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Posts tagged ‘romance novels’

Six things I wish I’d known about being published, when I was starting out

Hindsight is always 20/20. It’s easier to look back and see your writing career more clearly than when you’re starting out. This year marks the 30th anniversary of my first romance novel being published. I had books out before then but they were nonfiction, and nothing beats the thrill of holding your first novel. Or your 50th for that matter. For me, the excitement never wears off. Last week I received the French translation of With a Little Help, and couldn’t wait to share the news with my agent and social networks.

I still get a kick out of my translations.The guy on the cover doesn't hurt either.

While I hope the thrill never stops, I’m glad some things have changed. Today I share six things I wish someone had told me when my journey began. They may save you some needless angst.

  1. Publishing is only the beginning. I thought of having my novel published as reaching a summit. I’d plant my “successful” flag, readers would cheer and I’d never worry again. Until my editor asked, “What are you writing next? And after that?” Readers might cheer, but they also want more. There are revisions to do, proofs to read, promotion, even before social networking became everyday. Plus writers’ conferences to attend, speeches, workshops and media. Rinse and repeat with every book.
  2. You can be ‘real’, your family won’t even notice. Using aspects of my family history in stories once kept me awake nights. What if family members were offended, hurt, angry? When one book I considered especially revealing came out, they read the characters, setting and situation as fiction. In other words, they didn’t connect real life with my story. Change the names and details to protect the guilty, and sleep well.
  3. No matter how many books you sell, someone will ask what name you write under. Nearly 30 million sales on, I still get asked what name I write under. Right before how long it takes me to write a book, and where do I get my ideas. Knowing I’m often the first writer some people have met,  I answer the questions as if they’re new to me, too.
  4. The fun stuff you get to do really IS research. If you read my previous blog about this, you’ll know that everything a writer does is research, good and bad. I know writers who’ve had major surgery and taken notes because it will come in handy sometime. Everything from lazing on a tropical island to cuddling a Tasmanian devil has found its way into my books.
  5. Your family IS proud of you but won’t necessarily let you know. One sister wishes I’d write like Stephen King. Not in me to do. I can only write as me. The other used to read my magazine short stories in the supermarket queue. She changed after learning that I’d spread this around.  No one I know has asked when I’m going to write a “real” book, mainly because I’d written so many books before turning to romance. But you might get asked. Rehearse the reasons why romance is the world’s biggest-selling genre in ebooks and print. Romance Writers of Australia has all the amunition you need here:
  6. Changes in publishing are NOT the end of the world. Change has been part of the industry as long as I’ve been writing. The first time my adored editor was reassigned, I was a nervous wreck.  These days I roll with the punches. Editors move on. Lines and even publishing houses merge with others, disappear or reinvent themselves online. Print books become ebooks, audio and graphic novels. The one constant is they still need writers providing exciting content. Don’t panic. To paraphrase a popular saying: Keep Calm and Keep Writing.

What have you learned on your writing journey? Please comment below, and share on Twitter, Facebook and any other medium invented while I was blogging. Change is the one constant in life, not only for writers.


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When did you first realise you were a writer?

Last time I blogged about Russell T Davies and his wonderful insight into the writing life in Dr Who The Writer’s Tale. This massive book contains so many great quotes about writing that I’ve been tweeting them for the past couple of weeks.

Then I came to this quote: “In my head, I was writing all the time, in the sense of making up stories, but I thought that was just thinking. I thought everyone did it.” p321


Immediately I remembered being about eight years old, walking to school with my younger sister, spinning stories to her to pass the time. Like Russell T. Davies, I thought everybody made up stories. It never occurred to me that normal kids didn’t make their pocket money by entering stories and poems in competitions run by the Sunday papers.

My latest novel, aptly named "With a Little Help"

At 12, I wrote the story for a ballet with no idea how it should be done, and no Google to research such things. I won the prize,  tickets to see the Netherlands Dance Theatre in Sydney, and went with my mother. What no one told us, and presumably the paper, was that this company danced in the nude. I’m not sure who learned the most from the experience, me or my conservative Scottish mother, but it was certainly unforgettable.

I was about 16 when my father showed some of my writing to a friend in advertising, and I discovered I could earn a living as a copywriter, beginning a career in retail advertising where I met the love of my life. Publicity writing and journalism followed, then nonfiction books and the joy of writing something I loved – romance novels, which I’m still doing. All because I made up stories long before I knew what a writer was.

As a child, did you make things up in your head? When did you realise this was a special gift? Were you able to turn your gift into a career, or did that have to wait until you could afford the time to turn your ideas into books? Many women are too busy raising a family to write until later in life. Perhaps that’s you. I’d love to hear some of your experiences.



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