Before you say it, yes, I am absolutely biased regarding the topic of this blog post. I write category romance (romances written with certain guidelines in terms of reader expectations and length), and expanded into longer romances last year. In this case, biased also means experienced since, you know, this topic is my exact experience. Writing category romance prepares you for writing longer romances. Here’s how.
Category romance is a stripped-down version of a longer romance.
The most important elements of a romance novel are a minimum of two people falling in love, working on themselves to be in the relationship, and living happily ever after once they do. In category romances, which are about 50 000 words, this is basically all you can do. You have to establish two individual characters, figure out what’s keeping them from being together, and then help them sort that out. So, writing category helps hone the important elements of a romance novel. When you get to a longer romance, you’ll be able to do all this, while adding more. Subplots, secondary characters, as many settings as the story allows for you. All because your core elements are already there.
Category romance forces you to refine emotional conflict and characterisation.
When you don’t have subplots, secondary characters or countless settings in your book, there are fewer distractions for your reader. If your emotional conflict is lacking in any way, your reader will notice. If your characterisation is inconsistent, they will know. Now, I’m not saying authors of longer romances distract their readers by adding subplots, secondary characters, or settings. I’m saying that these aspects should enhance the novel in a way that contributes to conflict and characterisation. But that can only be done if the emotional conflict and characterisation are locked down. And writing category romance helps you do that.
Category romance allows you to explore tropes.
I’ve spoken about my love of tropes before, but that love is born from category romances, so of course, I will speak about it now again. In longer romances, tropes manifest themselves in different ways. High-concept ideas, marketable ideas; when you strip them down, they’re asking about what’s going to be hooking in your reader. Category romances are brazen and unapologetic in the way they attempt to hook the reader, hence those titles people like to make fun of. But the truth is, readers want to be hooked in by tropes. They want to read about marriages of convenience, or falling for a best friend’s sibling, or millionaires and billionaires. And because of category romance’s brazen and unapologetic approach to tropes, you can explore them as freely as you wish to.
Writing category romances might just be exactly what you need to do before exploring those longer romances…
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