Penning Passion: Finish the First Draft of your Romance Novel in Ten Weeks
with Jeanne De Vita
Write the first draft of a romance novel that can compete with the most memorable and engaging stories in the market with career romance editor, writing instructor, and author Jeanne De Vita. Access her instruction, guidance, and expertise via weekly feedback provided on your writing from anywhere in the world.
Jeanne De Vita has edited #1 New York Times bestselling romance authors and seven-figure indie authors for both publishers and privately as a freelance editor. Whether your goals include self-publishing or querying, this ten-week course is designed to help you make measurable progress on a first draft while reading both published examples and peer work. We cover in depth the essential building blocks of a romance novel (characters and their goals, conflicts, and stakes), how to structure a romance novel and where to place each of the necessary character and story beats, and how to develop your author’s voice to craft a compelling romance novel.
This course is text-based and asynchronous. Students may attend two (optional) live Zooms. All other instruction will be provided via recorded video lectures, reading assignments, writing up to 3,000 words per week, and personal feedback delivered on writers’ work.
Learning and Writing Goals
In this course, you will learn:
- The essential building blocks of the romance novel.
- How to structure the plot of a romance novel.
- Character beats typically used in romance writing.
- The tropes and archetypes most marketable in today’s romance market.
- The various paths to publishing for new romance writers.
In this course, you will:
- Respond to a weekly writing prompt based on the romance topic of the week. These prompts will help you make measurable progress on completing your first draft.
- Write and submit up to 3,000 words of you romance novel each week. You will receive detailed feedback from me and your peers.
- Complete up to 50,000 words of your romance novel by the end of class and have a plan to finish a first draft.
Additional Course Information
Students should budget at least 4-6 hours of time per week to this class, roughly broken up as follows:
- One hour reading/engaging with class instructional materials and assigned readings
- Two to three hours writing between 3,000-5,000 words based on the weekly assignment
- One to two hours to read and provide critiques to your peers
Each student will leave the course with a personalized feedback from by the instructor that outlines story strengths, weaknesses, and a plan for completing the book based on the recommended word count for the genre/sub-genre, as well as feedback from peer writers.
Who This Course is For
- Writers of all experience levels with an interest in learning how to structure and pace a marketable romance novel, craft compelling characters, and create engaging goals, conflicts, and stakes.
- Writers specifically seeking accountability to start and make significant progress on a romance novel.
- Writers with very little experience will appreciate thorough and clear craft instruction while writers with experience will benefit from plotting tools and practical tips to write romance more efficiently and effectively.
Week #1: Crafting Happily Ever Afters: A Toolkit for Crafting the Unbreakable Romance Novel
Every romance promises the reader a satisfying love story that ends with a happy ever after. But the place most romance novels fail is in the development of the more critical aspects of romance novel craft: the love story is not enough to carry the book. In our first week together, we’ll discuss the five essential storybuilding elements of the romance novel in depth. We’ll analyze how those elements determine the beats of the story, and we’ll define character and narrative arcs. We’ll read the meet-cutes of successful romance novels to see those elements at work on the page. Then, we’ll develop the pieces of your romance novel so you have an outline for your own well-crafted romance novel.
Assignment: Complete the storybuilding worksheet for both main characters/love interests and write a meet-cute of 1,500-3,000 words.
Optional Zoom Kick-Off at 6pm PST on 2/15/2024: Introductions, open Q&A, presentation about the class, craft, and romance writing marketplace. This video will be recorded and posted for those who cannot attend to view later.
Week #2: From Sparks to Story: Writing with Purpose
Once you have committed to your characters and premise, we’ll take your outline and make measurable progress on the word count every week. In Week Two, we’ll explore the ways different sub-genres within romance structure the first 25 pages by discussing assigned readings. We’ll analyze the Writing Purpose worksheet as a tool to keep every writing session focused on the narrative goals. You’ve written the meet-cute and have a rough outline, so in Week Two, we will write to the first critical character beat.
Assignment: Complete a Writing Purpose Worksheet to focus on the critical choice of that first character beat based on your outline. Use that worksheet to write 3,000-5,000 words that sets up, executes, and delivers the reader a compelling first character beat.
Week #3: Heartstrings and Head Hops: Refining Your Author’s Voice
In Week Three, we’ll analyze various ways to improve the pace and clarity of your writing. We’ll discuss point of view including POV errors, verb tenses, basic self-editing strategies, and better to best practices to write more clearly and with emotional impact for the reader. We will analyze several short readings for voice, pacing, and point of view. Then, we’ll write.
Assignment: Complete a Writing Purpose Worksheet to focus exactly what you need to accomplish based on your outline. Use that worksheet to write 3,000-5,000 words that sets up, executes, and delivers tension and plot thrust in preparation for the next major narrative beat on your outline: the backstory beat.
Week #4: Taking it All the Way Back: The Backstory Beat
In Week Four, we’ll focus on goal, motivation, and conflict in your romance novel. We will analyze the function of motivation for your love interests and will analyze the appropriate time in the book to explore the character’s backstory (the “how did we get here” question). We’ll share several short readings for voice, pacing, and point of view. Then, we’ll write a backstory beat that shows the reader the growing ground for the characters’ conflicts.
Assignment: Complete a Writing Purpose Worksheet to focus the scope of the backstory chapter based on your outline. Use that worksheet to write 3,000-5,000 words of backstory that shows how what your characters have been through set them up for the conflicts which hold them back from their goals in the present story.
Week #5: Salt in the Wound: Making Your Characters Learn the Hard Way
In Week Five, we’ll go deep into character provocations. We’ll see the next step of the character’s arc come onto the page as you put your characters through the wringer. Tests, trials, and challenges are how we know that your character is growing and changing, so we’re going to make sure we find the wound and give them the opportunity to heal…the hard way.
Assignment: Complete a Writing Purpose Worksheet to focus on a significant character provocation based on your outline. Use that worksheet to write 3,000-5,000 words that sets up, executes, and delivers tension and plot thrust in preparation for the first major story provocation.
Week #6: Seductive Sentences and Sweet Somethings: Writing Authentic Intimacy whether Sweet or Spicy
In Week Six, we’ll tackle the heat level of your book through a well-crafted scene of physical or emotional intimacy based on the desired “heat level” of your book. Whether you’re writing monster erotica or closed-door inspirational romance, we’ll explore techniques to write effective physical and emotional intimacy. We’ll read samples of well-crafted sex scenes or breakthrough moments between characters based on your chosen sub-genre and heat level. Then, we’ll write a highly impactful scene of intimacy.
Assignment: Complete a Writing Purpose Worksheet to focus on a breakthrough scene of emotional or physical intimacy based on your outline. Use that worksheet to write a 3,000-5,000-word scene or chapter that is focused on the characters’ breakthrough moment.
Week #7: Timeless Timelines: Avoiding the Meandering Middle of the Book
By Week Seven, we’ll have a substantial volume of work product completed, and can focus on the time-critical aspect of the stakes as well as the pacing of the middle of the book. We’ll focus on the next major setback in the character’s arc and how to keep the pace moving so the middle of the book is un-put-downable. We’ll read provocative tests and challenges from our reading selections and identify ways that successful novels keep the book from meandering in the middle. Then, we’ll write the next setback our love interests will face.
Assignment: Complete a Writing Purpose Worksheet to focus on a significant character provocation based on your outline. Use that worksheet to write 3,000-5,000 words that sets up, executes, and delivers the next significant story provocation while maintaining focus on the time-bound stakes we set up in the beginning of the book.
Week #8: Looks Like We Made It: Horizon to the HEA
In Week Eight we’ll help our characters recover from a critical setback and have them emerge stronger, better, and more ready than ever to commit to love. We’ll write a scene that shows our character changed, stronger, on the path to clearly healing their core wound. But we’ll also plant the seeds for the final test that’s lurking just around the corner.
Assignment: Complete a Writing Purpose Worksheet to show the place on the overall character arc where they characters are now based on your outline. Use that worksheet to write 3,000-5,000 words that shows the characters embracing love, feeling optimistic that they can trust this new love, and which reveals the ultimate goal for the book is now in reach.
Week #9: The Dark Night of the Soul, Romance-Editing: Writing Your Characters’ Final Test
Every hero faces a final challenge or test before emerging victorious. In a romance novel, that final test may take the form of a third-act breakup, a miscommunication, or some other trial that the characters must succeed in order to be fully healed and deserving of their HEA. In Week 9, we’ll read the dark night of the soul scenes from several selected books and discuss how the final test prepares the characters for the outcome they want as well as the one they may not see coming.
Assignment: Complete a Writing Purpose Worksheet to reflect the final step in the characters’ growth arc based on your outline. Use that worksheet to write 3,000-5,000 words that shows the characters experiencing and overcoming their final test.
Week #10: Writing The End: The Well-Earned Happy Ever After
The end of the book must tie up all loose ends, clearly explain and resolve all plot points, and should conclude in an emotionally satisfying resolution for the reader. How to conclude a book (with an epilogue or cliffhanger, set up for another book) depends on the plan you developed in the early weeks of class. Through reading and discussion, we’ll focus on the various ways to successfully conclude a book, when an epilogue can be useful, why/why not to end on a cliffhanger, and how to end the book so readers will want to come back for more.
Assignment: Complete a Publishing Plan Assessment Worksheet to help authors evaluate the market viability of their title, finding agents and publishers to submit the work to, and will discuss costs and timelines for self-publishing.
Final Optional Zoom Wednesday April 17, 2024 at 6pm PST: Discussion of How to Revise and What’s Next! How to finish your book if your final word count needs to be longer than what you completed in this course. Q&A about next steps and publishing.
Student Feedback for Jeanne De Vita:
Jeanne was wonderful. She knows the genre and the industry which was so helpful and eye opening. I had a great time with the course! Devin Ross
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