Women's Fiction / Romance Novel Editing

Don't struggle through another draft!

Since 1999, I have been an editor of romance (historical and contemporary), women's fiction, memoirs, and other projects. I have a strong background in fiction, history, and the sciences. I'm a specialist in romance novels, novellas and women's fiction related to historical and contemporary romance, romantic comedy, and romantic suspense. I also concentrate on inspirational romance, westerns, urban fantasy and African-American popular fiction.

I'm the mentor to over 100 published authors of novels, novellas and short stories now happily selling their books. I have been editing popular fiction for 20 years and have evaluated and edited 180+ manuscripts. I've had the privilege of working with romance and fiction authors to help them improve their manuscripts, so they feel proud to publish their work. Thanks to my referrals on their behalf, many of the authors whose manuscripts I have edited have been published in the mainstream. I want to see you and your books succeed! Take a look at my page and write to me when you're ready.

Use the contact form or email your first chapter (ten pages of text or more) and ask for a sample. I will illustrate my precision proofreading, editing and print formatting of your work right now. I will choose a section and provide you with a revision of your writing within 48 hours or so.

Selected Titles I've Edited in the Romance and Women's Fiction Genres

Taming the Scotsman ◾ Threads West: Book One ◾ Threads West: Maps of Fate ◾ Threads West: Uncompahgre ◾ Anne Bonny by Steve Utley ◾ Allegro for Four Hands ◾ Miscellaneous Blues ◾ A Heart to Manage

These books have gone on to earn great praise from reviewers and readers, as well as multiple awards and contest wins. As an editor, I edit romances with heat ratings from sweet to spicy. Aside from romance, my fiction strengths include 1800s historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, young adult, and stories of psychic or supernatural phenomena.

Choosing a Romance Novel Editor

Before submitting to an agent or publisher, it is important to have someone review your work, by providing proofreading and an in-depth edit. An editor needs to be keenly aware of the romance reader's expectations. The most successful romance novels whisk their readers away from their everyday lives and allow them to experience love's frustration, exhilaration, and joy. In recent years, readers have come to expect more of their favorite authors. Readers scorn typos, spelling errors and overused plot devices. Romance readers discuss all aspects of the novels they read. Often, those discussions focus on the lack of editing in a book. Poor editing is one of the biggest complaints among Amazon book reviewers. Sophisticated readers also appreciate an author who can develop characters that fit into familiar patterns yet are new and creative in some way. In choosing an editor for your romance novel, it is paramount that s/he is familiar with the genre. An editor familiar with romance novels will suggest words and phrases that help romance readers connect with the characters in your story.

What You Can Expect From Me
  • collaboration with you in a mentoring capacity with creative ideas;
  • help navigating the publishing industry to determine whether traditional, small, or self-publishing is best for you;
  • a detailed written evaluation of your manuscript asking questions, pointing out incongruencies, muddled timelines, issues with characterization, and other problems in the project, to guide you as you rework your manuscript;
  • a hands-on content edit (e.g., copyedit or line edit) and structural/stylistic edit doing everything necessary to get your manuscript ready for an agent, a self-publishing company, a traditional publisher, or ready for submission to an e-publisher. In addition to copyediting for spelling, grammar, repetitive words or phrases, and punctuation, I offer substantive editing (also called line editing), which is a more detailed work-through of a manuscript including evaluation for continuity, characterization, plot, pacing, point of view, showing vs. telling and similar big-picture issues without the full immersion that goes with developmental editing;
  • notations of what I believe you've done particularly well;
  • indication of anything I believe would make a publisher or agent more likely to reject your manuscript or that would prevent it from being ready for independent publishing; and
  • help with a query and/or synopsis when the manuscript is ready for publication.

My Expertise

Fiction editing requires an emotional investment of time and effort in the manuscript. As a romance novel editor, I work with both traditional authors and independent authors to help polish their stories. I am hands-on in my editing. I offer content editing with commentary, line-editing, submission help, and career consulting. My primary concerns are to ensure the story's plot, characterization and dialogue create the right chemistry and sexual tension between the heroine and hero to evoke emotions and experiences within the reader. Whether for stand-alone titles or a series, I focus on consistency, accuracy, and clarity, so that authors can successfully connect with their readers while avoiding awkward missteps. I diligently work through a manuscript, checking spelling, grammar, punctuation, formatting, and style; tracking character traits and story timeline; confirming proper names, dates, places, and other technical or historical elements; noting any issues that may lead a reader to question something. As an editor of fiction, I view manuscripts with a comprehensive vision and an eye for detail and believability. I see the big picture and have an in-depth knowledge of today's publishing market. My expertise includes managing features of your work such as character traits; aspects of plot; evaluation of story, setting; extricating clichés, redundancies, wordiness, staleness and vague generalizations.

Romance Sub-genres and Expectations of Readers

Romantic fiction has two types: contemporary romance, set in the present day, and historical romance, typically set between 1066 (the Battle of Hastings and the subsequent Norman conquest of England) and 1920. The seven primary expectations of romance novel readers are:
  1. Expound on the relationship between the heroine and hero as it flourishes into love.
  2. In as many ways as you can, delve into the interrelational complications of women and men. Sometimes, authors depict communication issues using conventions such as silly mix-ups, trivial quarrels, and charades that end with unforeseen consequences.
  3. Portray the heroine and hero as they navigate the ins and outs of their relationship and how this follows (or doesn't completely follow) the social norms of the time.
  4. The heroine and hero must be interacting for most of the story, almost uniting and then something comes between them, whether it is their own clashing personalities or some external force.
  5. The story comes to a denouement as love reaches its peak. At the end of the story, the two are delightfully in love and readers can be certain they will live happily ever after.
Characters and Character Development
Mainly, romance novels are character-driven rather than plot-driven. Characters' interactions and development are the primary foci of the novel. When editing a character-driven story, it's vital to focus efforts on character believability and development. Characters must be likable, their flaws must be credible and the romance needs to be believable. Do be sure to have flaws in your characters; otherwise, you risk alienating readers. Who wants to read about someone who is perfect? Be sure the conflict is strong; it's what drives a novel. Continually develop characters throughout the manuscript as a way to energize the story. Never disclose everything about the characters within the first chapter or two. Leave something to surprise readers later, to serve as a plot twist, or to help wrap up the story. Be sure the ideas and opinions of characters reflect the times to maintain a semblance of realism.

Examine dialogue closely. It's vital in romance novels because it advances the story, develops characters and holds the attention of readers. There must be lulls in the action to give your characters time to get to know each other through dialogue. Rather than diatribes be a single person, readers want conversations where relationships grow and advance. Always be sure the dialogue is naturalistic. For historical romance, be careful when using authentic speech patterns from the period. An author can lose readers quickly by bogging them down in stilted language.

I hunt for changes in physical descriptions of characters: eye color, hair color and body type. Although these issues are problematic in any novel, the characters' looks have a more central role in romance than in other genres. Descriptions of a location or time of year often can be incongruent or mismatched. I also, keep settings and the spelling of names consistent, and make sure actions ring true. As an editor, I also keep track of the timeline and character descriptions to make sure they are realistic and consistent.

I encourage authors to keep detailed notes of character backstory, which can often be very important. It's imperative to make sure the story stays on track. If there's a lot going on, make a timeline.

Modern readers expect things such as contraception to be referred to if not discussed by the characters. Sex scenes require editing just as carefully as the rest of your novel. Authors sometimes struggle to write these scenes and many editors don't give them enough attention. I don't embarrass easily and am comfortable with explicit content.

It's important to ensure that the plot is elucidated well and stays true to the formula. I make sure there are interesting plot points, enough conflict to be believable, and the resolution makes sense. Tact, honesty, objectivity, and being uninhibited are traits my clients appreciate. It's important to indicate anything that reads awkwardly. If your editor can't make sense of it, then readers won't be able to, either.

I'm a lover of romance novels and not ashamed to say so. That's why it's one of my specialties as a fiction editor. In many ways, editing romantic fiction is much like editing other books. It's just as worthy as editing literary fiction, and romance novels are just as deserving of good editing as any other type of story. Romance readers have extremely high expectations and standards and can be vocal when something doesn't meet with their approval.

The Romance Novel Reader at a Glance

Romance is the most productive genre, and authors are self-publishing at an astonishing rate. According to Romance Writers of America, romance sells more books than mystery, science fiction/fantasy, and religious/inspirational genres. More than 8,000 new romance titles were released in 2016, translating into sales of over $1.4 billion annually.

Romance Novel Buyer Demographics

  • Women make up 82% of romance book buyers. Therefore, the essence of every great romance novel needs to address subjects of particular intrigue to women.
  • The U.S. romance book buyer is most likely to be aged between 18 and 44 years.
  • Romance book buyers are more highly represented in the Midwest and South.
  • Average income – $55,000.

What They Read and Buy

Reading versus buying romance:

  • 64% read romance more than once per month and
  • 35% buy romance more than once per month.

Reading romance how long:

  • 35.1% – 20 years or more,
  • 20.6% – 5 to 10 years,
  • 20.4% – 10 to 20 years,
  • 16.1% – 2 to 5 years.

Romance subgenres by format:


  • romantic suspense (53%);
  • contemporary romance (41%);
  • historical romance (34%);
  • erotic romance (33%);
  • new adult (26%);
  • paranormal romance (19%);
  • young adult romance (18%);
  • Christian romance (17%).


  • romantic suspense (48%);
  • contemporary romance (44%);
  • erotic romance (42%);
  • historical romance (33%);
  • paranormal romance (30%);
  • new adult (26%);
  • young adult romance (18%);
  • Christian romance (14%).

Most popular romance themes:

  1. friends to lovers;
  2. soulmate, fate;
  3. second love;
  4. secret romance;
  5. first love;
  6. strong hero or heroine;
  7. reunited lovers;
  8. love triangle;
  9. sexy rich person; and
  10. high-spirited heroine.

What else romance buyers read:

  • mystery,
  • general fiction,
  • cooking/food books,
  • young adult, and erotic fiction.

Regardless of format, compared to 12 months ago:

  • 61% are reading about the same amount of romance novels,
  • 23% are reading more often, and
  • 14% are reading less often.

How Readers Obtain Books

  • buy in stores,
  • buy online (e.g., Amazon),
  • borrow from a library,
  • download to an e-reader (e.g., Nook or Kindle),
  • borrow from friends/relatives,
  • buy using a mobile app for a tablet, smartphone and/or to read on an e-reader,
  • buy using a book club subscription, or
  • buy from a subscription service (e.g., Amazon Prime, Scribd,).

Which stores have they bought from most often?

Brick and mortar

  • Barnes & Noble,
  • Walmart,
  • Target,
  • used bookstores, and
  • supermarkets and grocery stores.


  • Amazon,
  • Ebooks.com,
  • Barnes and Noble online,
  • iTunes/iBooks, and
  • eHarlequin.com

Principal influences when buying a romance novel:

  • the story;
  • the author;
  • price;
  • review;
  • part of a series;
  • back cover copy;
  • cover art;
  • recommendations on a social media site;
  • deal, bundle, bargain, special offer; and
  • an endorsement by another leading author.

How romance novel buyers find new romance authors or titles:

  • bookstore browsing,
  • recommendation from someone the reader knows,
  • browsing online,
  • bestseller lists,
  • from books a person sampled,
  • social media author sites,
  • book lists,
  • library staff suggestions,
  • online book reviews, and
  • online retail recommendations based on previous purchases.

Talking about romance books with family and friends

Most romance buyers report they discuss romance books in person with friends and family (76%).

Formats read versus formats read most often


  • Format read by 86.7%
  • Format read most often by 67.5%


  • Format read by 47.5%
  • Format read most often by 29.5%


  • Format read by 11.0%
  • Format read most often by 3%

Most popular e-books genres

  • erotica,
  • romance,
  • science fiction,
  • fantasy,
  • mystery,
  • historical, and
  • adult fiction.

E-book pricing

A price of $6 is considered fair for e-books.

Source: Nielsen's Romance Book Buyer Report.

proofreading and academic editing