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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Scifi/fantasy with romantic elements vs. romance with scifi/fantasy elements

Please welcome guest blogger Kelly McCrady

Be certain which your publisher is after before you submit, or be prepared for a rejection worded something like this:

Dear [author],

Thank you for submitting your manuscript [title]. While it is well-written, gripping scifi/fantasy/paranormal awesomeness, we cannot offer you a contract for the manuscript in its current form. What you have written is a scifi/fantasy book with a love story in it; your hero and heroine marry on page 160, and work together as a team for 220 more pages of external conflict leading up to the birth of their child.

Here at [publisher] we only accept romance, which means the romantic conflict holding the hero and heroine back from their HEA must span the entire word count of the book. External forces holding the lovers physically apart from each other is not the same as internal, emotional conflict delaying the dénouement desired by our readers.

We wish you luck in placing this otherwise really good story with an appropriate publishing house.


[Editor who wasted her weekend reading a story she cannot buy or get paid for.]

Sadly, not every synopsis (oh, how we hate to write those! Editors know this) shows this distinction clearly. You, the author, may be the only person who knows the percentage of your manuscript dedicated to the real-time advancement of the romantic relationship between your hero and heroine. While you’re studying submission guidelines (you do, right?), ask yourself: Is it enough for the publisher you’ve targeted?

One way to decide this is to use simple math. It will take careful reading but try this trick: Take a piece of paper or a 3x5 card and draw a line down the center to divide it in half. On one side, write “yes” at the top and on the other side write “no.”

Read your manuscript scene by scene. A scene is defined as characters, place, and time—when one element changes, you have a new scene. At the end of each scene, ask yourself this question: Does this scene address the development of the romantic relationship between my hero and heroine (or hero and hero, depending on your subgenre)? Yes or no. Make a hash-mark on the correct side. And once both the hero and heroine have accepted their love for the other and they are in agreement on this, with no more arguments tearing them apart—you have reached the “end” of the romance portion. No more “yeses.”

By the time you reach the end of the manuscript, you will be able to see which side is “heavier.” What does this mean toward submission guidelines?

Count the number of hash-marks on the “yes” side. Add up all on the “no” side and add that to the “yes” number for the total scenes. Divide the “yes” number by the total for a percentage. For example, at my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, you should have a minimum of 80% of the manuscript dedicated to the development of the romance.

The next time you’re unsure whether your book is romance genre or scifi/fantasy genre, count your scenes—the answer may be more obvious than you fear.


As a sci-fi/fantasy fan and author, Kelly believes the best stories contain the human element of romance. Scribbling pieces of stories into spiral notebooks since first grade, she became serious about the craft of writing in 2001. Her dream is to see her work on the library shelf next to Anne McCaffrey's. In her free time, this former zookeeper crochets, knits, quilts and gardens – badly. "I'm better with words than with plants," she says. Kelly lives in Oregon with her husband and daughter. Visit her on the web at http://www.kellymccrady.com/

The Empire’s Edge

LEAH INDASELY, daughter of the First House, expects to wed to an old friend of equal rank. Instead, the king makes her a decoy to find an insurgent out to stage a coup, and arranges Leah’s cover—marriage to an aloof army captain. Leah plans to return home when her assignment is finished, the marriage annulled.

Driven by desire to earn status, not have it handed to him, JEREN VASSAL reluctantly joins his high-born bride at the altar, knowing marriage is necessary to his new commission. Yet Leah, full of grace and intelligence, sparks thoughts of home and family, a life beyond that of a soldier.

Now an old enemy threatens to rise again. Questions of loyalty force Leah and Jeren to unite, to find a solution to the disappearance of the realm’s dragons, and pacify a vengeful neighboring culture. First they must find the source of unrest inside their kingdom, and despite offering their honor on false pretense, they begin an unexpected slide toward love.


Pamala Knight said...

Thank you for the excellent post. I have always struggled with the distinction and now you've given me a tool to help with that.

Unknown said...

Great advice! I will for sure use your tip.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Great guideline, thanks. I think my WIP is going to fall on the 'more sci fi than romance' side of things but this will be a handy tool to make sure.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Very helpful post. Thanks for sharing.

Juli D. Revezzo said...

Thank you for the excellent tip!

Ilona Fridl said...

I find it's the same when you write mystery/suspense. How much do you devote to that and the romance. Different houses have different guidlines, fortunately.

Mona Karel said...

This is a great read. I "knew" before but didn't completely understand the difference