In February, I wrote a blog post titled: Sports Romance Writing Tips: How to Write Sports Romance (https://bit.ly/2U4nmav). In that post, I created a list of generalized tips that I have found useful in writing my sports romances and thought may be helpful to any writer who wishes to explore this subgenre. What I failed to realize is just how sparse the information on this topic is. Now, if you’re asking how could that be since I already wrote one post about this topic and should have discovered it then, I at that time did discover that it wasn’t a widely covered topic. However, after the first post, I began to think that perhaps I had not having conducted enough research. First, I went old school to several brick and mortar libraries (yes, they still do exist) in the area. I believe I visited six all total. I found a lot about sports and a lot about romance. I even found a good deal of sports romance novels. What I did not find was the process of writing a sports romance. Mostly, the how-to discussed how-to-write romance—which is important. However, there are some considerations that are unique to sports romance that isn’t included in general romance.
Therefore, I expanded my internet search to include more media outlets. I still did locate much. And when I searched for specific questions about sports romance novels, I came up with even less. So, I’m back with some additional information. Strap in and away we go.
- Explore sports. Many sports romances are about characters who play football, baseball, basketball, or hockey. Occasionally, one may find a story about tennis, soccer, rugby, swimming, or gymnastics stars. These are sports that have huge fanbases and are widely popular. However, there are so many other sports (e.g., lacrosse, bowling, archery, fishing, skiing, wrestling, skating, etc.) that are very underrepresented in sports romance novels. Don’t be afraid to change pace, switch it up, and bring readers something new. It may not be that readers are uninterested, but rather, writers know little about these sports. Many readers who enjoy this genre are sports lovers in real life, and they would not mind seeing other sports. For example, I’m not a huge basketball fan, but that doesn’t mean I’m not down for a good basketball romance. Why? Because there’s something about athletes and the way they approach issues pertaining to their profession. Ever been to a sports bar and notice that most of the patrons don’t care what team or sport is on the screen? Take, for example, Buffalo Wild Wings. When patrons come in, many will ask to sit in an area that their favorite team is playing or ask the screen to be switched to a game. However, if they are told that their team isn’t being shown for whatever reason, most enjoy whatever game(s) is (are) showing. In fact, many times, they enjoy watching several games while they eat. There are plenty of restaurants (many cheaper) that patrons can purchase wings. However, BWW is a popular hangout because people want to watch sports on big screens with other sports fans. They are there for the experience. Books offer experiences. Give the reader a good sports to cheer, whoop, and holler for, and they are happy. In the past, I’ve found myself engrossed reading (and watching) novels about sports I thought I had no interest in (e.g., roller derby, monster truck, and darts).
- Sports romance is still romance. As mentioned in my previous post, sports romances follow the same guidelines as all other stories in the romance genre. The romance comes first. If the romantic relationship between the lead characters can be omitted without altering the plot, then it is not a romance and falls into some other genre. The romance must be the focal point and not an afterthought. And a huge point of contention that it must have a happy ending. Yes, I said it. If it does not have a HEA or HFN, it’s something other than a romance. Now, does HEA and HFN mean everything is smooth and easy peasy for the main characters? Nope. They may have suffered a lot along the way and lost much on their journey. It doesn’t even mean these characters won’t have future problems. However, it does means that the two love interests are together as a couple. But what about Romeo and Juliet? What about it? It was a tragedy. Not a romance. Often, it’s listed as a romantic tragedy. I think it’s fair to say that stories such as these now are more commonly referred to as dramas. Now, I know many of my fellow romance writers will disagree with me on this point, and that’s okay. That’s why I previously stated that it was a point of contention, and I’m not here to debate the issue. At the end of the day, a story belongs to the writer. Writers are free to label and market their story however they like. It’s not my place to say otherwise. However, do not be surprised that when a novel labeled as “romance” does not have a HEA or an HFN ending, that a large portion of the readers may be unhappy. NOTE: there is one huge exception to this rule. If the writer is writing a series that the romance is spread across several books, the HEA or HFA may not occur until the final book in the series.
- Percentage of sports incorporated. The amount if sports included in a sports romance novel is determined by the author. This is an area that I personally find the most trying at times. There’s no secret formula that dictates a percentage or how many scenes must be related to sports. However, as with the romantic relationship, the sports element must be included and related in some way to the plot. As the romance can’t be viewed by the reader as an afterthought, the sports elements included can’t, either. Just because the main character is an athlete does not by default categorize that book as being a sports romance. Let’s take this real old school for a moment and think about the 1950s sitcom, I Love Lucy which aired from 1951 to 1957 on CBS. In the sitcom, breadwinner Ricky Ricardo was a musician who performed in a nightclub while Lucy was a housewife. Ricky’s profession was important because many of the episodes centered around Lucy wanting to be famous, perform in the nightclub, or meet a famous person performing in the nightclub. Now, think to Leave It to Beaver which aired from 1957 to 1963. Again, a happily married couple where the husband (Ward) is the breadwinner and the wife, June, remained at home. But what did Ward do? He worked, but what was his profession? Was it ever important to the storyline? All viewers ever saw was that wherever he worked, he wore a suit and carried a briefcase. He could have been an architect, stockbroker, real estate mogul, or anything. Where he worked never mattered to any of the plots. In a sports romance, the element of sports needs to be the Ricky Ricardo kind in that it must affect the story and shouldn’t be easily interchangeable with another profession. Sure, Ricky could have been an actor or dancer, and the character still would have worked because these professions remained in the entertainment field. However, what if Ricky was a politician, an accountant, or a mechanic? Many of the episodes wouldn’t have worked. Likewise, changing the main character from a football player to a baseball player may not significantly alter a sports romance (although it might due to football being a contact sport and baseball not). However, if a football player character can be switched to an accountant and the story still works, then likely there is a problem.
- Percentage of sports incorporated part II Continuing down this same path, it sometimes is difficult for a writer to know how many sports scenes are enough. If as a writer you’re struggling with knowing the writer balance of sports to include in your sports romance, understand that this is a common problem with sports romance writers. Do not allow this to frustrate or discourage. Write the story anyway and save those questions until you’re ready to begin the self-editing process. Often after a draft is completed, a writer is able to determine what is needed. Additionally, this is an area that beta readers can guide the writer in what direction he/she needs to head.
- Move forward. Each sports scene should move the plot and the romance forward. Having a great sports scene solely for the purpose of meeting a sports scene “quota/ requirement” will come across as fluff and disinterest readers who are invested in the story. This leads directly to the next point.
- Don’t underestimate the audience. Too much exposition on explaining the sport may be boring or put off some readers. Remember, much of the audience who read sports romance are sports fans. They won’t need the rules of the game explained to them. However, this does not give writers free-range to be overly technical. Just because a person is a fan of a sport does not mean that person knows or understands everything about the sport. There also may be readers who are completely unfamiliar with the sport. A good rule of thumb is to use as much technical jargon needed to keep the text sounding authentic and enough exposition to avoid or eliminated confusion.
- Sports romances can be either plot-driven or character-driven. This decision is up to the writer. Plot-driven stories are ones that external conflict happening to the characters. Often in this type of story, character development is secondary to the plot. This is not to say that character development does not occur in plot-drive stories. However, it is not the major focus. Character-driven stories focus on the internal conflict happening within the character. These types of stories tend to deeply explore the emotions and thought processes of the characters.
- Keep the audience in mind when writing. In previous posts, I’ve discussed the topic of writing to market. Now, for some writers, this is what they enjoy doing, and they do it well. It is not something without risk. I won’t go into those risks because that is not the topic of this blog. But when a writer writes to market, that writer is specifically making a conscious choice to write for a specific audience. When one writes in a subgenre, it very important to understand that mainly the writer is targeting a specific audience. For example, if an author writes a contemporary romance, it may draw the interest of readers who enjoy paranormal romance, suspense romance, romcom, chic-lit, etc. It’s a broad category that will interest many readers. When an author writes a sports romance, it’s probably a good bet the reader enjoys sports. That reader pool is smaller. Therefore, it essential that the readers wants and needs are satisfied. Now, that may sound like a “well, duh!” In all fairness, it probably is. However, many times, this is an area that gets slammed in beta reading because the writer did not carefully select the beta readers. I once got a really harsh criticism of a manuscript. I was truly bothered by it until I realize the person giving the criticism was unfamiliar with the topic. Things that she said were incorrect were actually things that I had verified with experts in the field. It wasn’t that her critique was incorrect, it was incorrect for me. The problem was that we lived in two different areas, and the procedures followed here were different. Think about it. Persons living along coastal lines react differently to the word hurricane than persons living in the Midwest. Likewise, blizzards are interpreted differently in the Southern US than in the Northern US. Following the advice of persons who are not interested in or familiar with sports romance may lead you astray. In short, be selective in critique partners, beta readers, and some editors.
Let me know if you found these tips helpful and if you would like more posts on this topic.
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of my new steamy, sports romance, Ice Gladiators, guaranteed to melt the ice. It’s the third book in my Locker Room Love series. Available at https://amzn.to/2TGFsyD or www.books2read.com/icegladiators.
Taz has problems: a stalled career, a coach threatening to destroy him, a meddling matchmaking roommate, and a thing for his other roommate’s boyfriend. The first three are manageable, but the last… well, that’s complicated. Because as much as Taz is attempting not to notice Liam, Liam is noticing him.
Missed the two books in my sports romance series? No frets. Out of the Penalty Box, where it’s one minute in the box or a lifetime, out is available at http://amzn.to/2Bhnngw. It also can be ordered on iTunes, Nook, or Kobo. Visit www.books2read.com/penalty. Defending the Net can be ordered at https://amzn.to/2N7fj8q or www.books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.
Life’s Roux: Wrong Doors, my steamy romantic comedy about what could go wrong on vacation, is available at Red Sage Publishing. To order, follow the link to http://bit.ly/2CtE7Ez or to Amazon at http://amzn.to/2lCQXpt.
For more of my stories, shenanigans, giveaways, and more, check out my blog, Creole Bayou, www.genevivechambleeconnect.wordpress.com. New posts are made on Wednesdays, and everything is raw and unscathed. Climb on in a pirogue and join me on the bayou. If you have any questions or suggestions about this post or any others, feel free to comment below or tweet me at @dolynesaidso. You also can follow me on Instagram at genevivechambleeauthor or search me on Goodreads or Amazon Authors.
Until next time, happy reading and much romance.