1. Don’t be afraid of the colour pink. Pink clothes. Pink pastel book cover backgrounds. Pink cupcakes. Pink fonts. Here in the romance world we embrace this stereotypically sentimental colour. It derives from the House of Red – and I’m not talking wine, I’m talking HEART.
2. At the same time, don’t be fooled into thinking we are a slushy, gushy, glistening-eyed lot. You need real grit to write in this genre, because you are going to face criticism from people who don’t appreciate or understand it; who snort at the girlie covers and sneer at the Happy Ever After endings. Forget a rhino hide, you are going to need a skin made of steel. Years of subbing work and getting it rejected will help achieve this, so see every one of those returned brown envelopes as an important step forwards in your journey to becoming a resilient romantic author.
3. Drink Prosecco. Lots of it. That way your tolerance will increase to levels able to cope with intelligent conversation at the Romantic Novelists’ Association meetings, where people surreptitiously fill up your glass. Which they will.
4. If you aren’t already, become a fan of chocolate. When romance writers aren’t discussing their craft, or their latest romantic hero, this is a common topic of conversation. Us ladies – and gentlemen – in red take our writing fuel very seriously.
5. Don’t expect to write about sex, without having to talk about it. I had a very, um, enlightening conversation at a recent romance party, which I couldn’t possibly repeat here. You may write “sweet” romance like me, but will eventually meet and mingle with writers who not only go into the bedroom with their characters, but leave the lights on! Whilst we love the colour red, there is no room for blushes in this world!
6. Finally, and most importantly, maintain your sense of humour! Writing is a serious business, and tongue-in-cheek comments about pink and Prosecco aside, once published you are effectively working for yourself. This means tax-returns, deadlines, setting short and long-term goals, upping your interpersonal skills to deal with editors and agents… In the face of bad reviews, slipping rankings or self-doubt, you are going to need a laugh. Yet don’t worry. You couldn’t meet a more welcoming, self-deprecating, witty, generous bunch of people than those from the romance writing community.