How to write a Valentine

In the run-up to Valentine's Day, romantic novelist Sue Moorcroft explains the dos and don'ts of writing those cards

I’m sure you know your beloved’s name, address and what they look like, but do you know who he or she really is? You need to, if you’re going to send the most effective Valentine.

You won’t convince Sensitive Sentimental Guy that you love him with a card depicting a garish cartoon lorry with Be My Valentine (And I’ll Stop Complaining That You Snore Like a Truck) written in pink glitter gel, and Ms Wit and Sophistication will probably see only tackiness in a moist verse likening her to a cherub. (Also there are few words that rhyme with cherub. It pays to think of these things.)

The perfect card and message will tell your love: I’ve thought about your tastes; I’m paying attention.

There are a million cards to choose from: pretty, humorous or elegant. It needn’t be expensive, although expensive rarely fails to please. You could even hit the handicrafts shop and make your own. You just need to keep the recipient in mind.

Then all you have to do to make it truly personal is to write a message. You could even compose a love letter to slip inside the card. An erotic ode, maybe, or a favourite poem that says everything you’re thinking. Gorgeous stationery will make it a wonderful keepsake.

Even if you follow the tradition of anonymity, carefully selected words can tell your Valentine that the card could only have come from you. Or keep them guessing, if that’s what you prefer. But do write something—that thing where all you write is a big question mark is a cowardly old cop-out! The only feeling that it’s likely to create is disappointment.

Of course, not every Valentine represents everlasting love. There are those you send to the guy you fancy at the gym or the woman you’ve been seeing for a few weeks. If that’s what’s right for you, beware of St Valentine carrying you away! I once wrote "Yours Always and All Ways" in a Valentine’s card because I thought it creative and clever. I gave not even a fleeting thought to what the words really meant (I was about 20 and I hope there’s more depth to my writing now). When I later decided the relationship had reached its end the man in question actually stormed my front door with anguished cries of: "But look what you wrote!".

"I’m seeing you only casually" doesn’t have the same ring—but it would have been kinder. Or maybe I should have done that thing with the big question mark…?

Love & Freedom by Sue Moorcroft is published by Choc Lit.

Sue will be giving Writing Love Letters workshops with novelist Katie Fforde in association with John Lewis. These are free and will be held at: John Lewis, Cardiff, 5-6pm 6 February; John Lewis, Solihull, 11am-12pm 7 February; Peter Jones, Sloane Square, 5-6pm 9 February