Every great journey starts with a single press of a keystroke.
That’s not how it goes.
Every great journey starts with a single step, and the same is true when it comes to how to write a Christian Romance novel. This journey will be long, but it will be worth the effort you put into it.
I can say it’s worth it because I have written over fifty novels in my time as a Christian romance author under the pen name T.K. Chapin for the last seven years. The best part? The growth in my relationship with the Lord since I started writing these stories.
Before you get started down this journey of writing Christian fiction or anything to do with God, I highly recommend you spend time on your knees before God asking in prayer if it’s truly what He desires for you to do.
This is important because we teach people with our words and we point people in a direction with the stories we write. If we’re not in it for the right reasons, we can end up falling into traps.
This can be a novel that is a bit too steamy or a novel that negates the true hope of Salvation through Jesus Christ alone.
Section I: Before You Write
Understand Your Why
It’s vital you understand the “why” that is fueling you to write the book your heart wishes to write.
Ask yourself: What fuels your desire to write this book in particular?
Is it because you have something to say or because you saw someone make some money writing books?
Are you passionate about stories?
Or are you needing to tell a story?
Your why has to fuel your drive on this journey or you won’t make it.
Finding your motivation is crucial to your long-term success in writing Christian romance. You don’t cross the finish line of any race with half-hearted hopes and dreams.
There has to be something that keeps you going when you don’t want to go anymore.
There has to be something that glues you to your seat for hours upon hours while you bleed onto the pages.
To help you gain perspective on your “why,” I’ll tell you the origins of my own personal why.
My “why” could be a few different things, but really, there is one moment in my life that I can point at and say, “That’s why.”
I’ll never forget the memory.
I had a full-time job, health insurance for myself and my family, a car payment, and a place to live.
Late one night, my wife and I were trying to determine how we were going to come up with a co-pay for a doctor.
I was living the so-called American dream, but I couldn’t even come up with a co-pay for my daughter to be seen by a doctor.
It was at this moment that I realized no matter the salary, no matter the job, no matter what I was doing—as long as I was working for someone else, I’d have an exact amount of income and I’d forever live within those bounds and limits.
Sure, I could get incremental raises and if I wasted enough of my life with a company, I might even get a promotion. Each increase would mean my bills would increase, though.
A new car, toy, etc. I was wasting my time working for someone else who could cut me at any moment due to a budget decrease instead of investing in myself, in my future.
This why was born out of hardship, but it was the reason I pushed myself beyond my own abilities.
How I ended up writing Christian romance is a different story. That “why” was because I took what I had (ability to write) and gave it to God saying, “Here. Take it all.”
That sounds way too perfect in terms of being a Christian though.
Let me back it up.
I tried to write EVERYTHING but Christian stories. They were clean, but I tried everything before I got to Christian romance.
Then after some success with Christian romance, I tried to get away from it again (writing non-fiction and a couple of non-romance stories that were still Christian) and failed.
Then… I finally went to God and said, ‘Here. Take it all.”
It was only then that He started to grow me in a radical way in our relationship and led to me writing so many novels.
Back to your “why.”
Your “why” sometimes needs you to wake up at 3 a.m. and work on your writing before going to the “9 to 5” job at 7 a.m.
Your “why” might need to be the reason you ignore friends and spend weekends and holidays slaving away at the keyboard.
That “why” has to be what drives you forward, especially early on if you want to seriously get a book written and not take 3 years to write it.
My “why” nowadays consists of God and His will for my life.
Through writing, I have found my purpose.
God has blessed me with an audience that continues to read my stories and my hope is that the stories bless their lives and help illustrate God’s power in the lives of believers.
In those moments of pain (sixteen-hour days), I think about the fact the world needs these stories.
I receive dozens of e-mails monthly from people who have read the stories and tell me how God has affected their life in some way through lessons discovered in the texts.
It warms my heart to know God is working in the lives of His believers.
Your why, the reason you write, will change with time like mine, but that initial “why” keeps you going forward.
When you begin to cultivate your why, don’t skip it or refuse to give it thought.
Your why is the backbone of your success in publishing Christian romance novels, and it’ll help you stay in it for the long haul. Whether you’re writing one book or have plans of writing hundreds, you’ll need the why to keep you going when you don’t want to go any longer.
Discover Your Passion
If you’re going to write and spend the time required to make something longer than a few paragraphs, it’s wise to enjoy what you’re writing about.
Everybody can recall times in their life (primarily in school) when they had to write something they had no interest in writing about.
It’s grueling, brutal, and downright annoying to the one doing the writing.
So, if you don’t want to write about 101 awesome chicken recipes, don’t do it!
There’s a great example in my own life where I used this principle in my own favor.
When I was a senior in high school, we had to do a project that we were supposed to be working on all throughout the school year.
I can recall the evening before a fourteen-page rough draft of my project was due.
I was sweating bullets as I hadn’t spent any time preparing; I just put it off while everybody else worked on theirs all school year—like one kid who studied sweat in athletes (oh, goody!).
Did I do it? Yes.
All I did was write about something I was passionate about in my life at the time—video games.
The passions you have in life are most likely areas in which you have already invested large amounts of time.
Using your already established passions will create an awesome anchor point for your writing. The words will flow right onto the page and while you’ll still put in a lot of time, it’ll be drastically less and definitely more enjoyable when it’s rooted in a passion.
You will need to learn how to identify three different types of passion points that you can use to help build your writing anchors.
As in life and ourselves, there are three areas that make up the passion points: Body, Soul & Mind.
This upcoming portion is helpful in order to identify ingredients for writing your romantic Christian stories.
Do you exercise? Eat healthy? Maybe you’re gluten-free? If you have a lifestyle that’s built around your body, start writing those areas down.
If you have a special diet because of your health, that could be a reason for writing into the history of a character that special diet requirement. This in no way should dominate your love story, but it can influence what that character eats.
If your career is in fitness or nutrition, maybe you have a character that is in that industry as well.
The more you identify strengths in your own passions, the easier it will be to write that bestselling Christian romance novel.
The soul of a human being has no race, no creed, and no boundaries.
It’s within our souls that dreams come alive and hope resides.
Our belief systems live within our souls and it’s through the passion of the soul and its experience we find the truth to draw from for our fiction romance stories.
All fiction lives within this category primarily, for all the stories that we tell, are to inspire the soul to move in some way.
Whether it’s fear, happiness, joy, or inspiration, each well-written story moves our soul in a direction and takes us away from where we previously were.
In writing Christian romance, it’s important to not push people in the wrong direction. That’s why it’s so important to remain prayerful the moment you set out to write a story.
What you write matters, and it can have eternal consequences both good and bad.
Thinking is one of the most natural things we do as humans.
At least for some of us.
If you’re a deeper thinker, enjoy reasoning, or enjoy other how-to types of materials, this might be the category for you to draw from most.
Even if those aren’t your forte, chances are no matter what you write, it will tend to tread somewhat into this category from time to time.
If you’re passionate about cars, someone in your romance novel might own that special car you hope to one day own yourself.
Some stories also cause us as readers to stop, think, and analyze our own lives.
These are the stories every author desires to write.
These fiction titles that are able to jump over to tickle the mind are the stories you’ll read and never forget.
They’ll be the type of book you recommend to friends who might be going through a struggle or a book you just couldn’t forget even if you tried.
Many of my own titles such as A Reason To Live were written in hopes to inspire someone struggling in their life. Self-analyzing and re-evaluating what you’re doing with your life in all aspects is important in growth and development, if your story can help someone, it makes it worth the effort in writing it.
Bringing truths of God to someone in a non-threatening way like a novel is a brilliant way to share God’s love and truth with them, possibly changing their lives.
Plan Time To Write
Spouse, kids, work, and everything else don’t simply ask for your time, they demand it.
Every time someone finds out that I write a novel from start to finish and publish it within a month and a half usually, their eyes gloss over and their mouths drop open.
They always ask me how I find the time.
Even more unbelievable to them is the fact that I do more than just write.
I spend time with family, friends, and even take naps most days!
How’s this possible?
It’s all about delegation and priority.
I’m not talking about what you do when you’re bored, I’m talking about every aspect of your life.
Oh, I should also mention I was producing at the same rate when I had a full-time job. I just got up earlier (usually between 3 and 4 a.m.).
5 a.m. (sometimes 4 a.m.) – Wake up
5 a.m.-6 a.m. – Drink coffee and go over any highly critical tasks (edits, e-mail replies, blog posts, etc. . . .)
7 a.m.-12 p.m. – Write (total writing time: 5 hours)
12 p.m.-1 p.m. – Lunch
1 p.m.-2 p.m. – Nap (or relax)
2:30 p.m.-5 p.m. – Write/Kids (total writing time: up to 2.5 hours)
5 p.m.-6 p.m. – Dinner
6 p.m. – 10 p.m. – Family, friends, work (sometimes—depends on the project and deadlines)
10 p.m. – Sleep
My Schedule (When I worked 40+ hours a week):
3 a.m.-4 a.m. – Wake up
4 a.m.-7 a.m. – Drink coffee & write (3 hours of writing)
7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. – Work while listening to writing audiobooks, videos, etc. . . .
5:30 p.m.-6 p.m. – Dinner
6 p.m.-9 or 10 p.m. – Family, relax, work (sometimes—depending on the project)
10 p.m. – Sleep
The thing that probably sticks out most is the early morning.
If it wasn’t for the sacrifice of sleep, I would have never been able to get to where I am today.
I could probably sleep in pretty late now that I don’t have a job, but I don’t want to.
I love what I do and I’m honestly excited to wake up every single day.
Sleep is the easiest thing to cut out.
You start cutting too much into family time and you risk aggravating the spouse and losing investment in your family relationships.
Sleep is an easy sacrifice.
I love to sleep, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve learned how to sleep less and get more done.
Important note to the schedules above: You’ll notice anytime I have free time I’m writing.
There are days where I just sent off a book to an editor and I’m not writing and other days where I’m doing this or that and don’t follow the schedule to a tee, but those days will happen.
So will the days where I wake up at 5 a.m. and work all day until midnight. Sleep. And then wake up three hours later to crunch in another jam session to try to meet a deadline.
These are the days in which your eyes feel like they’re bleeding and everything is falling apart. These are the days in which your why and a schedule will force you to progress forward.
Without a reason, why would you torture yourself to no end? It’s simple, you wouldn’t.
You have to sacrifice if you want to get anywhere worthwhile in this life.
Maybe it’s not sleep, maybe it’s some of the friendships you have, or maybe it’s a favorite TV show.
If a person only writes 250 words a day, they’d have an over 91,000-word manuscript in one year’s time!
That’s a pretty awesome realization!
Generate Story Ideas
Ideas are a dime a dozen.
The cliche is true in life, and it’s true in writing.
If however, you are struggling with coming up with ideas (happens eventually for any sane author), here are some helpful tips and tricks to keep in mind for generating story ideas.
Plot: Try What Works
If you’re struggling for amazing story ideas, think of a novel you have read before that you loved. If you don’t want to do that, then just think about an interesting story you’ve heard. We, as humans, love stories, and our ears perk up whenever a story is being told. Everything is within grasp. There are no rules outside of copying another’s work (the rule is don’t do it!). Please don’t copy other people’s hard work. I don’t care if the story isn’t Star Wars because it’s called Moon Wars and they have giant noodles they use to fight each other. Don’t try to cheat the system. It’s a waste of time and you won’t benefit anyone.
Instead, let someone’s work inspire you to cultivate new ideas. Stay within your genre (if you have one), but explore. A princess falls in love, but it turns out the man is the prince of the sworn enemy of her father. Awesome. Go ahead and start typing. Make your plot amazing, but don’t overthink it. Plotting isn’t your story; it’s just the framework of the story.
Plot Ideas For Your Story | The World Around You
We live in the information age and we have instant access to lots of information.
Included in that is the news!
I’m not a huge news guy, but there is something pretty cool about them…
News organizations do all the heavy lifting for you when it comes to story ideas for your novel.
You don’t even have to do the research; they already have!
Example. XYZ militant group captures four missionaries and kills them on video, then distributes the video through a local government news network.
Write a story about one or all the people captured by this XYZ group. Or maybe it’s a story about one of the guards inside the militant group. Or maybe change the story so one guy gets away alive and it’s his story.
It’s seriously that easy if you’re open to it.
Or take it a different direction and go with a new church that opened up on the north side of a town and how it’s changing the community.
You, as an author, are responsible for blurring the lines between reality and fiction.
Neverending Plot Ideas: Family, Friends & Beyond
For the most part, what you find in relationships with family, friends, and spouse as a whole won’t be usable material.
The reason for this is real life doesn’t have to make sense, but fiction does.
You have to weave a story that makes sense to the reader and works out in a way that leaves them satisfied.
I’ve made the mistake of trying to use reality for a story once in my writing career.
It was slaughtered in the reviews as unrealistic and horrible.
While the reviews made for great comedy, they didn’t do so well for the book. It’s since been unpublished and tossed in the virtual garbage can of mistakes.
What you can glean from your family, friends, and spouse are little pieces that you can recycle in your writing later.
Maybe a situation that happened, maybe a character flaw or character strength or even a mannerism.
Also, watch and record bits of information in the back of your mind.
Use the people around you as bouts of inspiration.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a contemporary Christian romance or a science fiction novel; people are people.
Use this fact to your advantage as a person who knows people!
Creating A Basic Plot For Your Story
Once you have a rough story idea, get it down to one sentence, if possible. This is crucial in the beginning stages of writing in order to narrow your focus and understand what you’re doing for the story. It doesn’t need to be pretty to keep your story from running amuck.
Example: A curious boy who lives a mile away from a well falls in.
Once you can narrow it down to one line, you can expand and write a few lines. Be sure to break it down into three parts.
Example: A boy named Miles lives in a small town in Eastern Washington. One day, he goes for a walk and finds that the well he walks by all the time has a glowing, blue light radiating from it. He falls in and is transported to a cartoonish land. He needs to find his way back before supper time if he doesn’t want to upset his mother.
The example above contains three separate parts of a story. It’s important that you understand where you plan to go with your story.
Just like jumping in a boat, you’d better have a destination or you’ll just be stuck in the harbor.
Be sure to understand the basics of the story you want to write, especially in the beginning.
Note: Even beginning discovery writers need to plot the basics of a story.
The Three Basics of Story
Remember, these sentences don’t need to be beautiful prose. There’s no reason to beat yourself up about how ugly they are or spend any real time on them outside of getting a rough idea of what your story is about.
These aren’t sentences you need to show anyone.
You can show people like your mom, I guess. I’m sure if you were to show her these sentences, she’d be amazed and put them up on her refrigerator. Then, you run the risk of not having your sentences for notes because they’re hanging on your mom’s fridge…
I’m just kidding, friend. 😉
The choice is ultimately up to you, but I’d suggest keeping the sentences under wraps.
The more you pull people into the process of writing, the longer it’ll take you to progress because of all the stupid comments and ideas, I mean… additional input.
Character Creation | Using The Rich & Famous
An excellent way to anchor your characters is to use the rich and famous.
Let me explain.
Have a favorite actor? Why? What kind of characteristics do they have? Hop online and watch interviews, take notes on everything about them.
What they like, don’t like, any quirks, and so on.
Take it a level deeper by studying a specific role in a movie.
Did you love that dweeby kid in that one movie?
Go watch it and take notes.
Use them to flesh out the foundation of your character. Figure out why you like them.
This will help you form a list of characteristics that your characters have.
This is a trick that will help you write faster stories. While it’s good at the beginning of a story, don’t force your writing to stay on course with that individual character unless it’s absolutely important to your plot.
Let your true characters blossom from the foundation you give them, then help them grow into the character they will become at the end of your story.
Character Creating In Story | Using The People You Know
Not the type of thing you want to brag about to the people you’re using for inspiration, but an excellent way to build a character.
Why? Because the people you know, you know without much study or thought!
That writing prose will flow from your fingertips like smooth butter.
What I often do is latch onto a specific trait that’s going to be predominant in the story for that character.
This can be a good or bad trait of the character and vital (or not) to your plot. It’s all up to you.
I’ll tell you about how I did this one specific time.
I’ll use a fake name to protect the guilty.
A man named Craig was a bit of a jerk in real life. What I did for the story I was working on was latch onto a bit of the anger he expressed that I didn’t understand or like.
Using that person for the character foundation was the perfect opportunity to not only use him in the story but to see where the character arc (the progression of a character’s story) went.
He ended up being crushed under a fiery beam of death—and yes, it was satisfying!
Sorry, Craig. 😉
Setting For A Story | Research and What You Know
Setting is one of those things that you can waste a lot of time over-researching when you could be writing.
Yes, Hawaii is an awesome location to set your destination wedding themed Christian romance, but you don’t need to watch three hours of videos on YouTube and start planning your “business trip” for this coming summer.
If you have a favorite place and you are writing within the contemporary genre for your story, stick to what you know unless there’s a reason for the plot to move elsewhere—unless you’re feeling ambitious and want to take the time to research.
Don’t waste research time. Figure out the lay of the land, time period, few key details you need, and get back to work. You can always pause and research as needed.
I love pulling up location pictures and tossing them on my secondary computer screen for me to glance at while I’m writing a scene in that location.
I try to stick with using a foundation of what I know to craft stories quickly, and I write within contemporary genres so it works out great.
If you must write outside of what you know, make sure you know the setting well.
Don’t make the mistake of putting palm trees in southeast Idaho.
Here’s a great way to figure out if you have the setting researched enough.
Conduct this writing prompt for setting: Have your character walk down the street. Just have them stroll through the town and admire the buildings, scenery, and businesses.
It doesn’t need to be in your story, but it’ll help get your setting in your mind’s eye. If you are struggling, go back to researching and then try the writing prompt again.
Doing this in small increments of research and then writing will help you avoid the dreaded world-building syndrome many writers suffer from in their prewriting stages.
Research is great, but if you’re not writing and only researching, there is a problem.
Outlining Your Story For Success
When it comes to outlining stories, authors fall into two camps.
Some outline, some don’t.
Of the group that outlines their Christian stories, it’s a mixed bunch.
I’ll share my own experience when it comes to outlining your novel.
Please don’t try to treat this as gospel truth, but instead, take what works for you and adapt it.
Personally, I started out never outlining, then grew into outlining some, and now I outline A LOT.
After I have my ideas, my setting, and all that good stuff, I write an outline in two phases.
Phase One : Setting Up The Basics
I take my idea sentence and expand it into a paragraph. I don’t always do it, but it is helpful in the next portion if you have a basic understanding of where your story starts and where your story ends.
Then I set up the beginning incident, the middle build, and the ending payoff.
This follows the three-act structure in storytelling pretty well.
All three acts should have the following…
You can check out my real-life example from a story I wrote. Download it here.
Phase Two: Outlining Chapter By Chapter
This is basically the entire story in short form.
I start with chapter 1 and write all the chapters and brief details until the end.
I also try to indicate rising and falling in each scene I write with a “+” or a “-” to give me an understanding of where the reader should be emotionally.
+/++ at the end of a scene would mean it starts positive and ends even more positive.
+/-+ at the end of a scene would be starts positive, dips negative, then comes to positive.
Keeping your story up and down emotionally will keep your reader engaged and entertained, pretty important if you want them to read your novel to the end.
I also provide any important notes on chapters, for example “Chapter 2 – Flashback Cody and Ashley 2nd year of marriage”
You can download my real example of this here.
This part of my process has saved me a lot of time and helped me get the rough start of what my story will look like.
The more you outline and work on your story prior to writing it, the smoother the writing process will be for you.
The Pain Of Outlining
I will warn you, outlining and figuring out just how your story will go is painful and requires a lot of thinking.
I love using a whiteboard and markers for this stage of the process.
If you want to try it out, head to your local store and pick up a giant whiteboard and a set of markers. Otherwise, you can get them on Amazon. (You can use these links to order from Amazon -> Whiteboard and Markers).
Being able to write down your story ideas, how your story will progress along with your characters, will help you get a better visual of that perfect Christian romance.
Setting Yourself Up For Success
The first thing you should know about success is you’re the only one who determines if you’ll find it or not.
I want to go over some different key aspects of success and what you, as a writer, can expect on your road to getting there.
Whether you want to write one Christian romance novel or a hundred of them, knowing what success looks like and how to set yourself up for it is the key to achieving it.
Failure is your friend
People fear failing more than anything else when they set out to accomplish something in their life.
The problem with this is the fact that failure is required in order to someday find success.
Hitting points of failure mean you are learning what doesn’t work. It’s not the end, but just a time to pivot.
Before becoming a full-time writer and leaving my nine-to-five job, I had a decade of failures under my belt.
I started companies that I had no business trying to start and I failed more times than I can recall.
One time I tried to start a company that would deliver snack foods to people around the city. I never even got to the point in which I delivered a single snack.
Many of my ideas failed pretty quickly while others lasted a while but still never took off because my heart wasn’t in it.
There was no passion or why other than to make more money and that wasn’t enough for me.
My computer repair business start-up was called “My Tech” and I had that business operational for a while. I made business cards, handed out and hung up flyers, knocked on doors, and really pushed the business to succeed.
I have a background in computers and I am really good at working on them, but there was really no passion behind it.
So, I didn’t succeed in the long run and the business was a total bust, but I learned something valuable from trying it. I learned that wasn’t what I was going to do.
When I did finally start writing books, it wasn’t an instant success either.
It took months of failing and releasing horrible books to figure out what was good, what worked, and what didn’t.
It took almost two years to just figure out what genre I was going to settle into and make my home (Christian romance).
I failed constantly until I figured it out, and I still find myself failing.
It’s just part of growing as an author, as a Christian, and as a person.
The best way to view failures is to see them as growing pains required for development in the areas of life we wish to improve.
The only true failure is when you stop getting back up and trying again.
Setting A Writing Goal You Can Achieve
When you write down your goals, don’t just write some fantasy goal that has no possibility of coming true. Stick to core goals that are very feasible and within your reach right now.
Example: Write a rough draft of XYZ manuscript within two months.
Change the time if needed, but you get the point.
You can change the writing goals you set, but it’s important to get the initial goal down in writing.
Your personal goals can work as deadlines for your writing projects.
Without goals, you will fail.
Often I find myself being lazy and procrastinating until the date approaches, so if you’re like me you should try to make smaller goals that act more like deadlines.
These writing goals will help launch you toward success.
I’ve met and read about a lot of authors who set daily word count goals.
These smaller goals take you into the bigger ones. Some people set their goal at 500 words a day and for others, it’s 2,000.
You have to figure out what you can do in the time that you can devote to writing.
There are plenty of authors out there who only can fit 250 words in a day, but as we have already learned earlier, at the end of the year that’s over 91,000 words!
Create goals that work for you and your life.
Setting A Goal You Might Achieve
Once you have set goals that are easily attainable for you, you can move into the more difficult goals.
These are going to take a lot from you and will push you beyond what you could possibly do.
They’re still realistic, but they’re just out of your grasp. If you can really buckle down and work on them, you can achieve them.
Example: Publish my book and earn over 100 reviews within the first 60 days.
Having a goal that’s possible, but will require more effort out of you will automatically help condition your thoughts, decisions, and work habits to be geared toward achieving those high-reaching goals.
Just writing it down on a sticky note and keeping it somewhere within eyesight will help you be more likely to hit that goal.
You will naturally be drawn toward that goal and your mind will help you get there. It will still require purposeful steps on your part and a lot of hard work, but it’s much easier when you let yourself know where you want to go.
Setting A Goal You Dream of Achieving
The final piece of the puzzle for goal setting is setting one goal up for the entire year that you absolutely would love to achieve.
It’s most likely impossible, but it’s still within the realm of reality. Making sure it’s realistic will help keep it from being a ridiculous goal.
Example: Make $10,000 in a single month.
This goal isn’t impossible for someone to achieve. It is unlikely if you’re starting out in the self-publishing industry, but it’s not impossible.
If you consider something like “a million dollars in one month,” it would most likely be a waste of your time to think about.
While it’s possible, it resides outside of plausibility.
Giving yourself one, solid dream goal will help you set up for where you want to go in the long run.
It’s almost like a road map for your subconscious mind.
Section II: How To Write A Christian Romance Novel
Before we get started on how to write a Christian romance novel (the thing you’ve been waiting for), it’s important to have a good piece of writing software.
The author’s tools will help craft the masterpiece.
The best one in my opinion, and the one I have been using for years is Scrivener. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Scrivener risk-free here.
Investing in software might seem silly when you might already have something like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, but in my experience, it’s not the same and you’ll thank me down the line.
Scrivener gives you the ability to easily move between chapters, organize scenes, and so much more. It being a free trial, there’s no reason to at least try it out.
Okay, now onto the fun stuff… Writing!
Create Experiences, Not Boring Fluff
Readers love to escape and they will do this through your Christian romance story.
You don’t want to give them something they can’t relate to or identify with, or they’ll stop reading your book.
For example. You can’t write about aliens that are nothing like humans, but you can write about aliens with human-like struggles (Hollywood example: Avatar). Different genre, but you get the point.
Make sure you make your characters relatable.
The quicker you can build a connection to the reader, the better the experience will be for the reader.
This section will be going over the fundamentals of writing and creating a unique experience for your reader.
You’ll want to make sure you’re not boring your readers at any point of the story, or you’ll find readers setting down your book, oftentimes forgetting the fact that they were reading it.
In The Beginning . . .
The dreaded blinking cursor of doom lingers on a white word document, and you’re pulling your hair out and cursing the day you were born.
I’ve been there and it sucks. Luckily, there is hope.
First, what you should do in this situation is to open a fresh word document. Yes, I can hear you already ask, “What about the one that I have been working on?”
My answer to that is still the same—a new document.
Open that fresh document that doesn’t contain any of that yucky feeling of utter doom that you had previously in front of you.
Write about your main character.
View this not as the beginning of your novel, but instead as research.
You need to get into your story, your character(s), and even your setting.
If you read the point I made about setting and discovering where your story takes place, this is almost the exact same thing.
Remember, this isn’t your manuscript.
This is to get the engine up and running.
Once you’re ready, switch back over to the other and dive in.
Another issue I’ve come across that you might encounter is you’re partially into the beginning of the story and you’re bored.
If this is you, go ahead and remind yourself this is the first draft.
Most likely, you’ll be changing those first three to four chapters dramatically or maybe you’ll even cut them out entirely.
Many authors trash the first three chapters they write automatically to cut right into the story. It takes time to get into a story and find the voice that you are in search of—don’t forget that.
Regardless, don’t revise forever and get stuck!
Scenes are what connect the story from one point to another point. They drive the story forward and keep things flowing.
Each scene must advance the plot and drive the story further.
There’s an important caveat that must be noted here about scenes.
While you want the scenes to push the story forward, sometimes it’s good to slow down and flesh out the setting, character, and the rest of the world that exists outside the storyline you’re progressing.
Be sure to have a flowing story, but allow yourself to slow down.
It’s all about pacing.
One thing after another makes for a fast-paced novel, but often this can take away from the experience. The slower scenes are opportunities to let your character’s emotions, life, and motivations flourish and help enrich the experience for the reader.
Pay close attention to your story’s pace and allow the slow scenes to creep in once in a while to enrich the story.
Scenes: Showing Up Late & Leaving Early
Showing up late and leaving early is probably not the best practice with your friends and family, but it’s vital for gripping scenes that readers love to read.
The scenes you craft need to be full of purpose and rich with driving points to move forward in the story.
Nobody wants to read about two talking heads greeting each other and exchanging hellos with nothing going on.
Get to the point quickly and get out quickly.
There’s nothing more boring than reading a scene in which basic dialogue is exchanged and the reader is forced to listen to standard greetings they themselves encounter every day.
“Hi,” Tim said to Sally.
“Hello,” she replied.
“How are you?” he asked.
“Good,” she replied.
When you go through your revisions (we’ll talk more about this later), you’ll want to make sure you tighten up dialogue and scenes so there is a purpose with each sentence and paragraph within the manuscript.
Both you and the reader aren’t interested in wasting time, so don’t waste it!
On Writing Dialogue
Dialogue is an art form and even the most experienced writers struggle with it.
Keeping a conversation flowing in a story is much more difficult than it is made to look by the prolific writers of today.
The tendency most writers have is to expose plot within dialogue, and it’s a bad practice. Let’s take a look at the example below.
Example: “Hey, Sally. Did you see that wreck on Monroe on your way home from work?”
Nodding, she replied, “Yeah. I noticed the blue Honda Accord had white paint on the side where it was hit by a Toyota Prius. Wonder if Jeff Krunk hit it?”
The above example is pretty bad.
If the author needs to work in details of the car, they should be using the story to do it, not forcing it through dry dialogue scenes.
An example of what the author could do instead is to have the guy who speaks the first line have actually seen Sally at the scene (her car) and mention it in their conversation.
Working in detail about what you want the reader to know is important.
Many times, you’ll find yourself adding hints, clues, or other information throughout the story in the revision stages of your novel.
Another important thing to know about dialogue is the subtext: not what’s said, but how it’s being said.
“I love you,” Sally said.
“I love you too,” Brad replied.
“I love you.” Tears streamed down Sally’s cheeks as her heart pounded, waiting for Brad’s response.
Brad’s lips partially opened for a moment. His eyes held the hurt from the past as they welled with tears, could he trust her? Remembering the Scripture he had read that morning, his heart was moved to forgive. “I love you, too.”
Dialogue can be difficult. Spend time in coffee shops and out in public with a notebook and pen. Study how people interact with one another. Study their eyes, their movements.
Movies are a great source to lift inspiration from as well. Look for the subtext, what’s not being said, and incorporate it into your writing.
There’s a fine line between sounding realistic and just forcing your characters to push the plot forward.
Be careful, prayerful, and always refine your dialogue on the revision part of your writing.
Bringing In The Environment To Dialogue
One of the most important things to avoid when crafting dialogue is the dreaded talking heads. Yes, I’m mentioning it again, because it’s so annoying.
Back and forth is sometimes okay and completely reasonable in a story.
Other times the reader can become tired and bored, often losing track of who is talking. When a reader has to look back in your story to see who is saying what, you’re not doing it correctly.
One thing you can do is incorporate the environment into the dialogue. This is a great way to add emotion, keep the two people distinct from each other, and keep the reader interested.
Example (Boring Dialogue):
Heading into the kitchen, I found Micah doing the dishes. I smiled as I patted him on the shoulder and asked, “Want some help with those?”
“Sure. Glad to have you back, Taylor. This place hasn’t been the same without you keeping everyone in line. Sherwood tries to keep an eye on the guys, but everyone knows you’re the one that keeps the order around here.”
“Good to be back. I did some more reading in my Bible last night and talked to Megan a little bit.”
“That’s great to hear!”
Example (Engaging Dialogue):
Heading into the kitchen, I found Micah doing the dishes. I smiled as I patted him on the shoulder and asked, “Want some help with those?”
“Sure,” he said as he gave me the towel that was draped over his shoulder. “Glad to have you back, Taylor. This place hasn’t been the same without you keeping everyone in line. Sherwood tries to keep an eye on the guys, but everyone knows you’re the one that keeps the order around here.”
“Good to be back.” I grabbed a plate from the second sink and dried it. “I did some more reading in my Bible last night and talked to Megan a little bit.”
Stopping from washing the plate he had in his hand, Micah said, “That’s great to hear!”
The above dialogue with engagement helps the reader not only keep track of who is talking; it keeps them in the story and scene that is occurring.
While washing dishes isn’t a big deal when it comes to the plot, it does help keep the dialogue separated and highlights Micah’s character of being a caring man.
When Micah stopped washing the plate and directed his attention to Cole, it really showed how much he cared about Cole and their relationship.
You can also incorporate the location and seasons in your story. Crunchy snow, slick roads, and being in downtown can all bring life to your story.
This type of scene building works on multiple layers and helps enrich the reading experience.
Ur Furst Draf Suks
The most important thing to remember in this guide on writing Christian romance is this one.
New writers struggle with not editing their work over and over again.
It’s pure insanity to do this, but it’s part of being a new author.
I’m guilty of doing this in the beginning, but I want to save you time and pain!
Back in the early days, I’d re-read what I wrote the day before, or worse, I’d re-read everything I wrote up until where I left off last and edit every part of the writing.
This is an utter waste of time!
The first draft is where you get the story down on paper or more likely a screen.
I approach the first draft by getting the structure and idea I want onto the pages.
It’s just a skeleton.
I need to know what I’m working with to develop the story to shine in the revisions.
Getting that story down quickly is crucial. Let’s go over a few different things to keep in mind when you’re writing your first draft.
Never Edit Your First Draft
Everyone is tempted to edit their work whenever they re-read it.
It’s a natural thing to do when you’re writing.
I can’t read a single piece of my writing without wanting to edit it.
Be sure not to get into a routine of self-editing. Minor tweaks are okay but don’t get stuck in the nasty habit of going over everything before you continue writing.
Your goal in the first draft, like I said before and I can’t say enough, is to get the story down!
Form the story in its entirety.
Don’t worry about fancy and pretty sentences; they’ll change.
You can add all the prettiness in your revision stages later.
Take Lots of Notes As You Write Your Novel
Since you won’t be editing and fixing your work as you go through it, it’s a good idea to take lots and lots of notes.
I keep two types of notes, one Word document for each. This can also be kept in software such as Scrivener, but I personally like having these notes on my secondary screen, easy to see as I write.
One document is summaries of each chapter, I’ll write the summary of key points in the chapter right after I get done writing it. It will encompass how the reader is hopefully feeling, key introductions, and other elements. This will help when I pick up the next time on writing or if I need to glance back at previous chapters. Please refer to the free sample document I have created here.
The other document is for important things I need to remember. For example, foreshadowing for a future event I want to happen. Or, if I need to remember the age of someone or a timeline element. I then color code them to help me keep track of what I need to track. Please check out the free sample document I created for you here.
The only time I use the actual manuscript to look back during the first draft is when I need to verify something that was said, or a name, or something similar that was not included in the notes. It rarely happens, but it does happen.
If you can form this habit of taking detailed notes and resisting look-backs in the first draft, you’re going to set yourself up for success and not get stuck revising your story over and over.
Cry, Revise, Cry
There is only one part of writing that I loathe—the revisions.
It’s not merely the second draft of the story, it’s far beyond that. It’s the third, fourth, and fifth revision of a manuscript where you just want to gouge your eyeballs out.
I know that seems intense, but it’s really mild in comparison to how it feels to read the same thing over and over again until you can’t seem to see anything else wrong with it.
It’s literally mind-numbing at moments.
But… it’s where the magic happens.
Honestly, the entire writing process itself is quite an emotional rollercoaster.
Often, you’ll find yourself bouncing between thinking you’re a genius and thinking you shouldn’t ever be allowed to write another word.
This type of behavior is found in only two types of people—the mentally insane and those who write stories.
If you aren’t there, don’t worry. You’ll get there. We have a club. 😉
Revising is a brutal part of the writing process, but it also comes with a lot of fun.
There are times in which I read something I wrote and wonder who did it because it was quite brilliant to be anything of mine.
Then, other times, I wonder who wrote it because it is utter trash.
Prayer helps during these rough times as an author.
The most annoying part of revisions is the fact that they don’t even catch every problem you have in the manuscript.
Many times your eyes will trick you into thinking something is written in a certain way, but in reality, it’s not.
That’s why it’s crucial to have beta readers, proofreaders, line editors, and so on. I’ll cover more later.
Go through your story and use your notes to fix what you already know needs fixing.
Don’t worry about actually reading the story from start to finish on this first pass-through.
It’s a waste of time.
Do you notice how I mention this a lot in this post? I find many things to be time wasters and I’m trying to save you time.
Instead, focus on the major areas where you took notes.
There will be specific notes you aren’t sure need to be incorporated into your story; save those for your actual read-through.
This first revision is only for the major fixes and foreshadowing.
Read through your story and fine-tune every sentence.
This is when the magic really begins to flow into the story.
Spend time crafting each sentence to flow smoothly, and bring the world and story to life.
Some writers will naturally write plenty of descriptions and beautiful prose in the first draft.
For the rest of us, myself included, you’ll be working on making your work shine in the second set of revisions and each set of revisions beyond.
After You Have Revised A Bunch
Now is the time in which I’ll export my manuscript from Scrivener and open it in a Word document.
Then, I’ll use the read-aloud feature built into Word to listen to the robotic voice read (and butcher) my story.
An alternative to this is having a spouse read it out loud to you.
This part is tough to get through since you’ve already edited it so many times, but it’s worth it.
Hearing it helps you catch things like missing words and other issues you can’t see with your eyes.
Fine Tuning The Manuscript
When you have your manuscript to the place where you are happy with it, you’ll come to the point where you need to send it to someone who can tear it to shreds.
Sounds fun, right?
It’s not too bad, and it gives you a break from the manuscript.
The next time you come back to it, your eyes have had a chance to heal.
There are a few different ways to get a manuscript edited.
Some cost you thousands of dollars, others are free, and the rest fall somewhere between those two extremes.
In this section, I will cover each area of editing that you should be aware of and explain how to proceed through each one.
You love your manuscript and think it’s amazing at this point.
Now it’s time for fresh eyes that can help you shape the story (where it needs it) and point out the plot holes.
There are professional developmental editors that can cost you thousands, but there are also more affordable ways of development editing in my experience.
If you want to pay top dollar, go hunt one down that specializes in Christian romance and go for it. If you’re broke or can’t afford that kind of thing or just don’t feel like doing that, keep reading.
First, let’s take a moment to discuss what developmental editing is and is not.
Developmental editing is when someone takes your story and finds all the problems with it regarding the storyline.
They look for loose ends and incorrect information (example: historical inaccuracies).
They help you shape characters and rip out entire scenes that are useless.
They won’t fine-tune your grammar or word choice most of the time, but instead, they look at the structural integrity of the manuscript.
They can be ruthless, but these people can help make a good manuscript great.
Now let’s talk about finding someone who can fit this role without breaking the bank.
This is going to be someone who is either willing to work with you for a profit on their part (this is what I did) or it’s going to be someone who just loves you or Christian romance and is willing to do it.
Whatever you do, it’s important you find the right fit.
If it doesn’t feel right in the sample edit (most editors will edit a portion of your work), go with your gut.
The last thing you want to do is send a manuscript to your “developmental editor” only to get it back with a thumbs up and an “I loved it.”
These people aren’t helping you. They might be sweet and really nice, but they’re not being helpful.
You need someone to shred your work into pieces so you can put it back together and make it pretty again.
I will warn you—if you haven’t ever written anything and you’re trying to find someone who fits this role, it’s going to be hard.
In my early days, I had to skip the developmental editor and just find beta readers who could report back issues they found.
If you do that, make sure you let them know to spot any plot holes or issues throughout their reading and make sure they feel valued no matter the work they do.
Spouses and family members aren’t recommended because they tend to be biased toward your work, but if it’s required (because you can’t find anyone else), make sure you press the importance of how ruthless they can and should be.
Try to still steer clear of them if possible, but if you go this route don’t get mad at what they suggest.
Once you take the manuscript to the slaughterhouse, start fixing the problems (that you agree are issues, you’ll need your gut for this) and begin revisions again.
If you go the route of multiple beta readers, be sure to recognize the patterns where they reveal what they say is wrong. If three people say the same thing and you disagree, chances are you’re wrong and it needs to change.
Beta readers will be comprised of loyal fans of your work or those you find willing to give your piece a shot.
You can find some on Goodreads.com and a few Facebook groups, but don’t be discouraged if you receive a low amount of replies in your hunt.
Also, don’t become discouraged when even a smaller percent actually beta read and provide feedback. It’s just part of the process.
Always request more people to read it than you want. If you desire five beta readers’ feedback, you better be sending out at least fifteen to twenty copies.
Beta readers are going to help you fine-tune your manuscript and they’ll pick out a multitude of issues depending on who’s reading. But, some of them won’t. The help can come in a multitude of ways: commas, sentence structure, plots, sub-plots, etc. . . . It really comes down to the one reading and what they’re willing to spot.
I recommend taking all the help you can get from beta readers, especially early on in your authorship.
Once you’re satisfied with your revisions, it’s time to find a line editor.
This part is crucial in order to present a polished and final book.
This is especially important in Christian writing. We are writing and publishing for God. It’s important that we have top-quality content going out that isn’t garbage.
It needs to be the best quality in our hearts and minds.
The line editor will take care of a lot of the grammar and sentence structure issues.
While you will need to invest money in a line editor, there’s good news.
As I mentioned earlier, most line editors will provide a free sample of their work.
You send them a portion of your manuscript and they’ll edit it for free to show you how well they do so. This is a great way to test someone out to see if they’re a good fit for you.
It took me testing a half-dozen editors before I found one that prevented bad reviews from coming in on Amazon.
It’s hard work to find a decently-priced editor, but when you put in the research and time in finding a high-quality one, your readers will thank you (in the form of not leaving bad reviews).
A few editors will even break up the cost in payments, which can help tremendously if you’re on a tight budget.
Getting a quality line editor is essential and if you need help finding one, head over to a website such as www.kboards.com, as well as the Writer’s Café (it’s located under the “Author” menu item along the top). There you can do a search for editors and browse the yellow pages thread inside the Writer’s Café.
Try multiple editors and compare their styles of work along with price and timeframe.
When you do get the work back from the editor, carefully go over every change and make sure you’re okay with the changes.
You don’t want to auto-accept everything.
There might be parts you found crucial to your story and would rather not change. A great example of this would be dialogue in which the person speaks more formally, but the editor changed all the instances of “should not” to “shouldn’t” and messed up the voice.
Pro-Tip: Take it to the next level and do a full read of your manuscript aloud after your line editor is done. Even editors miss things.
You’re getting close to publication and you should pat yourself on the back for that fact alone.
You’ve done a lot up until this point and now it’s time to gather a few more readers who can conduct a read-through on your story.
While many companies that provide line edits will offer to proofread, it’s often more affordable to ask people to proofread (they’ll recommend fixing minor issues if you ask them to).
I usually ask people to keep an eye out for typos or missing words. At this stage, your manuscript should be so polished it only has a few issues (but even then, I’ve seen books with errors).
Facebook groups, fans, and Goodreads are all great places to find proofreaders. If you need to hire someone to proofread (professional proofreaders will catch more) ask your editor if they have recommendations.
Now you’re ready to publish your book!
Congratulations on writing your book! Now it’s time to move on to publishing!
You have two options when it comes to publishing your book.
Self-publishing or traditional.
I have almost every book self-published. Currently, I am only publishing on Amazon primarily due to the fact that’s where most of my readers are. If you desire to go through this route, I recommend learning about the process of self-publishing by following this in-depth guide on how to self-publish your book.
If you desire to find a literacy agent for your manuscript, I recommend learning about that here.
Regardless of what route you go, I recommend buying a domain address and setting up a website with your author’s name. You can do this all with Bluehost at minimal cost to you. Just click/tap the image below.
I hope this guide on how to write a Christian romance novel has been helpful for you.
It takes a lot of work to write quality Christian romance stories that inspire, encourage, and honor God while at the same time entertaining readers.
As you pray, learn, and grow, I pray that the Lord blesses the work that you do and I pray that your writing reaches the readers who need to hear it the most.