Why Writing an “Easy Read” is Actually Hard to Do


by Helena Fairfax


I’ve become used to people’s reactions these days when I say I write romance. People who have never read a romance novel either ask me if I’ve ever thought of writing a “proper book,” or else they give me a funny sort of leer, as though I’m some sort of soft-porn peddler. Romance novels are held by many to be a pretty low form of the written word. Another cliché is that they follow a “formula,” and that anyone could just scribble a romance if they put their minds to it.

Anyone who has actually put pen to paper and written an entire romance novel will know that it’s incredibly difficult to write a successful romance. There is no magic “formula” for writing a good romance, but romances do need to follow a certain structure. The hero and heroine are kept apart for the entire length of the novel because of a conflict within their own characters (Lizzie Bennett’s pride, for example, and Mr Darcy’s prejudice, in Jane Austen’s classic romance novel). There will be a series of situations that test this conflict to the limit, eventually resolving in a happy ending.

All great romances follow this structure, but they’re not easy to write. A sonnet has a structure that consists of fourteen lines, each with ten syllables, following this pattern: a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g. 

It sounds simple put like this, but give it a try – it’s actually very difficult to create a moving or meaningful poem that flows easily using this structure.

If I think of all the romance authors I love, like Georgette Heyer, Jennifer Crusie, Kristan Higgins, Courtney Milan, Mary Stewart, etc, they all write great stories that flow easily, and are such engrossing reads that I never consider how they’ve actually been written, or the way they fit the romance structure so perfectly. I’m too engrossed in their stories to notice how they’ve been crafted. And that’s exactly how it should be. So when people tell me that my novels are an “easy read,” I’m pleased as Punch. It means my job of writing them has been done well.




Guest post contributed by Helena Fairfax. Helena writes engaging contemporary romances with sympathetic heroines and heroes she’s secretly in love with. Her novels have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize, the Global Ebook Awards, and the I Heart Indie Awards. Her first novel was written through the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.

18 thoughts on “Why Writing an “Easy Read” is Actually Hard to Do

  1. This is so right! I catch myself chosing a specific book I know I’m going to love, because I like the author, and to focus on the structure, the way the author managed to pull me in and then… I’m hooked and finish the book only then realising “oops!” I completely got lost in the book – definitely a good sign for good writing.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You still need a believable plot to keep the story going. A weak plot that simply relies on just the romance to keep the interest becomes pretty boring – this is where good writing comes in, so no, not ‘anyone’ could do it!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So true! I write romance too and I’d say more than half the time a get a leer. 😕 But! Once in a while, when you tell someone who loves romance, the response is really great – even more so if you meet a fellow romance writer.

    So, kindred writing spirit, I feel your pain and appreciate your efforts to create art 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Writing a romance novel is delving into the soul of the characters. It’s understanding the basic instincts of human sexuality -the give and take of a relationship. It runs the gambit of emotion, and when well written the reader falls in love too….. Is there a formula? Yes, although it varies with the personality of each character. But there is always the first meeting, the growing interest, the battle or conflict which ends in surrender – not victory – for each will set-aside a part of themselves to permit the romance to finally blossom into the fulfillment of their passion and love.
    A well-written romance will long outlive pulp fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I completely understand where you are coming from. I’ve had the same response with the children’s books I’ve written. My first children’s picture book took a year to complete. Writing something worth reading is hard no matter the genre.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This reminds me of something else I read, where someone discussed how most stories have to strike a fine balance between what is familiar and what is unique or original, and that the ratio between the two varies depending on the taste of the audience.
    There’s that way in which a given audience says they want something “new”, but often what they really want is something that disguises the familiar, so that they don’t consciously recognize it, but subconsciously they are comforted by the underlying pattern, which gives them some assurance that the story will not betray their expectations.
    As you say, the audience needs to be so engrossed with the story that they don’t stop to consider how the story is doing what it does. The audience never steps back and considers the fact that they are reading a story. They’re too busy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so true about us being comforted by the underlying patterns in a story. It’s true no matter what the genre. We expect every story to lead to some sort of resolution, even if it ends in tragedy. Thanks so much for dropping in, and for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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