Romance Writing Tips: Are You Writing In The Right Subgenre?

By Cynthia Sax on November 27, 2017

2017 has been a tough year for many Romance writers. Sales have been challenged. Some reading buddies have been concentrating on other things (like politics). A few writing buddies are considering leaving this otherwise wonderful profession. They’re thinking about taking a break or walking away from it completely.

Before you make that decision, I hope you will ask yourself one additional question.

Am I writing in the right subgenre of romance?

When I started writing, I was told to write what I loved. I loved Regency Romances. I read all types of romances but that was my favorite subgenre at that time. I wrote a massive, absolutely awful Regency Romance. I had fun writing it. I thought it was good (at the time).

I sent it to an editor-for-hire who specialized in Historical Romances. He read it (winces) and then asked me what research I did for this story. I hadn’t done any. He asked me if I was interested in historical research. Other than the history of warfare, I’m not very interested in historical research. I certainly didn’t have an interest in gowns or food or any of those tiny yet important details.

He then asked why I was writing Historical Romance if I didn’t like a huge component of it. (He also said I didn’t have the voice for it but that’s an entire different post.)

That was the last Historical Romance I’ve ever written. It is the wrong subgenre for me. I could have forced myself to do the research and, if I had worked hard at it, I likely could have written an okay story.

But there’s no place in this crowded market for okay stories. And there’s no need to write okay stories, not if we can write wonderful stories, stories we were meant to write.

I explored a few more subgenres. Writing these stories was a blast. Some of them were published and reading buddies seemed to enjoy them.

Then I had a string of writing business disasters (almost all involved publishers). Combine that with not yet having a breakout hit and I was seriously considering writing only for me. Writers write. That is what we do. We don’t have to publish those stories, however. That’s a choice.

I wrote Releasing Rage for me. I poured all of my emotions and many of the things I loved into that story. Out of pure curiosity, I had previously talked with scientists and entrepreneurs about cyborgs, how they could be mass produced, how they could possibly have babies, etc. (Looking back, this was an obvious clue that maybe I should be writing Cyborg Romance. – grins) As I mentioned, I have a love for the history of warfare (especially strategy) and I incorporated that. I enjoy writing fight scenes and put some of those scenes into the story. There was sex, of course. I love writing sex scenes. I didn’t have any explosions in Releasing Rage but the potential was there.

Cyborg and SciFi Romance has everything I love writing in it and I don’t think it is a coincidence that this was the subgenre in which I finally found some reading buddies. There were other factors (like two of the top writers in Cyborg Romance being on a break) but being in the right subgenre definitely helped.

It also made me happier as a writer. I was writing what I loved to write, had found a place in Romanceland in which I fit. That’s magical and will likely sustain me when I go through another dry sales spell (because that WILL happen – it happens to every writer).

Before quitting or taking a break from the writing, consider looking at what you love to write, what you research for fun, what people say you write well, what you feel genuine joy writing. Are all of those components valued by reading buddies in a certain subgenre? Is that the subgenre in which you’re currently writing? If it isn’t, maybe that’s the true issue. Or maybe it isn’t but isn’t it worth at least investigating?


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Seeking Vector

A cyborg with a secret… A female seeking the truth…

Vector, the C Model captain of the Freedom, is a cyborg many warriors wish to emulate. He fights fiercely, leads with honor, has earned the respect and loyalty of his crew. But no being, not even a cyborg, is perfect. Since arriving at the Homeland, Vector has been hiding a dark truth about his past. If his secret is exposed, he could lose everything – his position, his ship, and his life.

Kasia excels at uncovering secrets. Half a lifespan ago, her curiosity placed her on the Humanoid Alliance’s kill list. Now she has accessed information the cyborg council would prefer remain hidden. Their warriors are hunting her and won’t rest until she’s dead.

When Vector arrives on her battle station, all grim determination, gray skin, and bulging muscles, Kasia knows he has been sent to kill her. That doesn’t stop her from wanting the dominant cyborg. She senses the savage nature under the male’s controlled exterior, sees the mysteries in his brilliant blue eyes, craves the roughness of his touch. She will risk all she has to experience his embrace.

Kasia braved the cyborg council’s ire for a reason. If she doesn’t convince Vector to act on the information she uncovered, the enemy could destroy his home planet and render every cyborg in the universe immobile.

Can a doubting C Model warrior learn to trust and to love before it is too late?

Seeking Vector is Book 10 in the Cyborg Sizzle series and is a STAND-ALONE story.
It is also a Cyborg SciFi Romance.

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Is There A Market For This Book?

By Cynthia Sax on August 11, 2017

I’ve seen quite a few posts lately from writers deep in the depths of despair because they want to write a certain type of story but have been told there is no market (i.e. readership) for it.

I want to set a romance in Thailand but I was told there’s no market for it.

I want to write a romance with an Irish heroine and a Chinese hero but I was told there’s no market for it.

I want to write a romance with a heroine who competes in marathons but I was told there’s no market for it.

I agree that having a market for a story is important. Very few of us want to spend months or years working on a story and have that story read by only three people. We want as many readers as possible for our beloved stories.

But our stories are more than the setting or the characters’ racial background or the characters’ jobs. We have our choice of what to focus on while marketing our stories.

Let’s look at our imaginary romance set in Thailand.

He’s a Navy SEAL, battered and scarred in a past mission, looking for redemption. She’s a virgin with a secret. (I’d say secret baby but she’s a virgin so…). There’s danger and an awesome baddie and hot scorching sex.

Why would we focus on the Thailand setting when promoting the story (to publishers or to reading buddies)? A romance with a Navy SEAL hero has a much bigger market. So does a romance with a virgin heroine. Sure, setting the story in Thailand makes the story special but hit folks with the things they already know they like first, and THEN mention the unique setting.

But-But-But my story doesn’t have any other marketable elements, you say.

Dig deeper because I suspect it does.

You wrote a romance. Is it love at first sight? A reunion love? Friends to lovers? Enemies to lovers? A workplace romance? Wrong bed (i.e mistaken identity)? A rebound relationship?

EVERY type of romantic hook up has a market. Almost every hero personality type has a market also (manwhore hero, geek hero, virgin hero, beast hero, iceman hero, etc). Tone has a market (comedy, sweet, sexy, dark, etc). If you study your story, you will likely find dozens of markets.

Note that I haven’t said ‘Rewrite your story.’ Whenever the topic of finding a market comes up, some writers push back and say their creativity can’t be constricted to a market. They don’t want to write generic cookie-cutter books.

Okay. Generic cookie-cutter books don’t sell. They’re boring and I don’t know any writer who writes these. And we’re talking marketing/promotion, not about the actual story. Write your non-traditional romance but consider marketing it first to readers who love non-traditional romances and second to readers who like heroines with gluten-free diets.

Which market should you focus on?

I look first and foremost at whether or not my story will make readers in my chosen markets happy. Does the story meet the readers’ expectations? Maybe my hero isn’t beastly enough to make the beast hero readers happy. But hey, he’s very much a virgin. He’ll make those readers ecstatic.

Then I look at the size of the market. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. If the market is too big, my story might get lost in it. On the other hand, if the market consists of two people, then I should directly contact those two people and forget the marketing. (grins) I like a happy medium.

I also consider the reading buddies I already know and love. Will this angle interest them? Clearly, if it is a cyborg romance, I will mention that first. Many of my reading buddies love cyborg romances.

This last point meshes with writer branding. If I want to be known as a writer of virgin heroines, for example, (whispers – I don’t) I will mention virgin heroines early in my marketing.

Having the right market for our stories doesn’t guarantee they will sell but it certainly does increase the odds. And hey, in this business, we need the best odds possible. (grins)


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Dark Flight

His mission. His challenge. His forever.

Orol, the Refuge’s second-in-command, has been given what he believes is a simple mission—escort two human females to the settlement. The winged warrior arrives at the meeting site to find one of the females missing and the other aiming a gun at his head. To rescue the first, he must capture the second. Once he has Rhea in his talons, however, he realizes he never wants to let her go.

Her enemy. Her captor. Her everything.

Rhea doesn’t trust anyone. She certainly doesn’t follow commands issued by a gorgeous flying male with glittering eyes, a beautiful face, and a seductive touch. Orol is dominant, edged with darkness, and determined to find her sister. Rhea will do anything to prevent that, even if it means playing sensual games of submission with her powerful enemy, seducing him into forgetting everything except her.

Dark Flight is a STAND-ALONE SciFi Romance set in a gritty, dark world.

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Creating Unique Character Descriptions

By Cynthia Sax on September 29, 2016

I followed a reader discussion last week on character descriptions. The consensus was that many of the descriptions were…well…boring as hell. Every hero was ‘handsome.’ Every heroine was ‘beautiful.’ Some readers questioned if descriptions were needed at all.

When a reader questions whether or not a passage is needed, we, writers, know we have work to do.

I’ve been guilty of poor character descriptions in the past. I’ve described my characters the way I see them, using the words I would use.

And that’s the issue. I’m not the point of view character. A cyborg hero or a billionaire businessman hero or bada$$ biker hero would view his heroine much differently than I, a human female writer, would.

On Saturday, I watched Race, a movie about Jesse Owens. This movie was brilliant for a number of reasons. The storytelling and characterization was tight. It also gave us great examples of how different people first view the same person (Jesse Owens). The football coach saw race. That was his first impression of Jesse Owens. The track and field coach, in contrast, saw someone who could run fast, who had natural athletic ability. That was what he considered important. The German filmmaker, ironically, didn’t see race first. She saw an interesting character, someone who could add excitement to her film.

How a character is described can say as much about the point of view character as it says about the character being described. What does our point of view character notice first?

The cyborgs in my stories are manufactured to be warriors. They value strength, size, power. The first thing Barrel, the cyborg hero of this December’s freebie short story Jumping Barrel, notices about Nola, his heroine, is her big hair (it’s humid and she has big time frizz). He has never seen a female with so much hair. In his mind and in his processors, this makes her ‘the best’ (which is also important to cyborgs as only the best warriors survive training).

Can the hero be described as ‘handsome’ and the heroine be described as ‘beautiful’? Of course. If the point of view character would use those specific words. But the concept of ‘handsome’ and ‘beautiful’ should reflect the point of view character’s vision. For example, a badly scarred hero might think anyone with flawless skin is beautiful. Or a hero with brightly-colored tattoos might think anyone with blue or green or orange hair is beautiful.

For me, ensuring descriptions reflect both the point of view character and the character being described is a task for the second draft. Being a pantser (a writer who writes by the seat of her pants, without knowing the plot), I often don’t have a strong grasp on my point of view characters at the beginning of the first draft. Once I’ve written the first draft, I know the nuances of their personalities, their strengths, weaknesses, goals, fears. I can incorporate these into the description.

How do you make your character descriptions unique?


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Wild. Free. Hers.

Mayhem has spent his lengthy lifespan obeying the Humanoid Alliance’s rules. Finally free from their cruel control, the cyborg warrior plans to cause chaos. He infiltrates a remote settlement, provokes the savage locals until they want him dead, and allows himself to be captured by the sexiest little Retriever he has ever laid his mechanically-enhanced eyes on.

Imee’s sole mission in life is to keep her family alive. To do this, she must hunt rebels, returning them to the Humanoid Alliance’s evil clutches where they will be executed. She doesn’t allow herself to feel anything for her targets…until she meets a tall, muscular cyborg with wild hair and even wilder eyes.

With his sure hands, laughing lips and erotic holds, Mayhem makes Imee’s body sizzle and her resistance melt. Their love is doomed. She must deliver the warrior to his death or she’ll place her family’s safety at risk. But she can’t resist him.

Imee soon discovers that Mayhem, life, and love are never predictable.

Chasing Mayhem is Book 6 in the Cyborg Sizzle series and is a STANDALONE story.
It is also a BBW Cyborg SciFi Romance.

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