10 things I learned at the Romance Writers Conference

Allison Tait blog
Posted on August 20, 2013

juliaquinnquoteI was going to call this post ‘Seven things I learned at the Romance Writers Conference’, but then I realised that I’d already done that one. Three years ago. So I put together ten things I learned about writing romance novels.

I can’t believe it’s been three years since I sprinkled myself with fairy dust and love potion and headed off to talk heaving bosoms (actually, yes), hardened members (yes, that too) and steely gazes (sigh…).

To be fair, all three of those things came up in a fabulous talk by Sarah Wendell, half of the brains behind Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (a blog worth reading even if you are not a romance fan – it’s funny!), but I’m so glad they did. Because, really, what’s a romance writers conference without them, right? Yep, I learned a lot at the ‘avoiding romantic cliches’ talk… (she says, gazing wistfully into the distance).

So, anyway, where was I (she says, biting her bottom lip). Oh yes, that’s right (she says, heaving a huge sigh). You expect a blog post from me (she says, storming from the room) and I need to come up with something different (she says, biting her bottom lip).

I can do it (she thought, resolutely, standing straighter and tossing her hair). What I really need is a hero (hair slightly longer than fashionable, broad shoulders, steely gaze) idea.

What can I do? (she asks, eyes darting nervously around the room, revealing hidden depths).

Got it (she says, snapping her fingers under a lightbulb*). I’ll give you (every part of my being, now and forever) 10 of the things I learned at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference 2013 – and most of them are relevant to all writers, no matter what genre (she says, eyes flashing)

Takes deep, shuddering breath.

1. Back up your computer. Julia Quinn, NY Times Bestselling Author, was quite adamant about this. She learned the hard way.

2. Julia’s other two top tips: Know your market. Writers write.

3. The definition of ‘published author’ is not as clear-cut as it once was. Writers have more pathways than ever to publication.

4. Pay attention to your readers – what you want as a writer is not the key to a great story, it’s the reader that counts. There may be a story that you want to tell, but is it the story the reader wants to read?

5. Know where to start your story. If there are pirates on the horizon, get them on board!

6. Editors will read a submission with two things in mind: the potential market and their own taste. Choosing the right editor to whom to submit your work is essential.

7. Don’t bury your hooks. Put the promise upfront in your story (and then make sure you keep it) (yes, she says, you need a wave-crashing climax)

8. You do not want your opening scene to feel familiar. It has to be fresh, even if it’s been done before.

9. Authors can get in their own way. Back-story needs to be handled carefully, and you can undo tension by overthinking it.

10. “Romance novels may not change the world, but they make people HAPPY. What could be more important than that?” – Julia Quinn

So there you have it (she says, stretching luxuriously with a satisfied, cat-like smile).

*okay, not romantic cliche, but sometimes corporate cliche has its place

What’s your favourite romance novel cliche?


  1. JodiGibson (@JFGibsonWriter)

    These are great tips Al. Of course they are…what am I saying. I think number 6 is really interesting. Will take on board.
    My fav romance cliche would have to do with anything that’s ‘throbbing’. (giggles like a school girl)

  2. Lisa

    Sounds like you enjoyed Perth just a little too much!! I would love to hear more about tip number 4.
    I can see if you blog how your readers can get you back on track but if writing a novel how do you get out of your own way to give the readers what they want? Is this about researching your novel before you start? PS. I brought your new ebook…wonderful tips, thanks for being so generous with all your knowledge.

  3. Sam Stone

    Who doesn’t like a bit of hardened member 😉

    • Allison Tait

      LOL. Yes, really… who doesn’t?


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