I often encounter people who say, “I’m going to write a romance novel. It’s so easy. Just write to a formula and send it in.” Romance writers and editors laugh a little at this because it’s not so easy. Believe me, I’ve tried it—at least ten times and can’t get past chapter three. But say you do have that true drive to publish in romance, here are a few steps you need to take.
- Love writing. Love love. To write a romance, you have to immerse yourself in the goo of love—how exciting, difficult, invigorating, frustrating, and life-affirming it is.
- Write a good book. Throw your heart and soul into your romance. This could be the beginning of a new life and you want to give it your best shot. You will find many references and I’d recommend first off Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger. Also read GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon, along with every romance-how-to you can find.
- Don’t do it for the money–even though money is nice. If I had a nickel for how often I’ve heard, “To make some extra dough, I’ll just write romance novels.” Many paid writers learn that you can’t count on a paycheck when you write. And this paycheck depends on your next book, which may not sell. There has to be another reason for writing a romance.
- Try not to get too attached on the outcome: I must get published. I’m desperate to get published. If I don’t get published, I’ll be miserable forever. Please publish me now. When you write because you love to write, it shows in your work.
- Make one new contact a day with fellow romance-aholics/industry professionals. It’s easy to develop a one-sided relationship with your computer. Get some fresh air, interact with others and move ahead.
- Have other people read your good book and take their suggestions seriously. The romance world is a nurturing business, for the most part. Sure, it’s not perfect but adopting a positive relationship with your fellow writers is key. When you show your work, expect suggestions and support. We all want your book to be amazing! Just think, you could be the writer who makes me forget all my problems and get lost in your story. This is a gift to a reader.
- Map out your publishing ambitions: traditional publisher vs. self-publish. If the former, which houses/editors would like your book? Do research on publishing houses’ lists. I suggest doing this when you’ve completed a rough draft of your book. If you go the self-publishing route, be sure to strategize how you will tackle the many hats you’ll wear as your own publisher. It’s all exciting, but planning is crucial.
- Have your next story in mind. If you meet with an editor and she isn’t so hot on your project, tell her what else you have. In romance, we want to build you as an author. The more you write, the more possible this is. No achy breaky one-hit wonders here.
- Go to conferences and chapter meetings. Follow up on the inspiration you get from these outings, i.e. read the books you find, chat with new friends, go through your notes from the workshops and revise your book accordingly.
- Rewrite your page-turning romance until your brain nearly explodes. When you read your book without an iota of boredom/frustration/misgiving, unleash it on the editors and see what happens.
- Patience is a virtue. You know I had to throw that in. There is a lot of waiting when you submit to traditional houses. It’s part of the deal. What do you do while you wait? Repeat tip #2.
- If at first you don’t succeed, never ever give up writing or trying to get published. One of the heartbreaks we editors experience is when a writer abandons her craft. Life can intervene or maybe that drive has fizzled. One must obey that call to other bliss, of course. But if there’s a morsel of yearning that keeps you obsessing about writing, just do it, keep doing it and submit until you can’t submit no more (also read Chicago Manual of Style, which would tell me not to use a double negative).
Because of our readers’ voracious appetites, we constantly need books. You’ll see us on Twitter, Facebook, at conferences begging for a great new story. Face it, romance writers keep us in business (you don’t want us to starve, do you?). So, keep these tips close and if you ever feel discouraged or inspired, read them again them, stay positive, and submit your story.