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Be My Guest: Grace A. Johnson

Today, we have a guest from the Springtime in Surrey Blog Swap. But stay tuned afterward for lots of fun notes about things going on around here. (Hint: The huge giveaway for a copy of Springtime in Surrey and a charm bracelet is still going on.) In the meantime, please welcome my fellow author Grace A. Johnson.

Four Tips to Keep Short-Form Romance Simple
by Grace A. Johnson

One spring, several authors set about to write a romance in less than 20,000 words. In a quarter of the length of the average romance novel, a romantic relationship had to unfold in a realistic and captivating manner.

It’s no easy task, but they succeeded—and now Springtime in Surrey, the collection featuring their romances and women’s fiction stories, is available for purchase on Amazon. And it’s my honor as one of those authors to share a few of my tips and tricks for writing a romance in short form!

In this post, we’ll be discussing a full romance, which is a story that covers the beginning of the romantic relationship (meet cute, first date, etc.) and ends with a resolution (declaration of love, proposal, wedding, etc.). Other romance stories can focus on just the beginning of the relationship, or the middle, or the end, or even thirty years after the relationship began—so we’re not necessarily going to be talking about those today, although some of these tips could still apply!

tip #1: create an intriguing meet cute within the first chapter or scene

For me, it seems like cheating to have the hero and heroine meet within the first chapter, but when you’ve got a word limit, you’ve gotta make things snappy. 😂 So create a situation that sets the tone of the story and their relationship (for Her Heart’s Home, I went with something comedic but sweet), and jump right into your characters’ first impression of each other!            

Since you are jumping right into developing their relationship, there’s not a lot of time to develop the characters (which is why I always love having a chapter or two before the meeting in a novel), I recommend going with a meeting that reveals something about the hero’s and heroine’s personalities.            

For example, my heroine Meredith is a basket-case at the time of the story, so she’s super clumsy and nervous and has a wee bit of a pride problem. It’s when she trips and falls into the mud that she first encounters our hero. And since Trevor is a true gentleman, he helps her up, and the rest is history.            

Take a look at who your characters are and how you want that to affect the course of the story, then write accordingly!

tip #2: focus on the important stuff

When writing a romance novel, one of the most fun parts is the fluff. You can include a scene or two of the characters just chatting or picnicking or making cookies at 9pm or dancing in the rain. These sorts of fluffy scenes may not contribute much to the plot, but they do enhance the relationship and give the characters an extra dose of development.            

But when it comes to writing a novella or short story, the fluff has got to go. Every character interaction has to move the story forward in some way. Does the heroine learn a secret about the hero that gives her some doubts? Do they talk about their future and start making plans? Does the hero decide then and there he really loves her?            

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of this scene? If it falls more in line with the fluff, cut it. Or at least shorten it or combine some aspects of the scene with one that packs more of a plot punch.            

Don’t feel overwhelmed by the intricacies of romantic relationships, like you have to include every dinner date or every “milestone.” Nope. What matters is that you focus on the moments in their relationship that move them forward, carry them further, get them a step closer to that resolution we talked about earlier. For example, in Her Heart’s Home, each scene focuses on a shift in Meredith and Trevor’s relationship–from strangers to friends to something more! Remember: Don’t be afraid to focus on the important stuff instead of fluff!            

tip #3: know your story’s purpose

I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t the purpose for the hero and heroine to ‘get together’?” Yes…and no.            

Think about your point-of-view character(s). What do they want out of this season of life or out of their relationship? What are their dreams? What lesson are they learning? What direction is their arc going in?            

Now ask yourself: does the relationship help teach that lesson and guide their character arc? Does it align with their dreams (and if it doesn’t, is that part of the story’s theme)? How does your character grow and change through the romance?

The purpose of your story isn’t just for a happily ever after; it’s for your romance to reflect a realistic relationship that inspires your readers. It’s for your characters, your story, and your romance to be rich, captivating, deep, and uplifting. So hold that in your mind. Every scene, every character, every word needs to contribute to bringing your purpose to life.

tip #4: keep the romance central

If you’re anything like me, you’re obsessed with subplots and everything you write has got to have about fifty-seven. What’s a story without every character coming to life with their own story to be told? Or without every wrong turn opening up a new opportunity? Or without including five POV characters going off in three different directions?            

Unless you want to end up with a novel that’s hundreds of thousands of words long, you’ve got to keep the romance central.            

Secondary characters need three dimensions and your plot needs depth and your setting needs detail—but if you find yourself dedicating three pages to a minor character, a subplot, or describing the countryside, you’ve missed the mark.            

Each scene should include development for your main characters and/or your romance. A few sentences about your secondary characters or a detail or two about the setting can be just enough.

A quick trick is to stick to your two main characters and about two or three secondary characters and around five-to-ten minor characters (minor characters could be ones that are mentioned but never on-page or are on-page but don’t have any “lines”). Stick to one-to-three settings (in Her Heart’s Home, it’s a house, a hotel, and a church). And only include subplots that are directly related to your hero and/or heroine.

There we have it, folks. Four simple tips to make writing a short-form romance effortless and enjoyable!

To recap…            
~ have your hero and heroine meet within the first chapter or scene—and let their characters reflect how they meet;            
~ focus on the important stuff and cut the fluff;            
~ keep the romance central instead of subplots and side characters;            
~ and know your story’s purpose beyond the boy getting the girl!            

I’d love to know in the comments below…which tip will help you the most in your own writing? What are some of your favorite romance short stories or novellas? Are you as excited for Springtime in Surrey as I am?            

Thanks so much to Andrea for having me on her blog!

About the Author

Grace A. Johnson is a Christian fiction authoress, book reviewer, and avid reader. She has indie-published the first three novels in a Christian historical romance series, the Daughters of the Seven Seas, and a smattering of short stories and novellas, as well as a devotional. She’s also a marketer and editor who loves helping young authors. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook @graceajohnsonauthor or blogging on her website at Join her for a virtual cup of tea and a free preview of her debut novel when you sign up for her e-newsletter!

Springtime in Surrey and Charm Bracelet Giveaway

There’s a huge giveaway going on here on Writing to Inspire this month. Be sure you enter to win the grand prize that includes a paperback copy of Springtime in Surrey and a handcrafted charm bracelet inspired by the book.

Springtime in Surrey BINGO

During the full month of August, I’m hosting a Springtime in Surrey BINGO Reading Challenge Game. There are prizes! Come join the fun on this article.

Blog Swap Schedule

Please visit any or all of the following articles on the dates given or after. Feel free to share them with your friends, too.

Note: There was an issue with some of the links being broken recently. I have corrected those now, so all the links should take you to the appropriate articles. Please let me know if you come upon an issue. I am still waiting on some of the links, so please hang in there. They are coming.

June 19
Grace A. Johnson on Lilacs & Reveries

June 26
Rachel Leitch on Little Blossoms for Jesus

July 3
Kellyn Roth on Little Blossoms for Jesus
Kellyn Roth on Writing to Inspire

July 5
Rachel Leitch on Lilacs & Reveries
Grace A. Johnson on Prose Worthy
Kellyn Roth on Of Blades and Thorns

July 7
Andrea Renee Cox on Of Blades and Thorns

July 8
Rachel Leitch on Resting Life

July 10
Rachel Leitch on Of Blades and Thorns
Rachel Leitch on Writing to Inspire

July 12
Katja H. Labonté on Lilacs & Reveries
Katja H. Labonté on Of Blades and Thorns
Kellyn Roth on Prose Worthy

July 15
Katja H. Labonté on Resting Life

July 17
Andrea Renee Cox on Little Blossoms for Jesus
Erika Mathews on Of Blades and Thorns

July 19
Andrea Renee Cox on Prose Worthy
Erika Mathews on Lilacs & Reveries

July 22
Kellyn Roth on Resting Life

July 26
Katja H. Labonté on Prose Worthy

July 29
Grace A. Johnson on Resting Life

August 2
Erika Mathews on Prose Worthy

August 5
Andrea Renee Cox on Resting Life

August 7
Grace A. Johnson on Little Blossoms for Jesus
Grace A. Johnson on Writing to Inspire

August 9
Andrea Renee Cox on Lilacs & Reveries

August 14
Erika Mathews on Writing to Inspire

August 21
Erika Mathews on Little Blossoms for Jesus
Katja H. Labonté on Writing to Inspire

About Springtime in Surrey

This collection of novellas, set in County Surrey, England, features both historical and contemporary stories by new and old authors!

Springtime in Surrey contains the follow eight novellas:

Jesus, I Am Resting by Faith Blum
An orphaned young woman must fight to survive after WWI breaks out, praying her beau doesn’t die on a foreign battlefield like her father did years ago.

The Cottage on the Hill by Andrea Renee Cox
A former ballerina seeks hope amongst her lost dreams, as a sheep farmer tries to bring her joy.

If I Knew You Were Coming by Bailey Gaines
An exhausted mother balances her duties to both her biological and evacuee children with preparation for an unexpected visit from her soldier husband.

Her Heart’s Home by Grace A. Johnson
A destitute woman is pursued by an unexpected suitor and finds blessings from God in the way she least expected.

The Tussie-Mussie by Katja H. Labonté
A disgraced debutante flees to the country, only to meet a reclusive writer who may change her life forever.

The Odd Duck Society by Rachel Leitch
An insecure university student returns to a tea shop after a mysterious letter summons her there.

Fear Not Tomorrows by Erika Mathews
A hard-working sister-of-seven struggles with contentment as her marriage is postponed by her fiancé’s absence.

Courage to Stay by Kellyn Roth
A young bride chases her husband into the forest to rescue him from himself, which goes about as well as one would expect.

Book Links

Springtime in Surrey may be found at the following links:


Springtime in Surrey is also currently available in Kindle Unlimited.

About the Authors

Faith Blum is a wife, mom, author, and entrepreneur. She’s published over 30 books, most of them in the Christian Historical Fiction genre. She loves stories because they can teach history, but in a fun way. It is also her way to have a creative outlet while taking care of a household and toddler.

She’s been a proud small town resident her whole life and wouldn’t have it any other way. She lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband, son, and cat, Smokey. She’s blessed to write as a part time career. You can find her books on books on most eBook retailers.

When not writing, you can find her cooking from scratch, reading, figuring out social media content, or spending time with her family. She also loves playing piano for church and being part of the Author Conservatory.

Amazon Author Page:

Born and raised in north Texas, Andrea Renee Cox is a born-again child of God who enjoys writing stories that inspire, copyediting fiction manuscripts, tutoring middle school students, and going on road trips with her family. Whether she’s working on historical or contemporary, women’s fiction or romance, she uses her skills in research and writing techniques—as well as a large dose of prayer and guidance from God—at every turn in the journey to produce the best story of her ability every single time. Her books may be found on her website, and readers are welcome to follow her blog for the latest updates in her journey. 


Bailey Gaines is a Georgia girl who loves history. Through her writing, she hopes to show how God works in all periods of history, bringing healing and helping people know they have value because of their identity as a human created in God’s image. Her stories range from King Richard the Lionheart’s England to 1930s Appalachia to 18th century England to 19th century America.

Bailey is a student of the Author Conservatory, and has a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. When she’s not writing, she’s helping homeschoolers with their writing or working at an escape room. Her hobbies include playing the piano, sewing, and exploring the world of vintage fashion.


Grace A. Johnson is a Christian fiction authoress, book reviewer, and avid reader. She lives in beautiful (but humid) South Georgia, surrounded by farmland and forestry, with her parents and six younger siblings. She has indie-published the first three novels in a Christian historical romance series, the Daughters of the Seven Seas, and a smattering of short stories and novellas, as well as a devotional. She’s also a marketer and editor who loves helping young authors through her editing business S&J Editors and her small publishing company Sky’s the Limit Press. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook @graceajohnsonauthor or blogging on her website at Join her for a virtual cup of tea and a free preview of her debut novel when you sign up for her e-newsletter!


Katja H. Labonté is a Christian, an extreme bibliophile who devours over 365 books in a year, and an exuberant writer with a talent for starting short stories that explode into book series. She is a bilingual French-Canadian and has about a dozen topics she’s excessively passionate about (hint: that’s why she writes). Katja writes both contemporary and historical fiction, as well as non-magical historical and contemporary kingdom fiction, and covers themes of worth, love, peace, and Christian growth. She spends her days enjoying little things, growing in faith, learning life, and loving people. You can follow her life journey, find free books, browse her services, and more on her website and blog.


Rachel Leitch discovered the book of writing when she was seven. She’s been turning pages ever since! She lives her own adventure in northern Indiana, with her parents, three sisters, two brothers, and a dog who thinks he’s the hero of her story. She writes young adult historical fiction with a dash of adventure or a spark of magic. When she’s not hidden away writing, she’s trying to fit all her reads on her shelf in a somewhat organized manner, obsessing over character arcs, drinking chai, daydreaming at the piano, or teaching students to be just as bookish as she is. In all her adventures, she learns how to shine brighter for the Father of Lights. For more bookish ramblings (and a free digital short story involving a magical violin) follow her adventure journal at!


Erika Mathews is an author and editor who writes family-friendly Christian living books, both fiction and non-fiction, that demonstrate the power of God through ordinary people, transforming daily life into His resting life. Her works include Truth from Taerna, a kingdom adventure fiction series with deep spiritual themes, Resting Life, a Christian living nonfiction book about finding rest in Jesus in modern life, and a variety of historical fiction and poetry.

Erika lives in the farm country of Minnesota with her husband and children. She’s a homeschool graduate with a Bachelor’s in Communications, a Master’s in Biblical Ministries, and a passion for sharing Jesus Christ and His truth. When she’s not working with books, she enjoys reading, outdoor activities, piano and violin, organizing, and using the Oxford comma.


Kellyn Roth is a historical romance & women’s fiction author who writes about the empty places where hope has the most room to grow. Her novels include the inspirational Victorian family saga, The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy, and the Kees & Colliers series, which follows a broken family in the tumultuous years of the first half of the 20th century.

Kellyn is a student of the Author Conservatory and a writing coach. When not building her author career or her indie-author-helping business, Wild Blue Wonder Press, she is likely getting lost somewhere in the Pacific Northwest with her friends, watching period dramas and facetious comedies, or spending time with her husband.


Books to Read

Want to read one of my books? Explore my books page.

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Short Stories

Want to read free short stories? Explore my short stories page.

15 thoughts on “Be My Guest: Grace A. Johnson

  1. Yeah, one of my favorite things about writing romance is the fluff… *sighs* That’s what’s so hard about novellas! 😭 I’m writing one right now, and there’s going to be a LOT of fluff cut out in the end. But Grace’s story (and yours, Andrea!) gave me a lot of inspiration and encouragement! 😉 Thank you both so much for sharing this post! <3

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