This article broadens the concept of “constrained writing” by applying it to a less prestigious domain of literature, namely, popular romance novels. In order to find out how constraints play a role in writing and publishing such commercial texts, a corpus of handbooks for writing romances is carefully analyzed. Such handbooks meticulously guide aspiring writers through the entire process of writing romances, from the first ideas to the final act of having their texts published. This product- and process-orientated approach is ultimately based on a number of discursive strategies that enable the aspiring writer to conceive of romance writing as an accessible and feasible yet highly constrained activity. In this article, three such dominant strategies are carefully discussed. One is the handbooks' constant appeal to the reading experience of the romance. Another is their conceptualization of writing as a craft and a profession and their infrequent but functional use of explicitly normative language. Finally, the role of the genre's highly influential institutional context in the handbooks' formulation of generic norms and constraints is considered as well. This article ultimately demonstrates the broad applicability of the notion of constrained writing to many forms of literature.

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