Later that night, when I got back to my dorm to change into something more comfortable and give myself an ‘it was just for the experience’ pep talk, my phone buzzed. It was a long text from him and the main part that stood out to me was one line, “You have my attention.”

I’m not writing this to say make an account on Bumble because there you will meet an individual blooming with meet cute/relationship potential. I’ll give it to you straight, in two months of talking to people online I had only gone out once. I got very lucky that the once was enough for me to find someone who I am now in an amazing relationship with. What I am saying is that the perfect meet-cute isn’t always the markers of a budding romance. His and mine was quite uneventful – and to the outside eye, boring. But, it did what it needed to do which was get two people together with the hopes they’d enjoy one another’s company.

Meet-cutes in books, television, and movies are very precise. Though a good writer makes it look effortless, nothing can change the fact that the meeting is heavily edited. Life can’t be like that, no matter how hopeful you are. From now on I’m saving my hope for happy accidents when it comes to consuming romance stories. Life’s more fun when you’re being conscious of your involvement in creating your own story.