Book Review: Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes

Book Review: Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes

Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels
Gwen Hayes
2016, 100 Pages, Kindle Edition
ISBN-13: 978-1530838615
ISBN-10: 1530838614


Romancing the Beat is a concise book on story structure for the romance novel by author and editor Gwen Hayes, who herself confesses to loving “kissing books.”

As an editor, I read a lot about writing, so when I picked up Romancing the Beat, I sat down with paper and pen, ready to take notes. What I did not expect to find was a funny little book that made me laugh out loud while still actually learning something.

I Loved It, and Here’s Why

What I love about Hayes’s book is that she distills the elements of romantic story structure down to their very bones and gives the reader/writer specific advice for creating the plot of a romance novel in a book you can finish in one evening.

Romance novels, unlike most other genre novels, have a pretty specific formula.

Now, don’t shoot me for saying that, but it’s true, and maybe that’s why romance novels are so successful. Readers expect certain things to happen, and when they happen, they’re happy. Without those things, readers are unhappy. They will be quick to tell you that what you have written is not a romance novel and shouldn’t be marketed as such. For example, if your lovers are cheating, you haven’t written a romance novel. If your lovers don’t get their happily ever after or at least happy for now, you also haven’t written a romance novel.

Hayes doesn’t give you tips on crafting sentences. She doesn’t give you ideas for external plot lines. She doesn’t tell you how to create the perfect hero or heroine. She focuses on one element of the craft in one genre.

Romantic story structure is all this book covers, but it covers it extremely well.

Breaking It Down

Gwen Hayes breaks down romantic story structure into bite-sized chunks: four phases, each with five beats. I won’t tell you what they are—you’ll have to read the book for that—but she goes through each phase and beat in its own mini-chapter. Then, at the back of the book, she provides an entire outline with these beats from one of her own stories. To be honest, I flipped to the end first and read this outline.

Good, complete examples are often missing in writing books. You can call beats or moments in the story anything you want, but unless the reader knows what you’re talking about and can apply it to his or her own writing, it’s all sort of abstract, hard to pinpoint, and thus, useless.

After reading Romancing the Beat, I honestly feel I could sit down and use it write an outline within an hour or so for a romance novel that would fit reader expectations. And with Hayes’s approach, it would probably be a lot of fun.

In the meantime, this book is going to serve as an important resource any time I sit down to edit a romance novel, and I’ll have no compunctions about recommending it to my writer clients and friends.

Go read it yourself.

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