I didn’t know this when I started writing category romance, but apparently there is some stigma out there against category romance authors and the books they write. These stories are viewed as “easy” and “a practice step that leads to bigger stories.” Because these books are shorter, generally 50,000-60,000 words, and have very specific guidelines, that must mean anyone can write them and there isn’t a whole lot of work involved. The publisher has basically spelled out the recipe in their guidelines. All you have to do is make a cake with those ingredients, right?
What a load of crap!
There is no way in hell writing category romance is easier to write than any other story. In fact, I find it harder because I have to keep within a certain guideline while covering all elements covered in a single title romance. Case in point, my current work in progress has a word maximum of 60,000 words, but I’m currently hovering about 60,500 and I’m only in the middle of the book for revisions. I will have to go through the book one last time after this round to cut what isn’t necessary or important to the storyline.
So why put myself through these strict guidelines when single title allows me to come in at whatever word count I choose?
In my life, I was raised and taught that unless a goal is challenging me, forcing me to evolve or grow, it’s not worth doing. I’ve taken this lesson to heart in nearly every aspect of my life, specifically my writing career.
I go big or go home in everything I set out to accomplish. For this current work in progress I’ve chosen the top category romance publisher in the globe as a goal publisher and I’m going to do everything I can in order to accomplish that goal.
That means I’ve rewritten this book four times and every revision has challenged me in new and unexpected ways. Sure, the edits can get frustrating to the point I want to say, “To hell with it,” but I can see the progress in this book and in myself from each round. And for me, that’s worth the work.
Besides, accomplishing such an improbable and impossible goal really is that much sweeter when I cross the finish line.
I see the actual category guidelines as a plus instead of a restriction. I like having certain elements set out for me. Word count, for one. I can calculate how many words I need in each chapter and how many chapters total in the book. That sets a goal for me rather than “pantsting” the book with no finish line in sight.
In the case of my Entangled book, Her Fallen Protector, I was also told up front by the publisher the romance to paranormal ratio [usually 80% romance/ 20% paranormal] whereas Harlequin Intrigue emphasizes that there would be no romance without the suspense. This guideline alone tells me what’s more important to the publisher and the reader concerning these imprints and I’ll save myself time and frustration by adhering to that guideline.
Other elements such as what type of hero the readers of the category line respond to better opens me up to higher sales (same goes for the heroine), having the heat level defined ensures I’m keeping focused on what’s more important to my readers, and I’m given the option for how many subplots can weave throughout the story.
In reality, the strict guidelines publishers ask for a specific line of books helps the author more than hinders, in my opinion. Because then I’m not wasting mine or the editor’s time.
I love reading series. I love the idea of romances following a group of people, each member of the group finding love on their own while other characters make appearances every once in a while.
Probably somewhere close to 90% of contracted category romances are contracted with an entire series in mind. Because of this, I’ve had to plan two to three books ahead for my pitch alone and while I’m sure the pitches for the other books in this series will change, I have clear ideas of where I want the books and the series to go.
This saves me time, forces me to stay consistent, and allows me to contract more than one book at a time. On the reader side, I’m giving my audience a bigger chance to fall in love with my characters and follow them to the end, which results in readers looking for more of my books. Better for everyone all around.
Have you considered writing category romance? Get in touch with me with any questions!