If you love romance novels and have always dreamed of writing one, you’re in good company. You’d be hard-pressed to find a romance writer working today who didn’t start out as a reader first. Guess what? If you’re a reader, you’ve already completed the all-important first step toward the goal of becoming an author! Reading is critical to understanding a bunch of important things like voice, structure, plot and character. Now you should target your reading to the specific type of story you want to write. If you’d like to write for Harlequin Desire, read as many as you can get your hands on. Study them and learn from them. Each line has a particular “feel” to it and always includes certain elements. Harlequin posts writing guidelines on its website so you don’t have to guess, but it’s always better to see it in action, so to speak.
Then the next steps are:
1. Sit down and write.
2. No, really. Set a goal and write.
3. Not sure what goal to set? Start out with 500 words a day. Then write 500 tomorrow. And the next day. I work on my books every day. Yes. EVERY day, even Christmas.
4. Read some craft books. I like Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. But there are many, many great ones. If you already know you have a particular weakness, like you have no idea what I meant above by “voice”, find a book on that.
5. If you don’t know your weaknesses, join a writer’s group. Romance Writers of America is one a lot of us belong to. Harlequin.com has a community forum with a particular area for writers. Talk to other writers. Find people to read your writing who can help you get better. I still have a friend read my stuff even though I’ve written fifteen books (Hi, Jen!).
6. Be prepared to work hard and be realistic. Most authors will tell you it takes two years and at least two manuscripts to sell to a publisher like Harlequin. It took me two years and five manuscripts. Your mileage may vary.
7. Go back to #1 and do that. You’d be surprised how many people get bogged down in craft books and writer’s forums and forget to actually, you know, write the book. You can’t sell a manuscript to any publisher if it doesn’t exist.
About Kat Cantrell
KAT CANTRELL read her first Harlequin novel in third grade and has been scribbling in notebooks since she learned to spell. What else would she write but romance? She majored in Literature, officially with the intent to teach, but somehow ended up buried in middle management at Corporate America, Inc. After three years and many thousands of words, her dream of publication finally came true. When she's not writing about characters on the journey to happily-ever-after, she can be found at a soccer game, watching Friends or dancing with her kids to Duran Duran and Red Hot Chili Peppers.