Writing Romance With Caroline Flynn

To celebrate NaNoWriMo, a month of writing that runs through November, we’re starting a new blog series! Our authors will be taking to the blog to share their top writing tips and tricks to help you through the month.

First up we have Caroline Flynn, author of the new christmas romance The Winter Berry House. In this blog post she is sharing her top tips on how to write romance.


Writing Romance, Flynn Style


I cannot believe I’m writing this blog post to celebrate the release of my second sweet romance novel, The Winter Berry House. Not only because I can’t believe publication day has arrived so quickly, but also because I can’t believe Christmas is on the horizon! Christmas books are releasing, decorations and treats are on store shelves, and gift ideas are being tossed around my household like confetti.

Even though this Christmas is going to be a bit different than those in the past, I still have my traditions that I will cling to. Every year, I do portraits of my dog, Jazz, in a Christmas outfit (yes, I’m one of those dog-moms!), I make candy cane fudge (my specialty!), and I unabashedly decorate my house with way too many multi-colored lights. Do you have Christmas traditions? I’d love to hear about them!

Know what else happens this time of year? NaNoWriMo! I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month many times, and I love the idea of it. Write now, edit later. It’s that simple and that hard. In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, HQ Stories has kindly asked me to write a post of some romance writing tips. I have to admit, my initial response was, “Am I really qualified to do that?” With only two books currently published in the Port Landon series, I didn’t think I was. At all. Then, I thought about it. I quickly realized that every author is going to have different tips and methods when it comes to writing their stories, so, who’s more qualified to try to explain my writing process than, well, me? With that said, here are my tips for writing a romance novel:

1. Outline

As a long-time participant of #NaNoWriMo, I know there are plotters and pantsers in the writing community. You either plan the heck out of your story ahead of time, or you wing it entirely. I think I’m considered about ¾ plotter, ¼ pantser. I know, it’s confusing. Basically, I outline in order to get the important points down on paper. I have to know going into it how I’m going to get from one point to the next. If I didn’t do that, there’s no way I’d ever pull off 50k words in 30 days, and I would easily get stuck in my quest for ‘The End.’ That said, I haven’t written a book yet that didn’t throw a curveball into the mix. Something always happens that wasn’t planned, always (In The Forget-Me-Not-Bakery, it was the creation of the Hansel and Gretel House {sooo not planned!}, and in The Winter Berry House, it was the theme of cardinals and their meaning to the story {the backstory of this deserves its own blog post, I think!}. So, I recommend outlining, but I suggest being prepared for the curveballs, too.

2. Make the setting just as romantic as the relationship

Build a world that exhibits allure and serenity amidst the story’s conflict. In the fictional world of Port Landon, it’s easy to picture standing at the pier and watching the sun sink in the horizon, or sharing a decadent coffee from the Portside Coffeehouse as you walk hand in hand down Main Street, smelling the sugary scent of baked goods waft out from the Cakery and window-shopping as you pass the quaint storefronts. A beach, a ranch, an exotic location—this can be done with any setting. It only adds to the beauty and warmth of the story.

3. A balance of real and fiction

We’ve all heard the saying, “Write what you know.” I’m not just talking about writing a story set in a veterinary clinic because I used to work at one (although this is exactly what I did with The Forget-Me-Not Bakery), I’m talking about using your own experiences and emotions to make your characters more real, more alive. In The Winter Berry House, Branch is dealing with the grief that came with the passing of his grandmother. Moment of truth: I was grieving my own grandmother’s passing at the time. It was difficult to write, but as I put words on paper, I didn’t have to question Branch’s emotions—I knew what he was feeling. In real life, many readers will have dealt with the same issues, and it helped to make Branch more relatable, more real. In the end, it was healing for me to write Branch’s story, and uplifting to witness the growth and beauty that came from his grief. I think it helped me to know I’d written a beautiful story my grandmother would’ve been proud of.

4. Don’t be afraid to make your characters work for their HEA

In romance, we all know there has to be a happy-ever-after at the end. That doesn’t mean the main characters don’t have to go through fire to get there. I feel that I grew a lot as a writer between The Forget-Me-Not Bakery and The Winter Berry House, and the level of conflict in my second book has increased, making the story deeper, the journey more emotional, and the happy ending that much sweeter. I’m not a fan of drama in real life, but you better believe I love it in my books!

5. Write the story

Maybe this sounds ridiculous, but it’s my last tip. Write the story. You can’t edit a story you haven’t written. You can’t pitch or publish a story you haven’t written. Until the writing happens, it’s just an idea. Get the words down on paper and make that idea a story. There’s no better feeling than writing The End on something that was once merely an idea in your head.

I hope my tips have helped you in some small way. If you’re participating in #NaNoWriMo2020, feel free to join me on Twitter at @flynnromance, where I’ll be posting daily word counts and inspiration throughout the month of November!


The Winter Berry House is out now in ebook. Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of the blog series!

Other Articles

Jenny O’Brien’s Crime Fiction 101

Are you trying to write crime this NaNoWriMo, but aren’t sure how to tackle the genre? Have no fear – Jenny O’Brien is here to help you out. Author of the Detective Gaby Darin series, O’Brien is the perfect person to give you a crash course in writing crime fiction… Read More

Jane Bettany on Writing Police Procedurals

This NaNoWriMo, we’ve loved sharing author tips to help you with your writing. Any police procedural writers will be please to know it’s their turn! Jane Bettany, author of In Cold Blood, is on the blog today sharing her top six tips for writing police procedurals. Writing Police… Read More

Finding Inspiration with M J Hollows

As we hit the half way point of November, we’re also half way through NaNoWriMo. Are you still looking for inspiration to drive your novel? Is there one scene you need help creating? M. J. Hollows, author of The German Nurse, tells us how he found… Read More