Plotting a Romance: What Works for Me

~The Path of True Love ~

I truly believe that the best way to learn to be a writer is to be a voracious reader. That said, how-to-writing books definitely have a place in honing one’s skills. I have read many books that I have found helpful. Today I will review one of my favorites and explain how it helped me improve my writing.

Before you can write a romance, you need to plot out your story. When I began writing my first novel, I plotted by the seat of my pants as most beginners do. The feedback I received was that it didn’t fit the romance genre because the love story wasn’t the main focus, and the relationship between the hero and heroine was too antagonistic.

For a while I scratched my head. Then I went back and reread some of my favorite romance writers and tried to figure out what made their book so terrific. This was very time-consuming, and I soon found myself buried in the details (or just enjoying the story all over again) and losing the big picture.

Zara West reviews Romancing the Beat So I was very happy to find this little book. Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes. This inexpensive, short book (100 pages) is perfect for the beginning writer or non-romance writer who has a basic understanding of how plot and character work together to build a story, but needs some general direction on crafting a truly awe-inspiring romantic relationship.

Romancing the Beat starts with a discussion of theme and points out that all successful romances share the same overarching theme “love conquers all.” Then she has a delightful way of describing the love arc as going from “hole-hearted to whole-hearted.” Doesn’t that just summarize the whole romance thing in a nutshell?

However, the part I found most useful, and that I will focus on today, is her analysis of the inner journey the lovers must go through to reach their happy ever after

To do this, Gwen Hayes provides a clear, easy-to-understand summary of the required plot elements or what she calls “beats” that show what the lovers need be doing from first kiss to final breakup and where these elements fit on a basic three act plot outline.

She encourages the reader to create their own version and promises that if you outline your story using these beats you will have a coherent love story with some very satisfied lovers (and readers) by the end.

A Perfect Romance Arc
Does it matter when they kiss?

Based on her book, I created my own version of The Beat Sheet and have used it successfully to improve my writing. I find it particularly useful when doing my initial outlining and when revising

If you prefer a pre-made version you can download a printable pdf that can be cut into cards or Scrivener template on her website.

To learn more about the method or about Gwen’s other books visit GwenHayes.com



How do you plot out your romantic love arcs?

I’d love to hear your methods.


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