Genre Basics - Romance - article

One popular form of genre fiction is romance writing. Romance novels are typically slanted toward women and teenage girls. Many authors are interested in writing this type of novel, and there’s no doubt why. Powerhouse romance writers such as contemporary romance author Nora Roberts, with almost 200 titles to her credit, and young adult romance author Stephenie Meyer, with her juggernaut Twilight series, inspire wannabe writers like moths to a flame.

So what exactly is a romance novel? The main plot thread of this kind of story is about two individuals falling in love and their struggle to build a lasting relationship. Generally, the main characters, aka the hero and the heroine, are at the core inherently good. Because of this goodness, the characters’ journey will lead to a place of emotional fulfillment, which is always an upbeat moment full of optimism and hope.

Romance novels fall into two groups. The first group, called category or series romances, is meant to have a shelf life of about one month, similar to magazines. They are short in length, about 200 pages or 55K words. These stories are pared down and often lack subplots. The second group is standalone novels. These books are much meatier than series romances and often have several subplots. They are 350 to 400 pages in length with 90K to 110K words.

Romance novels have seven popular sub-genres. These sub-genres can appear in a series or in a standalone novel form. The following is a quick overview:


Contemporary romances tell the story of a romantic relationship in the “real world” in a time after 1945. These novels are located any place on Earth.


Regency novels are inspired by books of Jane Austen. These stories take place during the Regency period of the British Empire.


Historical romances are stories set before 1945, again located any place on Earth.


Inspirational romances are set in the real world and include the religious or spiritual beliefs of the romantic couple.


Paranormal romances include all fantasy, futuristic, or paranormal elements that occur within the context of romantic story. Yes, vampires, time travelers, zombies, elves, and fairies in love all belong here.

Romantic Suspense

Romantic suspense novels have thriller or mystery elements that are integral to the romantic plot.

Young Adult

Young adult romances are slanted strongly toward the sensibilities of a female teen audience.

Romance novels are perennial favorites and often find their way to the top of the bestseller lists. This genre of fiction is particularly resilient in the marketplace. For more in depth research, check out author Brenda Hiatt’s “Show Me the Money” article for a guide to the earning potential for this kind of novel, or investigate Romance Writers of America, a networking and advocacy organization for romance writers.

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