Crafting the Romance Novel

with Jeanne De Vita

romance novel writing course

February 1, 2023
4 Weeks


More than happily ever after.

Writing a romance novel is about more than just telling the story of how two characters meet, fall in love, and ride off into the sunset of happily ever after.

A romance novel follows the same structure as powerful novels in other genres and employs the building blocks of great fiction to create a story with fully developed character arcs, correctly placed character beats, physical and emotional intimacy, and a resolution of the characters’ goals and issues that is not only satisfying, but which convinces the reader that a fractured character has found their perfect whole.

As a developmental editor and acquiring editor for more than twelve years, I’ve worked with romance authors at every stage in the journey and with every imaginable publishing goal. In this four-week course you’ll learn how to develop an engaging meet-cute that correctly sets up the essential elements of your work, how to structure character beats and arcs, how to plan a standalone novel or series, and how to study/write to the market you aspire to publish in. We will also assess common mistakes/misconceptions about romance novels and romance novel structure.

You will learn how to outline a novel that reduces writer’s block, even if you generally prefer to follow the muse and write without a storygrid or plan. We’ll discuss the role of your characters’ core wounds and how to craft a story that heals the characters while challenging them in ways they could not have imagined. We’ll discuss the current publishing market, what traditional publishers and agents are looking for versus what is working in the indie market, what mistakes most authors make in the first three pages of their romance novel, and we’ll discuss what “writing to market” and “high concept” means for romantic fiction so you can craft marketable stories in a way that feels authentic for you and your author brand.

This four-week course will involve two two-hour discussion/lecture-based webinars with live attendance via Zoom and two asynchronous sessions during which you will complete two written assignments on your own by the provided deadline. You will submit one writing assignment of 1,500 words and will receive both peer feedback as well as individualized instructor feedback on that assignment. You will also complete a five-page storybuilding exercise and one-page plot grid which will be shared with your peers and will be workshopped along with your writing sample in our final meeting.

Learning and Writing Goals

By the end of this course, you will have learned and crafted:

  • The three-act structure of the romance novel, including the critical beats within the acts.
  • A five-page story worksheet developing the building blocks of your novel, as well as a one-page functional outline which includes the character arcs.
  • You’ll have a checklist of concepts, tropes, and tools you’ll need to compete and stand out when you’re ready to publish.
  • A reading list of recommended works based on subgenre and heat level.
  • A meet-cute scene of 1,500 words which correctly sets up your story.
  • Feedback from your peers and the instructor on your work’s strengths and areas to improve.

Weekly Syllabus

Week One (Zoom Session)

This webinar runs on Zoom from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM Eastern time on Saturday, February 4. The tentative schedule is as follows:

  • 15 minutes: Introductions and course objectives.
  • 15 minutes: Discussion of subgenres relevant to enrolled writers and brief overview of current publishing market.
  • 30 minutes: Lecture on the three-act structure of the romance novel; the building blocks of the romance novel (including taglines and blurbs as a writing tool); myths about romance novels (the linear love story versus the “core wound” approach)
  • 15 minutes: What is writer’s block and how understanding tropes, beats, and arcs can break down barriers to word count
  • 30 minutes: Writing the well-crafted, marketable meet-cute
  • 15 minutes: Q & A about the various aspects of writing sex and sexuality, the publishing market, triggers/content warnings, and other rules of the road or “bumpers.”

Week Two (Self-Directed Study)

Homework: Complete a five-page storybuilding worksheet with market checklist and a one-page plot grid/storyboard

Please plan for 3-5 hours of independent writing/work time for these assignments.

Week Three (Self-Directed Study)

Homework: Write a 1500-word meet-cute that includes the essential building blocks that you submitted in your previous assignment; submit same for instructor feedback; read student work and complete critique worksheet for each peer submission.

Please plan for 3-5 hours of independent writing/work time for these assignments.

Week Four (Zoom Session, Last Class Meeting)

This webinar runs on Zoom from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM Eastern time on Saturday, February 25. The tentative schedule is as follows:

  • 15 minutes: Review of critique worksheet you completed for each student; Q&A and discussion
  • 90 minutes: (approx. 5-10 mins per writer) workshop submissions
  • 15 minutes: Lessons learned/global impressions and takeaways, including a recommended reading list

Please plan to invest at least three to five hours per week for this class.

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Student Feedback for Jeanne De Vita:

Jeanne is a gushing fountain of knowledge. She has taught dozens of sold-out classes at our store and we get rave reviews from her students who come from all walks of life. Bea & Leah Koch, Owners, The Ripped Bodice Bookstore

Jeanne’s knowledge of story structure and character make her an ideal developmental editor. She puts her heart into each project and is fully committed to making your story the best it can be. Helen Hardt, #1 NYT bestselling romance author

Jeanne De Vita is an excellent editor, writer, and developmental story advisor. I had the pleasure of working with her on many of my bestselling books. And I look forward to working with her on many more titles in the future! Audrey Carlan, #1 NYT bestselling romance author

February 1, 2023
4 Weeks


jeanne de vita


Jeanne De Vita, creator and founder of Romance Writing Academy, is a professional developmental editor, writing instructor, and widely-published romance author.

Drawing from her experience editing tens of millions of words written by NYT, USA Today, and bestselling indie authors, Jeanne teaches everything from the technical aspects of writing—such as the structure of the romance novel, where/when the first kiss should happen, and how to pace subplot and balance internal and external conflict—to the really fun stuff, like how to write intimacy and chemistry that keeps readers engaged and characters satisfied. Jeanne teaches all aspects of romance writing at her fully online Romance Writing Academy and editing, story structure, and other craft intensives at UCLA Extension.

Jeanne lives in Los Angeles and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame and a BA from Iowa State University.