Who hasn't picked up a trashy romance and maybe another but were disappointed by the fact it was a formula. Well, to be honest a lot of the big writers out there do work with a kind of formula. Mostly ones they have come up with themselves because why fix something that ain't broke. After all Mills and Boon are still around even if they have changed their name. My mum always said Wilbur Smith liked his formulas as well, but because he always had such rich environments and descriptions no one really noticed. So, that is what I would encourage any writer to do. Write good stories but don't be afraid to have your own formula.
Here I'm going to write a bit about the techniques for story writing that I have now molded into my own story writing formula.
1. Repetition of an idea or phrase- This I actually started doing because of the titles of my books. They are half of a proverb or saying in the Glyph Warrior series, my first series. I needed the title to be relevant so I would slip it in whenever I could. In my second series I went with a couple of motifs and made sure that was repeated all the way through. Romance novels usually do something similar like Nora Roberts always has the narrator use describing phrases that is based on their career. Like Blue Dahlia is filled with references to flowers. She has probably done this to actually avoid her books feeling like they are formulaic as each book has a distinct voice.
2. The Almost Break Up- There is no tension without conflict. Of course romance books will use the tension of a good fight between the couple to ratchet it all up. Films and other media use something similar with cliff hangers and people who look like they have died and come back at the last moment. In romance a relationship never runs smoothly and to be frank that isn't so far from life so I always make sure that any relationship has a hiccup along the way. I avoid the issue of formula by making sure the hiccup is always different.
3. In the Nick of Time- Again a great way to work up the tension is to have a main character need help and only to receive it in the nick of time. These are difficult as they can easily end up a little too Deus Ex Machina to be believable. So, usually I foreshadow the intervention and everyone has to wonder if it will be in time.
4. Foreshadowing- This is a bit like the repeated ideas but it is more like an echo. You don't want to just surprise people with a big bit of news. You need to leave hints along the way so when you do make the big reveal your audience goes, "Oh, that is what they meant." This is where writing is art.
Of course there are many more but I find these easy to use and can fit into pretty much every genre.