On Romances: The Case of the Distressing Manuscript Review

I received a comment on Authonomy that has brought up an issue so big that its pressed the TRC alarm button. I’m posting the comment up here, not to bash the reviewer, but because she is right in a sense, and I probably will meet with this problem, yet at the same time, I want to know what you guys think about this issue in general.

“I enjoyed reading this, but there is one serious issue which I think you’re going to have a problem with. And that is that you strayed from the formula that most publishers demand when printing a regency romance. Romance publishers are very strict when it comes to these stories, everything from word count to the number of chapters is taken into consideration. But there is also the issue of the ‘romance’ formula which almost everything bestselling author takes into consideration. The problem with your book is that your heroine is not a courtesan, but a whore. And no regency romance publishing company will touch a book where the heroine is a whore. In the majority of regency romance in print today, the heroine is almost always a virgin. And if she is not a virgin, than she is a widow. This formula has worked and made money, and publishers are very reluctant to change it. I know this because I have worked with publishers in this genre before (in editorial, not writing). So, while I enjoyed the writing, I think it would be very difficult for this to ever achieve publication. I think there is one way in which you could make this story work, but it would involve a major rewrite. From your writing, I can see that you have a passion for this genre and the time, and I really hope you take what I have said constructively, because you deserve to do well. I’m going to shelve this on that basis. L.x”

To take this review into consideration means to do a major rewrite of chapter one. In other words, it means bye bye to the brothel scene, which, to me, is like–THE scene in TRC. Without this scene, TRC will just not be the same. Maybe I’m making too much of this, but consider, it was due to this single scene that I created this story. Let me elaborate: Years before I had this image in my head of a gentleman entering a brothel to wisk a prostitute away into a life of affluence. Long afterwards, from this scene alone, through a series of “What If’s,” my story was created. Also, it means that I have to change Amanda to a courtesan who lives in a pretty townhouse. As my editor said, when I sent her an email, stating my alarm, she wrote: “If you changed the fact that she was a prostitute, you have an entirely different book.” She also went on saying that I shouldn’t allow rules to keep me from writing what I want.

I also wrote to Noelle stating my concern and she told me: “The [romance] formula is changing. As long as the characters don’t sleep with others AFTER they met, you should be fine. Lots of authors are trying different things, even the historical authors.”

But the reviewer is right. I will face problems. But I’ll try my luck.

37 thoughts on “On Romances: The Case of the Distressing Manuscript Review

  1. Please don’t change it. Find a different genre, or run it past an agent, but please don’t change your book.

    This is just personal, but I hate the formula style writing of historical romance. I hate how I can tell you which of the three plot lines available to authors that its going to be. I have only ever read one historical romance I loved enough to keep on my shelf forever, and it was told from the perspective of a dog.

    Now if a story can get published with a canine narrator, I’m pretty sure if you’re writing is powerful enough it will find a home.

    Please don’t change it. -.- At least shop it around before doing those revisions.


    • Formula romances can get boring at times. Every romance book I’ve read follows it, so like you said, it becomes so predictable. But it was super fun at first. It still is for some books. But I’m now a very picky reader

      Thanks for your message. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one out there wanting to read something different!


      • I wonder what exactly the formula is?! One of should do some research into this. We’re always talking formula, formula, and yet I bet what I consider the formula to be differs from yours and from the publishers. Mine would be: hero meets heroine, hero seduces heroine, hero beds heroine, but due to some conflict, they’re torn apart, but in the end, come back together…

        What exactly are the people wanting on this forum anyway?


  2. I LOVED chapter one the way it is. And Amanda is a character that I can relate to. Even though she’s a whore, she has other qualities that make her easy to like. Plus, she’s not even a whore by choice. People are able to sympathize with her for what her brother did.

    Though you may face problems, it’s not important to write what others want or expect you to right. This is your story, this is how you imagined it.

    I was watching Little Women the other day and I forget exactly what Frietz said to Jo but I think it was something like “write from the heart.” She was trying to go by what people of that time wanted to read. She was trying to follow the rules and that didn’t work for her.

    This is a great story and I would hate to see it poisoned by this romance formula.


    • “Write from the heart” how right you are. And thank you for your encouraging words about my first chapter. It gave me a big smile!


  3. “Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.” -Meg Cabot

    Enough said.


  4. Hey! It’s Sarah Maas…I just wanted to write a quick comment to tell you that I agree completely with the Meg Cabot quote Steph posted. I think that you should write the story that compelled you to write in the first place! I’m sure there are publishers who prefer formulaic novels, but I’m also sure that reviewer is exaggerating a bit, and that your novel could find its place on bookshelves.

    Besides, wait to do such a major change until you hear this kind of advice from the mouth of a REAL publisher/editor/agent who has read your work. If you receive multiple responses that say the same thing, then consider it. But for now, I say forge your own path. Maybe you’ll start your own romance sub-genre!


  5. I…honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with her being what she is. I think the fact that you’re NOT following the “formula” for writing a Regency Romance is what will make it attractive. People get tired of reading predicatable romances with overdone characters…but how many people have read a story like yours?? Not many because so few are written.

    Take the advice into consideration as in..don’t completely scrap your MS is a publisher says the same thing…but other than that…. o.O


  6. I think it’s great how you consider everything. It shows how passionate you are about this piece. I’ve read it on FP some time ago [could it already be a year?] and you haven’t heard from me until now. [No Reviews or anything, I’m a bad reader…]
    I think the great thing about writing is making things possible that in reality aren’t…
    And I think it’s not quiet the Romance Formula you’re breaking, more like a hidden rule by publishers. [Do you really believe they were that virtuous in the Regency era?]
    You should write the story how you feel the story goes, not how you think it will sell the best or how the publishers want it, because if you do, the story will lose it’s ‘soul’.

    By the way, in the version I first read she was married before she came into the brothel, one way for her not to be required a virgin…

    I think my little rant is over now, I apologize for any grammar mistakes or any parts not connected to others…


    • Don’t worry, I’m a silent reader myself in many of the FP stories! haha. Anyway, good to hear from you! “And I think it’s not quiet the Romance Formula you’re breaking, more like a hidden rule by publishers.” Ah, I like the sound of that. A hidden rule…sounds like I’m breaking something big! But you’re very right. To change my work just to please the world would mean to sell my story’s soul. Thanks for your message it was very encouraging.

      P.S. Yes, in the first version she was married. But this sub-plot ended up complicating my story, so I just had to trash it. *sigh*. But the story flows the same with or without it.


      • Yes, it flows the same.. When I found it again on authonoomy I was like O.O but when I read on I realised how little it changes.
        The hidden publisher rule is something dangerous, be carefull while crossing it, but do it! [at least I’d advise you to =P]


  7. All I’ve read regarding historical romance is my mothers regencies when there was absolutely nothing else in the house. I’ll give you the formulas I see just from eyeballing them.

    Plot line #1: Well-bred lady is down on her luck, and nobly decides to save her family by becoming a governess. She just happens to get a job with a wealthy, handsome and eligible man with two younger siblings (Twins. Have you ever seen one when they’re not twins?) that he can’t seem to find a governess for. Reason why? They’re terrible. She tames them, he falls in love, they all live happily ever after.

    Plot line #2: A respectable young lady with absolutely NO record of fooling around captures the interest of one of the most “dangerous” (not to mention eligible) bachelors. He usually walks with a limp, which magically cures at the end of the book. She tames him, he loosens her up, they both live happily ever after.

    Plot line #3: A well bred young lady (they are never ill-bred) is down on her luck and has no other choice but to accept a proposal by a VERY eligible bachelor she hates so she can save her estate (or her sisters, or…) They go at each other Mr. and Mrs. Smith style (but with less guns and cool action) until they realize they love each other. Woo.

    Plot line #4: A (very eligible) bachelor offers to teach a woman with no skills what so ever the art of getting hitched. He chooses dresses for her, gets her to stop galloping in the park, and discovers he loves her despite all her mishaps.

    Everything else is just variations on the theme.


    • HAHA Your four plot lines are so dead on that it’s funny! Several of the historical romances I’ve read followed a plotlines similar to the ones you outlined. I do believe, though, that some authors in this genre have spun up different plots. A bit more original ones. But still they follow a formula. One that is obvious to detect. Maybe I haven’t read enough HRs. But from as much as I’ve read, I would have to agree with you. And as much fun as these books can be at times, sometimes, I find myself wanting something more.

      Great observation. Thanks for sharing it, hehe


    • lol,

      1) Reforming a Rake – Suzanne Enoch

      2)England’s Perfect Hero – Enoch. He had the limp that was miraculously cured lol

      3) There are a lot of these, but I thought I’d point out there are books where they go the other direction and it’s the guy who needs to marry the girl, i.e., The Rake by S.Enoch. Awesome book, LOVE Tristan but his little brother is ridiculously cute.

      4) By Love Undone – Enoch. But, this plotline is more of a Cyreno de Bergerac plotline than a Romance rule.

      A lot of the plotlines, you can pick specific books that follow them, but if you really pay attention you can group them by authors. Some authors are more feminist than others, some are more romantic, some are more…sexual? since their books revolve around the intimate relationship of the protagonists.

      ok..im gonna stop now lol


      • Ooh, booksto back up the argument, haha. I agree with you, authors can be grouped in a way. Which authors do you know who are more feministic in their writing? For sexual, I would have to say Stephenie Laurens. The whole of her book is mainly comprised of sex scenes and scenes building sexual tension. Which is why her books sell so well, or so I hear.


  8. lol, it is scary that people are naming actual titles. -.- I don’t read historical romance anymore because the plot lines bore me. I would love it if even one small thing in the formula was changed around. Like what if it was a poor man trying to interest a rich lady? (I don’t mean a noble trading his title for cash either. I mean a guy with nothing to offer.)

    It’d be so awesome if the MC had a cruel streak or real thoughts that might be going on in their head was actually typed. Something like, “I wish this set would end soon. I really have to fart and I don’t want the whole world to notice…”

    Maybe I’m asking for too much.


      • I think I’d shut the book immediately if I read somewhere in there that the MC wanted to fart! But that would be hilarious to read–and so unexpected.

        All the heroes in historical romances are created to stimulate the female readers. I guess there’s so many normal guys already in a woman’s life that she wouldn’t want to read of one in a romance book. But it would be nice, indeed, if a writer were to trash the cliched characterization of a hero being “Tall, handsome and brooding.” It’ll be hard….but I hope someone will, one day, take on this challenge.


  9. Formula? Excuse me, but i think the question is not should Amand, your character be a whore or not, but should the writer be a whore? If a publisher would require you to change Amanda that drastically – your story completely – i would rather not be published…personally. I would be outraged! I know the practical side, i’m rather practical overall, but, HELLO!! Writing is art, you don’t formulate art. It’s supposed to be a part of your soul spilling onto the page. Good lord! As you can tell I’m rather riled but, although I can appreciate the insigth, that just is soooooo screwed up :((((( I’m going to silence myself before I make meself a fool….


      • I received another comment today, telling me that though she really enjoyed my writing, she said I’d have problems getting it published.

        I read something about how publishing is a business, that if a publisher reads a manuscript with superior quality, but doubts that it’d sell well, they wouldn’t publish it. Maybe I read it wrong. But I can see the truth behind it. It’s especially true for comercial novels, and as TRC would be catagorized as a genre romance, it probably will be difficult to get it published….well, what would I know, I’m not a publisher. But I never have read about whores being heroines…

        I won’t give up on my work,of course. ANd rest assured, if publishers tell me that they won’t take my story unless I change the role of my heroine, I’ll be off looking for someone else. There’s always smaller publishing firms (though it’s my dream to be published by Avon). There’s also self-publshing–but because it’s very costly, I’ll leave this as my last resort.

        Thanks for your message. You’ve got me even more determined to keep my story as it is. But no worries, I will get this in print, whatever it takes. Where there is a will, there is a way!


      • And I would just like to add…if TRC was self published I would like to be the first to buy it. (Providing of course it is signed with best wishes to the Uninvoked Author of course. ^^)


      • The mysterious, unknown author, Univoked, speaketh…

        I would be honoured to! I’ll have to practice signing though. I’m not satisfied with my signature yet.

        If you publish (I think you have? no? yes?) I would order it immediately.


      • Wow, I envy you! I’m sure your story was amazing.

        I’ve never entered a contest before. It’s a bit harder, it seems, to find contests for novel-length fictions


  10. You know, I totally just realized that all of the males in Shards of Memory (and not just Vantandal, the main one) are tall, dark, and brooding…

    Guess what type I’m interested in? 😉


    • I’m also interested in tall, dark and brooding heroes hehe. All the heroes I wrote followed the cliches characteristics. But its cliche because we know many of the females idealize such men–well, at least in books, that is


      • Blah. I attempted to write a character who was tall, dark and brooding…he ended up being the scariest villain I have ever designed. Not quite what I intended. -.- I think I shall stick with friendly guys who don’t mind dragging hay bales out of my truck for me.


      • LOL I’m starting to discover not to expect an ordinary answer from you! So he became the scariest villain, eh? I think they must be villains to some characters other than the heroine. To the abandoned mistress, perhaps, and the many other women he “seduced.” Because all “tall dark handsome” gentlemen have a long history of bedmates. I have books to back my word!


  11. You already know how I feel, June. I wouldn’t change it. And I swear, I read a published author blog about just this thing, but I can’t find it…I think it was Eloisa James, but I’m still searching through her stuff to see.


    • Let’s hope I won’t have to! As long as I’m not told to change anything major in my story, I’ll be glad to do so. And I would really like to read that post should you ever find it 🙂


  12. Pingback: Reviewer Appreciation Day!!!! « June H.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s