I have been writing professionally for several years now. I have seen writers come and go. I've seen fabulous talent fizzle under the pressure that comes with the business side of writing and it breaks my heart. So, in an effort to be honest to upcoming authors or those of you who dream of being a writer, I want to share five undeniable rules that can keep you moving down the long road of being an author. Rule 1: Follow your heart. Don't write what you think people want to read. Yes, it is important to be able to market to a certain group of readers (e.g. Vampire lovers), but it is even more critical that you are passionate about what you are writing. I'm a wee bit notorious for writing whatever strikes me, but I have found that my readers have followed. They read my books because each one is created with deep, unwavering passion for the topic and the characters.Rule 2:Be involved. Writing can be a lone wolf career path. You can sit in an office each day, diligently writing away and working your fingers to bloody nubs, but unless you are out there in the 'real' world, people aren't going to know you exist. No one owes you anything. No one has to be your friend. You need to go out, introduce yourself and find like-minded people. I've said it a thousand times, but it begs repeating, I have met some of my dearest friends at writers conferences and readers events. I LOVE talking books with people who are passionate about the world of romance and literature. These are great allies when you are feeling down. These are the people that remind you of why you love writing.Rule 3:Study. Study. Study. This can mean in the craft of writing in addition to researching your book. It is critically important that you are constantly learning and changing with the times. In just five years, there has been a dramatic shift in publishing and what readers want. In another five years, I can guarantee that it will continue to change just as dramatically. If you are not learning and watching the world around you, you will be left behind.Rule 4: Grow a thick skin. You are going to cry. You are going to scream. And then you are going to need to step away from your anger or pain and be ready to smile. The act of being an author isn't easy. You are going to get negative critiques, even more nasty criticism, rejection, and fluctuations. We all get them. It doesn't matter if you've never been published or are a New York Times Bestseller. Someone out there is not going to like you or what you write. Elizabeth Lowell said it best, "Whenever you stick your head above the crowd, someone is going to take a shot." I like to add, "But if you never stand up for what you are passionate about, you will be nothing more than a face in the crowd."When I have tough days, I force myself to think about what could come, or better yet, what will come if I just keep going. I can't stop to lick my wounds, instead I let them heal in the reassurance that there are better days ahead.Rule 5:This is by far the most important rule. NEVER STOP WRITING. I have small children, a job, a husband, pets, family (that sometimes puts the fun in dysfunctional), friends, I get sick, sad, happy, crazy (though I try to keep that under wraps as much as possible), and I get bored. I'm human. You're human. We all have things that require our time and attention; regardless, we have to make time for what we love.There are many days in the job of writing where it would be easy to just quit. People are cruel. You can't let them put you down and keep you from your dream, your passion. If you do, you are your worst enemy, not them. So ignore the fervor around you, the neigh sayers and critics, and put your blinders on and write!You are in control of only one thing--yourself.