My blog is usually about my personal experience with writing and trying to become published. I make no claims to be an expert at anything, I just hope my blog is relatable and offers a sense of connection to people in similar situations. That said, I have never written a 'how to improve your craft' blog, I write about things I have done and/or will do with no expectation of being a mentor of any kind. This one borders painfully on being a 'learn from me' moment. For that, I apologize. If you feel I'm being too teacher-y, just know that all of the comments below were inspired mistakes I have made and irritations at books I have read. I am not a published author. The no-no list shown below is my brainchild, born of experience in not getting published. I have learned through a lot of mistakes and am still trying to align the planets just so. That said, I will not be offended at all if you choose to correct and/or ignore me completely.
Romance Writers of America describes the romance genre:
Romance fiction is smart, fresh and diverse. Whether you enjoy contemporary dialogue, historical settings, mystery, thrillers or any number of other themes, there's a romance novel waiting for you!
Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.
Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific sub-genres within romance fiction.
With that in mind, here is my list of Romance Genre No-No's:
Do not get too gritty. Yes, things sometimes smell bad or are slimy or whatever. Chafing happens. Hygiene is a modern value. Do not forget that part of romance is the fantasy. We get enough of bodily functions in our real lives. The romance reading demographic wants to read about physical relationships without the mention of BO or flatulence.
Do not overdo euphemisms. I had a great time drinking one night with some friends. We sat around coming up with euphemisms for male genitalia. We got very creative and I swore never to use any of them in my writing. Why? If the scene is from your main character's point of view, then the penis should be called whatever your character would call it. I doubt many people, in the throws of passion, would call it his 'lance of power.' What's worse? A reader starting to get into the scene may well start to giggle. I know some of the more crude sounding terms might be what the character would use to label their bits and pieces and, out of context, those words might come off as vulgar. However, if the scene is well written and the reader is engrossed in the moment (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), the words might seem more natural than 'man rod' or 'sweet, honeyed crevasse.'
Do not use sex gratuitously. What? Isn't that what romance books are all about? No. They are about the two main characters falling in love. Sex is part of that, but the story is not about sex. Passionate scenes should only happen to further the story. Sex should be included only as a natural progression for the characters, and only if it's integral to the story.
Do not be a history teacher (note to self): You are telling a story about romance. You are not teaching a course on the social mores or costume design of the insert era here period. Be accurate and do your research. Give explanations to help the reader (assume they know nothing about Restoration England or whatever) but cut out whatever is not necessary to the story. The story is the star -- the history is just a backdrop.
Do not be a tease: If you write sweet romance, your story has a more emotional arc than physical. While the physical still plays a part, be careful not to have too many heated glances or allusions to the physical chemistry or have too many kisses that go nowhere. I, personally, don't find that believable. Also, it's frustrating to read ten pages of heavy breathing and soft caresses, and then have the lights dim, bringing us to the next scene where they were both sated the next morning. Come on. You tease.
Do not be afraid to laugh: I think many romance authors forget disregard laughter in lieu of something more intense. Of course, we must have conflict -- conflict is a romance genre (fiction in general) requirement. But do not forget that romances, overall, are feel-good books. While conflict is expected, if it is not kept in check or balanced out it oftentimes adds a dark feeling to the story. Don't get me wrong, a little bit of darkness can be engrossing, I just have to be able to still have faith in the happily-ever-after. Poignant moments along the way add true depth, but I've read many stories where the conflicts coalesced into one big downward spiral where, when the happy ending magically happens, it's no longer believable. To balance out the terror, depression, etc., do not be afraid to be silly. Is humor a facet of your characters? Are they irreverent? Witty? Slapstick? Don't be afraid to let your character laugh at an inappropriate moment. Don't be afraid to make your reader laugh. Some of the best books have been one's that made me laugh and cry.
That's all I can think of for now, beside making sure your cover has something to do with your story (but then, that's not really the author's decision). Any ideas? What did I miss?