I wasn't always a romance writer. I've dabbled in a few other genres before I finally settled into straight romance. My speculative fiction always had elements of romance, but when I made the switch to pure romance, I realized I had a lot to learn.
First, romance readers have specific requirements for the stories they love. A certain type of hero. A plot that is focused on the romance. This was something that was so far from what I'd been doing previously. In a fantasy novel, the focus is on the plot--the good prince overcoming the evil queen. There might be a princess that catches the prince's eye. There might even be some kissing. But the romance is NOT the core of the novel.
To make the romance the focus took some practice for me. I kept trying to introduce other plot elements, and each time, I failed on creating a romance novel that a romance reader would actually like.
Back to the drawing board.
I wrote two or three romances before I started figuring out how to organize the series of events in my novel. I did quite a bit of research also, using tools like Blake Snyder's Save the Cat beat sheets and reading blogs.
I've been writing for a while. I know how to draft, create characters, edit and revise. But I didn't know how to make the romance the focus of the entire novel!
I've written several more romances now, and I think I'm finally getting a grip on the specific points that need to be hit in a romance. Here's what I've come up with, after reading on several prominent romance blogs, talking to my romance-writing friends, and cobbling together my own writing experience.
1. Hero/heroine meet -- this should happen in the first chapter. A "meet cute" is a popular way to get the characters on the page together.
2. Get to know you -- the characters get to know each other, and the reader learns about the hero and heroines pasts, their flaws, etc. The characters don't know about the other's flaws yet.
3. External forces that require the hero and heroine to be together. There's internal forces too.
4. External forces that are keeping the hero and heroine apart. There's internal forces at play here too. Everyone in romance wants to see both the hero and heroine overcome their internal weaknesses.
5. False high -- this usually happens at the midpoint. I like to put a kiss right in the middle of the book. It's my false high.
6. Flaws exposed. Through a series of events, both the hero and heroine are made away of the other's flaws. They further strengthen their internal forces that are keeping them apart.
7. Black moment -- This is also called the dark night of the soul, and it's when the break-up happens. There's always something that happens that forces both characters to admit that their relationship CAN'T work. But the reason it can't work? It's usually something internal they need to get over, change, and admit that the way they've been living/thinking/feeling is flawed.
8. Grand gesture -- the character with the biggest flaw, and the most to lose, has to make the grand gesture to get the other one back.
9. Happily Ever After -- I love the HEA moment! It's the fairy tale we all dream about, isn't it? Yes, it is!
How do you organize your romance novels? I'm still learning, so I'll take any tips and hints I can get.