On writing.

I got an email recently from a romance writer looking for career advice. I’m taking a punt she won’t mind that I share with you what I wrote to her.
If you have a question of your own, email or FB me. I’m very happy to chat.
“I have wanted to write romance novels *forever*. I grew up reading Mills & Boons. My mum is an antique dealer and we had an endless supply of cheap books … I had my head buried in their pages in every spare moment. I began writing properly at fifteen (though I cringe when I read back over those early manuscripts), and even when I gave up on a writing career, I still wrote. It’s a compulsion, as you no doubt know.
You’ve really hit upon the biggest hurdle I think any of us face. CONFIDENCE. Try your hardest to tune out your inner-dialogue. We are ALWAYS our own harshest critics. Have faith in your ability to write and just make sure you do write. Setting aside time every day to develop your story is very important.
Having faith in my ability to write, and my actual output as a writer, went hand in hand. I don’t remember which came first, but at some point I began to realise that I could in fact do this, and therefore I did!
I personally find that I write best when I write fast. If I take more than a couple of days away from a story I can find it difficult to get my head back into the plot. I always prefer to build the tension with a very quick first draft – I then spend a lot of time going back over it and smoothing out rough patches. For me that makes the drama and angst feel more genuine – my characters react ‘in real time’. In order to write quickly, I aim to do 2,000 words first thing in the morning. Because we have small children, this has to be before my husband leaves for work. So a quiet coffee and my laptop and I’m away! If I don’t get back for the rest of the day, I’m not too worried. Okay, that’s a lie, because I get incredibly obsessive and I’m always itching to get back into my books! Setting a reasonably rigid routine means I don’t procrastinate and I don’t allow myself to indulge ‘writers’ block’. My time is precious and so I use it fully. When I’m not able to write, I’m plotting in my head, working out inconsistencies, so that I can come back to the story ‘ready to go’.
More general advice, for when you feel ready to think about publishing, is to get the business side of your affairs up and running too. Buy a domain, get your Facebook going and build professional networks with romance bookclubs and writing groups so that you have a ready-to-go group of readers. To tighten your final product, learn to read like a writer, if you’re not already. For example, find your favourite books, and examine WHY they’re special to you. What is it you like? Look for ‘the scaffolding’. How does the writer build tension? Which scenes are instrumental to plot development? What is it that makes the characters ‘real’ and likeable for you? What about the dialogue ‘spoke’ to you? Highlight passages, make notes, and let that add an extra layer to your work.”