romancing the beat
Book Review

Romancing the Beat-Recommended

Romancing the Beat is a road map for aspiring romance writers. This short work by author/editor Gwen Hayes is the romance equivalent to plotting books such as Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and Larry Brook’s Story Engineering.

Here’s the blurb:

What makes a romance novel a romance? How do you write a kissing book?

Writing a well-structured romance isn’t the same as writing any other genre–something the popular novel and screenwriting guides don’t address. The romance arc is made up of its own story beats, and the external plot and theme need to be braided to the romance arc–not the other way around.

Told in conversational (and often irreverent) prose, Romancing the Beat can be read like you are sitting down to coffee with romance editor and author Gwen Hayes while she explains story structure. The way she does with her clients. Some of whom are regular inhabitants of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

Romancing the Beat is a recipe, not a rigid system. The beats don’t care if you plot or outline before you write, or if you pants your way through the drafts and do a “beat check” when you’re revising. Pantsers and plotters are both welcome. So sit down, grab a cuppa, and let’s talk about kissing books.

For free Scrivener template and plotting printables to use with the book, please visit the author’s website:

The Review:

Hayes organizes the main romance plot points into a four act structure and breaks each plot point down into their individual beats. These beats are clearly defined and illustrated with examples from popular movies. As a writer who is familiar with Save the Cat-style beat sheets, I found this format easy to grasp.

Throughout the entire book, I never found any of Hayes’s explanations confusing or filled with art-speak or the esoteric nonsense that often finds it way into writing books. This book focuses on creating feelings in characters and readers, not the writer. I was able to get the information I needed quickly and easily. In a couple of hours I had gone from knowing nothing about structuring a romance plot to having a completed outline.

I particularly enjoyed the Hayes’s no-nonsense style and irreverent prose. Throughout the book I felt like I was getting a one-on-one session with a developmental editor over coffee.

Clear cut writing examples
Easy to understand instructions
Narrow focus. The book doesn’t ramble into tangential topics. It covers the plot points and nothing else.
Well organized. the book follows the plot arc from beginning to end without jumping around.
Entertaining to read
Bonus Scrivener template and companion worksheets

The book assumes some writing knowledge. A first-time writer will need supplementary material.


Romancing the Beat is a great choice for those writers who are looking to make the jump to romance or romance writers who trying to figure out why their books aren’t working. This book will work equally well for pantsers or plotters and those who fall in between. If you are a fan of Save the Cat but are looking for a beat sheet that better describes romance novels, Romancing the Beat is a solid choice.

You can pick up a copy here: (affiliate link)

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romancing the beat

M.L. Keller is a freelance writer and editor. Her blog "The Manuscript Shredder" is focused on helping emerging writers hone their craft.

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