Pelican Book Group now has three imprints: White Rose Publishing (romance), Harbourlight Books (non-romance), and most recently Watershed Books (young adult fiction with adult appeal). Today I want to talk to writers of romance about pacing.

Here are some basic rules of thumb for pacing a romance:

Ground us in the hero or heroine’s world so we’ll care about them as they face that inciting incident that gets the story rolling. This will keep us engaged until we meet the other main character. (By the way, you can begin the story in either POV—the hero’s or heroine’s. Just be purposeful about why you began in his or her point of view.)

Next, introduce the other main character either by the end of the first chapter or the beginning of the second chapter. So, let’s say you begin in the heroine’s ordinary world. You help us engage with her. She’s relatable and likable. Show us her strength, her weakness, her dream (goal), possibly even her greatest fear, and then by the end of chapter one or the beginning of chapter two, introduce the hero. Let us get into his head, see life as he does. See the heroine as he does. While we’re in his head, let us see his goals and his dream. Let us peek at his heroism, glimpse his weakness and even his greatest fear (depending on story length this element may be left out for both H/h).

The key for romance pacing is to get the hero and heroine together early and keep them together—force them together—through the story. Give them a common goal that forces them to spend time together so the romance can happen. Let us see the relationship develop through each of their perspectives. Help us stay hooked.

About halfway through the story (to two-thirds), let them be at a believable point to commit to giving their romance a real try. Then send something to drive them apart. Once they overcome this final obstacle, bring them together for the story’s end.

Of course, you’ll mix in your characters’ goals and dreams, show us their heroism and nobility, have them sacrifice for each other, face their biggest fears. But it all begins by bringing them together in the first place. They don’t have to be together in every scene (for WRP), but keep the romantic elements going through tension of will they or won’t they and/or their mutual attraction, etc. It’s better to have the reader question whether the hero and heroine will get together than to question whether they’re reading a romance or not, right?

I hope these tips help. I’ll check back for comments if you have questions. Write on!

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