Editorial Guidelines

This is a collection of editorial guidelines that I have gathered over the years because they were amusing or interesting. Each is real and I have transcribed it exactly (occasionally correcting typos).

From a Maoist literary journal

This is from the journal Kwangtung wen-ye (no. 1, 1973), which was published in the Peoples Republic of China during the waning days of the Cultural Revolution.

Our publication welcomes all manuscripts which fulfill the following conditions:

This translation appeared in an essay "Broken Images" by Chen Jo-Hsi.

Guidelines for writing a Candlelight romance

Candlelight Romances Are Stories of Love, Passion, Idealism and Fantasy -- WITHIN THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY.


The heroine should have been born in the United States and preferably raised there. Between 22 and 28 years old, she has at least a high school education and preferably college. She should have a job which she enjoys with aspirations toward a higher position or level of achievement. She should be attractive, although not necessarily beautiful. She might not be a virgin, but her previous sexual experiences need not be discussed. She should be independent and assertive. Depending on the nature of the story and the context of the relationship, she may become softer and more vulnerable when she is with the hero but she should not become totally meek in his presence.


The hero should be an achiever who is firmly established in a successful career (make his job and the heroine's as interesting as possible). Between 25 and 35 years old, he should be assertive and aggressive, but aware of women's lib and sensitive to a woman's needs. He should not be overly macho and he must never at any time physically abuse the heroine (i.e. slap, spank, push or shove). He should be attractive.


The setting is always contemporary. Less emphasis should be placed on obvious exotic settings (such as Haiti, Mexico, Caribbean Islands, and Alaska) and more on less well-known ones (i.e. unusual islands off the coast of America and less well-known foreign countries). Average American towns can be used if they are made interesting through imaginative descriptions which capture their unique flavor. The novel should cover a period of time long enough for the relationship between the hero and the heroine to realistically develop (more than two days).


The story line should be clearly defined and sustained throughout the body of the work. The hero and heroine should meet early in the story, no later than chapter three. The conflict between the two (and there is always conflict) should be lively and interesting.


The key quality is romance. A Candlelight Romance is a celebration of the five senses -- taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell. For example: taste -- of her salty tears, exotic fruits and liqueurs; touch -- the silkiness of her skin or the hero's caress; sight -- white sails in the sunset; sound -- romantic music during dinner for two; smell -- the masculine scent of his citrus aftershave, smoke from burning leaves, woods after a spring rain.

Sex scenes must be skillfully handled so as not to become pornographic and thereby offend the reader. There should be longing looks, tender touches, and hugs and kisses scattered throughout the body of the work, depending on the gradual development of the characters and story. These endearments should build up to and reinforce the major love scenes which are essential to every Candlelight Romance. Kisses should be graphically and sensuously but not harshly described. Descriptions of gentle fondling above the waist are acceptable -- shoulders, neck, breasts, arms and hair, eyes, ears, etc. There can be sex if the couple is married but it must be passionate and, above all, tender. All references to pain and blood must be very vague, if mentioned at all, and references to body parts below the waist should be vague as well.


Manuscripts should be 200 typed pages or 60,000 words long. Do not use corrasable or onion skin paper. Manuscripts are more acceptable if not written in the first person. There should not be more than four to six major characters. Do not include social problems (alcoholism, peeping toms, etc.). All references to race, religion, and creed should not be made in derogatory terms.

Silhouette Books - Contemporary Romances


The heroine

Silhouette Romances are always written in the third person but the point of view is exclusively the heroine's. The heroine is young (19-29). She is not beautiful in the high fashion sense, is basically an ingenue, and wears modest make-up and clothes. Frequently, she does not consider herself to be a beauty, and this attitude is used to play off against the other woman (women). She has a good figure, and is often petite and slight of build. Naturally, when she dresses up she is stunning. Her outfits are described in detail, as is her physical appearance. In spite of her fragile appearance, she is independent, high-spirited, and not too subservient. She should not be mousy or weepy. Often, she is starting a career, leaving college, unhappy with her present job, or too caught up in her work. The book then opens with an unexpected change, challenge, or adventure in her life, which she accepts eagerly, though with some trepidation. Her reactions to the amorous advances of the hero mirror the conflict between her desire for him and her strong belief in romantic love. She never truly believes that the hero loves her until the final chapter of the novel. She is usually without parents or a "protective" relationship. Sometimes she has lived with an elderly female relative but breaks away to lead a life of her own. A brother is permissible, but she is often in the position of caring for him, rather than vice-versa; he may be weak, handicapped or uncertain as to this morals of future. He can in now way suggest the type of character that is our hero's perogative.

The hero

The hero is 8 to 12 years older than the heroine. He is self-assured, masterful, hot-tempered, capable of violence, passion, and tenderness. He is often mysteriously moody. Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights) is a rougher version; Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) a more refined one. Always older than the heroine, he is rich and successful in the vocation of his choice. Or he can be independently wealthy with some interest to which he devotes his time. He is always tall, muscular (but not muscle-bound). He is not necessarily handsome, but is, above all, virile. He is usually dark, although we have seen some great Nordic types, and recently, a gorgeous redhead. Here, as with the heroine, physical descriptions and clothes are important. He is never married to anyone but our heroine, but may be widowed, and even divorced.


A Silhouette Romance is not a Gothic, or a novel of suspense or adventure. Murder, gunplay, abductions, beatings, drugs, spies, and nurse-hospital novels, the occult are out. The action should explore the relationship between the lovers. The author should get to their initial meeting, or the events that lead up to that meeting, in the first chapter. In the beginning of the book the background material the author wishes to convey about the heroine should as much as possible be in the form of memories or flashbacks. We do not want extended initial chapters on the heroine's life before she meets our hero. After the lovers meet (as soon as possible in the story) the narrative should be sequential and straightforward.

The story usually begins with a clash between the hero and the heroine. Often this has to do with the misapprehensions each has about the other. Sometimes the heroine has heard a great deal about the hero and has some reason to resent him before they actually meet, or they meet under inauspicious circumstances and the heroine is put off by the hero's ruthless, domineering and arrogant manner. Or the hero has formed an opinion of the heroine before he meets her.

The other woman

Usually mean, over-sophisticated, well-groomed. She often catches the heroine in embarrassing situations - in a tender scene with the hero, dressed in old clothes, etc. She never gets our hero.

The other man

Appealing, but not assertive, egotistical in some cases. Occasionally (very seldom) a bad type. He cannot ever take the limelight from the hero. He is not as well-rounded as the hero and is often offstage throughout most of the book.

Love scenes

It is all right for the hero and heroine to go to bed together, although they should not make love before they are married. Bringing them to the brink of consummation and then forcing them to retreat either because of an interruption or because one or both of the lovers suffer from doubt or shame is an appropriate Silhouette device. Descriptions of lovemaking should be sensuous with some details. They cannot be limited to "he kissed her passionately". However, there are some limits to what and how it can be described. Nudity is permissible depending upon context, but it should not be too graphic. Of course, references to pain and blood are out. The only pain permitted is the sweet pain of fulfilled (or unfulfilled) desire. Above all, Silhouette love scenes should be romantic - our readers should be as in love with the hero as is the heroine.


It is always contemporary, and preferably exotic or lush. In certain circumstances, a familiar setting works, depending on the author's ability to romanticize it. The setting should transport the reader.


No long-winded descriptions - rather, extremely sensuous details (sense, taste, and touch are all important). Dialog should be natural. The style, while colloquial and contemporary, should neither be slangy, obscene nor profane. Racial and religious slurs are out. Local idioms should be used sparingly and explained. We prefer a minimum of dialect. Foreign words and phrases should be used with extreme discretion.


We are asking for approximately 53-56,000 words, divided into no less than ten chapters, and no more than twelve.

Send only completed manuscripts please.