- Read as widely as you can, and write all the time. Take classes, whether ‘real’ or online. Visit your local library to find out about local groups for readers and writers, and check out online sites such as http://romanceuniversity.org. Join groups such as The Romantic Novelists’ Association (http://www.rna-uk.org/) in the UK or Romance Writers of America (http://www.rwa.org/) who provide lots of useful information and contacts. If you intend trying to sell your work, research the market and target your writing carefully before you start.
- Set aside some time for yourself every single day. This should preferably be dedicated writing time, but thinking time can be equally productive as long as you remember to write all your brilliant thoughts down the second you get the chance!
- Read your work aloud. It’s amazing what a different perspective this gives you. It’s best to do this when you’re on your own somewhere, whether in the house or outside in an isolated spot. That way, you can really inject some feeling into your precious words.
- Writing what pleases you should always be top of your agenda, but if you intend writing for an audience, constructive criticism is invaluable. Once you are completely happy with your work, hand it over to someone you can trust to tell the truth, whether good or bad. What they didn’t like, and why is as important as what they did like.
- Check everything, and always keep your spellchecker switched on. Keep a pad and pencil close at hand at all times to make notes when you think of them. It’s so easy to forget to do it later. Like ‘tomorrow’, ‘later’ never comes. Follow up that lead – you never know when you might strike lucky. Polish your manuscript until it shines, and when you send out a query letter make sure you go the extra mile and find out the name of the person best placed to help you. A personally addressed letter or email shows you’ve taken special care. And finally…
Christina Hollis writes Modern Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon Ltd, when she isn’t working in the garden, busy with her bees or daydreaming about resuming her abandoned Classical Studies. You can catch up with her at http://www.christinahollis.com, http://www.christinahollis.blogspot.com on Facebook and on Twitter, where she tweets as @christinabooks.