Harriet Hale · writing advice

Happy Valentine’s Day

You’d think it would be easy for a romance writer, even a new one like me, to write a post today, wouldn’t you?

I’ve started this blog post four separate times.

Maybe it’s because I want to be able to tell you my life is amazingly romantic and every story is an autobiography – that it’s easy.

Here’s something every new romance writer should know. Just like real life relationships, writing romance fiction is difficult.

You need to have compelling characters who are attractive — but not perfect. They have to be in a situation that brings them together  — while keeping them apart. Your dialogue should be what everyone wishes they could hear — but it can’t be cheesy. Sex is difficult to write – too descriptive and your audience may squirm (and not in a good way), too vague and it’s boring.  Or, worse than both of those, it sounds like a biology manual.

If you’re lucky enough to get published, you get to write another book. But everything has to be new while still hitting the same touchstones, and you’re writing while you’re marketing your first book. Oh – and publishers expect at least three books a year. That means you will constantly be writing, editing, or marketing.

Generally, you’re struggling to find time to write, learn your craft, and take care of everything else that needs your attention — family, friends, the job that pays your insurance.  Writing is a second, or third, job.

Did I think writing would be easy? I hate to admit it, but I kinda did. The writing fairy has kicked my sorry butt for two years for that sin. I’ve learned my lesson. There is so much to this profession I fear I may never learn half of what I need to know to be successful, if I even get the chance to see my name on a cover at all.

Would I have typed my first line of fiction if I’d known how difficult it could be?  I think I would have scared myself away. What keeps me here now that I’ve seen behind the curtain?  I love every single minute of it.

So, on Valentine’s Day, I’d say this . . . If you have a book you love because it stirs every romantic feeling, and if you have the ability — hug the crap out of the person who wrote it. Send them an email or a fan letter. Put “I love Jane Austen” on your Facebook wall. Appreciate the person who put a lot of effort into every word that thrills your soul.

If you’re struggling to write a story that will thrill people, keep going. Keep learning, keep submitting, keep trying. And one day . . . one day . . . someone else will fall in love with the characters you’ve created. Maybe they’ll even hug the crap out of you.

Since everyone has put a little something about romance on their posts this week. . .

With one remarkable exception, I have always picked the wrong guys. One went out with someone else on MY birthday. I ended up on my couch, surrounded by wadded Kleenex, watching American Psycho. Maybe that’s why I write romantic suspense.

Celebrate todHarrietay with the one you love, even if they’re fictional!


2 thoughts on “Happy Valentine’s Day

  1. Harriet, I’ve written to you before…and I agree 100+% on your take about writing romance! I’ve written the first 1500+ words…what next? NOW, I have to think about the next 1500!! What?!? AND, then, I need all those words to mesh into a first chapter with no head-hopping, great dialogue, and likeable characters! Whew! Not a simple task when persons (who don’t share your love of the written word) are constantly vying for your time. Me? I have a DO NOT DISTURB sign (yes, I admit I “borrowed” it from a hotel room), and when my door is closed, it stays CLOSED.

    Wishing you undisturbed hours just for writing, and the best of luck in getting published.


    1. Hi, Marcia! It’s nice to see you again. I hope you received my reply to your earlier e-mail. I’m glad you liked this entry, too.

      I’ve had to find ways to keep myself on track so I can pick up easily. Have you taken the Roses Plotting Bootcamp course? I loved the tools the Roses provided to help me plan my manuscript. Elizabeth George’s book “Write Away” gives her steps for plotting, as does James Scott Bell’s “Plot and Structure.” George and Bell also give excellent advice on creating characters.

      Best of luck to you as well! Stay in touch.

      Find me at harriethale.com

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