Guest Blogger ~ Missy Tippens

Missy Tippens is an award-winning writer and was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Contest. She has a story included in Blessings of Mossy Creek, published by BelleBooks. After ten years of pursuing her dream, she made her first sale of a full-length novel to Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Her debut novel, Her Unlikely Family, was a February 2008 release. Her next, His Forever Love, is on the shelves now! It will be followed by A Forever Christmas in November.

Be sure to leave a comment for Missy to be entered in a drawing for her new book, His Forever Love.

I just finished edits on my third book for Steeple Hill Love Inspired and mailed off a proposal for the next. And on each book, I feel as if I’ve learned a bit more about writing category romance. I thought I’d share with you some of what I’ve learned.

But first…some terminology. When I talk about category romance, I’m talking about shorter books that come out monthly and are only on the shelves for one month that are from a publisher like Steeple Hill. (Other examples that aren’t inspirational would be Harlequin Super Romance or Silhouette Special Edition.)

The publisher puts out these books in these lines, and each line has certain characteristics. Some people like to say these stories are formulaic. But I don’t believe that. Rather than A+B+C=D, I think of it more as writing within certain boundaries. And those boundaries are the reader expectations.

So what do readers expect from a category inspirational romance? I’ll share what I consider as I write my stories. And though some will be particular to category, a lot will be the same for most romance novels.

1. A certain size book that can be read in a day or two. (Contemporary Love Inspired books are 55-60,000 words by computer word count.)

2. Flawed characters who have some type of spiritual journey or spiritual growth through the story. You don’t necessarily need a conversion scene, but there should be growth on both characters’ parts.

3. An internal struggle (aka internal conflict) that keeps the hero and heroine from falling in love on page one.

4. Some type of external conflict that forces these two to interact while they’re trying NOT to fall in love.

5. A sweet romance—not too steamy with the physical attraction. No love scenes. Kissing is okay, but they can’t be thinking so much about the physical as they think about the emotional. One thing I learned in an editor workshop that has really stuck with me is that the Love Inspired reader is typically a married, working mom. And she feels guilty when she takes time for herself to read (love that mom guilt!). So she doesn’t want to read stories that make her feel even more guilt.

6. A setting readers can relate to. Most seem to like small towns. They don’t really go for exotic settings.

7. The romance is central. There are usually secondary characters and family relationships, and also the faith journeys, but they can’t overshadow the romance.

8. The story and characters can’t be preachy. They can’t be used to deliver a message about an issue. Refer back to number 7.

9. Personally, I think of category stories (as well as most books I read) as escapism. They transport me away from everyday life into the world of someone else, someone I can relate to, someone I can root for and worry about until…

10. The happy ending!

So what do you think? I’m sure there are things I didn’t think of! Do you have anything you’d like to add regarding category inspirational romance?

If you haven’t read a category romance lately, Missy’s second, His Forever Love, is on the shelves now! Visit Missy’s website for more information.

His Forever Love
by Missy Tippens

In Magnolia, Georgia, local legend says that a couple who holds hands around the “forever” tree will have an unending love. Even so, Bill Wellington held Lindsay Jones’s hands around that tree years ago…and then left her behind. He chose the big city, and now he wants to bring his grandmother there. But to his amazement, he finds that Granny has a boyfriend—and a vibrant life. A life that includes Lindsay, Granny’s caregiver. Bill never thought he’d want to come home, yet Magnolia clearly has its charms. As does Lindsay, who makes him long for a second chance at forever love.