Last weekend I went to the Author North: Writing Romantic Fiction event in Leeds (#SoAWritingRomance), which got me out of my writing cave, gave me the chance to catch up/moan/laugh with writer friends and btw provided an excellent lunch! And because there was also some really great advice, here are the massively paraphrased best hints & tips from the day…
Defying Conventions: How to juggle different sub-genres within Romance Fiction with Jane Lovering (who has asked to be portrayed as wise) and Kate Johnson (also wise)
- Write what you want to write and what makes you laugh. Try to enjoy it! That way the experience won’t be wasted no matter what happens to your finished novel.
- Let go of any idea of perfection. Jane wisely stated that at a certain point a book just has to be good enough. You’ll never see your own writing as perfect anyway.
- Don’t get hung up on the disjunction between your original idea and the result. Readers won’t know the difference.
- Hold onto your core idea so you don’t lose your way in your story. Remember what it is you’re trying to say, but don’t worry too much about what sub-genre it is – somebody else can decide that.
Industry Insights: Publishing Romantic Fiction Today with Kate Nash, Phoebe Morgan & Sareeta Domingo
- Work out a clear, understandable pitch when you’re submitting to an agent/editor. This helps them get to grips with the book more quickly. Have a clear concept. Try thinking of a tagline that you’d put on a poster.
- Make sure the beginning of your book is strong. Agents/readers often don’t have time to read whole books so grab their attention early! Also remember, conflict is key.
- Identify the right agents/publishers for your book. One size doesn’t fit all. Look them up on social media and find someone you can get along with.
- Do your own market research. Look at the Amazon Top 100 Kindle chart to identify trends and don’t be discouraged by so much competition. Just because one person is successful doesn’t mean you can’t be too.
Love is for Everyone: Diversity & Representation in Romance with Rhoda Baxter, Liam Livings, Sareeta Domingo and Alison May
- Don’t just write what you think you should write about. Be authentic and write what speaks to you. The romance industry needs to tackle prejudices about what readers supposedly ‘want’ to read about and to have ‘windows’ as well as ‘mirrors’.
- Persevere, be positive and don’t start from a preconceived notion that you won’t succeed. All writers need resilience and we all get rejections, but keep going.
- Your aim is to write a good story with nuanced, individual characters, not stereotypes.
- When sending a query, only talk about your personal experiences if they’re relevant to the book or inform your story.
- The panelists also discussed the importance of realistic representation. Imagination and empathy are important, but the writer should really understand the lives of the characters they’re talking about. Be mindful and write from a position of empathy. Do your research and consider a sensitivity reader.
Historical Romance with Val Wood, interviewed by Nick Quantrill
- Be heartfelt and genuine. ‘If there are no tears in the writer, there are no tears in the reader’ – Val says she weeps over her characters.
- Do thorough research, but learn what to leave in and what to leave out. Readers want a good story rather than a history lesson.
- Persevere! If you’re a storyteller, you need to tell your stories, no matter what…
The event was run by the Society of Authors (the UK trade union for authors since 1884) in collaboration with the Romantic Novelists Association.
Jenni Fletcher is the author of six historical romances for Mills & Book, a Visiting Tutor at Bishop Grosseteste University and a hopeless Twitter addict @JenniAuthor.