Love ..on paper – What it takes to write a contemporary romantic novel.

Love makes the world go round. All you need is love. Love is all around you ! 

No, I’m not just randomly quoting love songs. The fact that there are so many songs with love as the central theme proves how much we love to love. 

Romantic movies are big hits and romantic books are the biggest bestsellers worldwide. Yet, the rules of love have changed. We live in times where we’re all rather self-obsessed. 

When we all live for ourselves, true love is hard to find and even harder to hold on to.

Literature has always been (and will always be) a reflection of the times we live in. I’m one of Jane Austen’s biggest fans. But let’s face it; love in the 19th century was very different to love in 2014. It follows then that a romantic novel, today, will be very different to a romantic novel set in earlier times.

Yet, so many first-time writers are seemingly oblivious to this basic fact. Just because you are writing about love, that doesn’t mean that your story should be clichéd, cheesy and unrealistic. Yes, we love romance. And yes, romance is all about escapism. But that doesn’t mean that romance can’t be realistic.

So here’s what it takes to write a contemporary romantic novel:

Believable characters: This is one of the most important ingredients of a good novel. Your characters must be easy to relate to. A reader should know people like your characters in real life. Or at least people who have some of the same characteristics. A drop dead gorgeous male character that is shy? Non-existent! In reality, any man who is even marginally good-looking is aware of it and will have no problem approaching women. So before you start penning the greatest romantic novel of our era, spend some time charting out your characters. Are they likeable? Are they earnest? Will your reader empathize with them? Would you like them if you met them in real life?

     An enjoyable read: It is said that you should write the book you want to read. So think back to the books you’ve read that you have absolutely loved. Why did you like them so much? What was it about the book that appealed to you? Was it the realism of the book? The humour? The goosebumps that you got when the protagonists finally kissed? Now try and incorporate the same elements in your book. Note; there’s a huge difference between being inspired and between copying someone else’s work. Every great novelist, film director and scriptwriter has been inspired by other artists. You can learn how to write a page-turner by reading bestsellers. You’ll notice that every good romantic novel has one thing in common; as soon as you start reading it, you want to know what will happen next.  Here’s how to determine if you’re reading a good book:

1.    You HAVE to know what happens next and can’t put it down

                    But at the same time:

2.    You want to savour it. You don’t want it to end and are sad when you finish it!

 –   Originally ‘you’: Every story that can be written has already been written. If you look at bestsellers in the romantic genre, you will find similarities in terms of characters and plot. What sets books apart is how they are written. It’s the little things that make all the difference. So use your embarrassing moments, the crazy characters in your family, heartache, unrequited love and stories of your friends’ first loves in your novel! Your experiences (and those of your friends and family) are known only to you. And these are what will ultimately set your novel apart. 

–    And last but the most important point of all, writing is all about practice. The more you write, the better you get at it. So keep writing. Start small; start with blog posts, short stories and freelance articles. You’ll get better as you practice and when you have a winning idea for a romantic novel, you’ll be able to write one people will absolutely love!

A happy valentines day to all the readers ! 

— By Anjali Kirpalani

Author of the popular contemporary novel ‘Never Say Never’. Former anchor/producer for ET NOW, her short story ‘Reality Check’ is part of the anthology ‘25 Strokes of Kindness.’ 

This 26-year old is the former Editorial head for the fashion website, and has written for magazines like O-The Oprah Magazine in South Africa and Yuva in India. She has also written three radio drama scripts for Lotus fm in South Africa, where she was also an RJ, and guest blog posts on relationships for 

Anjali is currently writing her second novel. 

   A mentorship series on writing effectively and beautifully. You can find previous posts here


4 thoughts on “Love ..on paper – What it takes to write a contemporary romantic novel.

Leave a Reply