Posted On October 9, 2013 by Print This Post

How to Write a Best Selling Romance with Melanie Milburne

Welcome Melanie Milburne to Romance University! Melanie is going to give us some helpful how-to hints on writing!

bio_picRomance is big business and because there are so many romance novels in the market place it is often assumed they are easy to write. No book is easy to write. But here are some tips I have found helpful in my journey as a romance writer.

What does a best selling romance need?

1. A hero the reader can fall in love with

2. A heroine the reader can feel empathy for

3. A goal– what does the hero/heroine want?

4. Motivation-why does the hero/heroine want it?

5. A conflict-what obstacles stand in their way?

I find the exercise below tremendously helpful when I’m crafting a new story.


Hero wants……….(goal) Because………….. (motivation) But………………….(conflict)


Heroine wants……………(goal) Because……………………(motivation) But………………………….(conflict)

If you are still unsure of why your characters want what they want then why not ask them? That’s what I do. I open a new document and start writing in first person narrative. Think of it like a radio interview. You’ve got your character/s in the studio with you and they are telling you who they are, what they want and why. It also helps to define the backstory of your characters so you don’t have to clutter up your first chapters with it. You can also ask what your hero thinks of the heroine and vice versa. It’s amazing what comes up in such an exercise!

Here are some suggestions to get you going:

What are three things your best friend/enemy would say about you?

What would you never do?

What is your biggest fear?

What was your childhood like?

Do you have siblings?

How far did you go with education?

Where do you live?

What do you hate/love about your job?

What do you dislike/like about your appearance?

How did you spend yesterday?

What do you do in your spare time?

What is your worst habit?

What is your biggest strength? Weakness?

What is one thing about yourself you would do anything to keep secret?

By the way, it is a wonderful way to unlock writer’s block!

Never underestimate A Caffarelli6. A character arc

The hero/heroine/both must grow and change. If your characters are exactly the same at the end of your story then what is the point of your story?

Steven Spielberg says: In the best stories, someone has lost control of their life and must regain it. The big event/inciting incident/catalyst causes that loss of control.

I find it helpful to ask myself: What does my hero/heroine need to learn? Or what fear must he or she overcome?

How must he or she change?

The most emotionally satisfying stories are those where characters have grown through their trials and have overcome their fears and any obstacles.

7. A satisfying resolution

In a category/series romance the story should have a happy ending. Readers come to the genre for an up ending and will be annoyed with you if you give them an ambiguous or down ending one. It’s part of the escapism fantasy of romance. We all want to believe love will triumph in the end. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all romance subgenres e.g. women’s fiction.

When you give your characters a happy ending make sure they deserve it. Make them earn it every step of the way.

Hints for getting out of the slush pile

  1. Interesting/unique characters
  2. A great opening line
  3. Get rid of back story
  4. Get rid of clichés
  5. Believable and sustainable conflict
  6. Strong and distinctive author voice


Over the years I’ve read a lot of aspiring writers’ manuscripts and I’ve noticed that many first timers make the mistake of crafting characters that are stereotypical, cookie cut out or wooden and unrealistic.

My advice is to make your characters real but larger than life.

The other mistake they make (and I made in my first submissions) was not enough emotional punch in the story.

Robert McKee says: The function of story is to elicit emotion.

Think of the stories/films that have made you cry. Or the ones that stayed in your mind for days, weeks, months, even years. That is the art of storytelling-making someone feel emotion.

One of the best hints I’ve ever been given is this: Tell me your story in a sentence.

I find that helps me get a sense of theme and the essential conflict.

I’m both a pantser and a plotter (depending on the book or the story idea) but I sympathize with the true pantsers who find this exercise difficult.

One tip is to write your own back blurb.

Start with: This is a story about….

I hope you find these tips helpful but the best thing you can do for your writing is to write. No book or blog on the craft will give you the magic bullet. There are no short cuts or formulas. Writing is hard work and you have to be up to it. It takes discipline, dedication and passion.

But keep this in mind…If you don’t write the story that’s in your heart who will?

No one else will write it quite the way you write it.

Happy reading and writing!

Book Two of the Caffarelli Brothers Trilogy by Melanie Milburne just hit the shelves!

Never Underestimate a Caffarelli

Has this Caffarelli finally met his match? Millionaire playboy Raoul Caffarelli has always lived life in the fast lane. But when an accident confines him to a wheelchair—and to the care of a woman whose beauty taunts him—he’s consumed with rage and frustration.

Used to difficult patients, physical therapist Lily Archer won’t be cowed by Raoul’s arrogance or distracted by his Adonis-like physique. Carrying her own scars from the past, Lily has vowed never to relinquish her power to a man again.
Both underestimate the power of the shared passion between them. Their physical scars may heal, but some wounds run much deeper….


What helpful hints do YOU have for potential romance writers?

Join us on Friday for Victoria Curran, editor from Heartwarming Romance


Bio: I grew up on a small farm on the outskirts of Sydney and as a keen horse rider, often competed in local gymkhanas and even broke in a few horses from time to time. As I was surrounded by animals, I decided at an early age to become a nurse, however I couldn’t stand the sight of blood and so opted for a career in teaching. It’s a bit ironic that I married a surgeon.

I hope you enjoy my stories and look forward to hearing from you.

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21 Responses to “How to Write a Best Selling Romance with Melanie Milburne”

  1. Thanks, Melanie. I love the interview format idea! These are excellent tips—especially for those planning for NaNoWriMo in November.

    Posted by Christy Farmer | October 9, 2013, 7:02 am
  2. Morning Melanie!

    I agree with Christy, a great list for the upcoming Nano!

    I think one of my favorite pieces of advice is attributed to Nora Roberts – You can’t fix a blank page.

    Get your rear in the chair and write!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | October 9, 2013, 8:03 am
  3. This is an awesome rundown of the craft – everything here is helpful to me.

    Posted by Sarah Ricker | October 9, 2013, 9:39 am
  4. Hi Melanie,

    My advice is to read. Especially anything similar to your WIP. It shows what an editor liked.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | October 9, 2013, 9:48 am
  5. Love the list!! I’ll print this out so I can countercheck with my WIP to see if I went through all of them. Thanks for sharing, Melanie! 🙂

    Posted by Cecilia Robert | October 9, 2013, 10:48 am
  6. I’m saving this list. Thanks for sharing!

    Posted by Jackie | October 9, 2013, 5:51 pm
  7. This is fabulous advice, Melanie – thank you so much! I’ve bookmarked this post and I’m going to go through this exercise with my stories. I know it will make revisions go a lot more smoothly than they might have done otherwise!

    Thank you!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 9, 2013, 7:09 pm
  8. Great blog Melanie!

    Posted by Jennifer Hayward | October 10, 2013, 8:27 am
  9. Thanks for the advice going to keep close at all times. These tips are so helpful.Obviously you know what you are doing 55 books down and counting. Jan.

    Posted by Jan Vanengen | October 11, 2013, 1:27 am
  10. Hi Jan,
    I don’t think I’ll ever know what I’m doing. I’m still learning on every book, but I think most writers feel that way.
    Thanks for posting!

    Posted by Melanie Milburne | October 13, 2013, 1:39 am
  11. Hi
    I just stumbled across this post and have followed someone else’s idea and bookmarked it as i know I’ll want to read it again. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Trista | October 13, 2013, 3:32 pm
  12. Hi Trista,
    I hope you find it helpful.

    Posted by Melanie Milburne | October 14, 2013, 3:49 pm


  1. […] Brian A. Klems has 6 secrets of writing a novel without an outline; and Melanie Milburne explains how to write a best-selling romance, but many of the tips can be used in all […]

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