After agonizing for months about my blog, have decided to keep writing and posting about what I first blogged about – writing. FB and Twitter will be more reader focused but this blog will be about the craft of writing and how to do deal with the sometimes crappy, sometimes amazing, job of being a writer (even if you’re not published, you’re still a writer dammit!).
Okay so I’m going to do a post a week about some aspect of craft and this week’s post is for all you SYTYCW peoples.
In the interests of full disclosure, I didn’t get anywhere when I entered So You Think You Can Write. And I’m not published by Harlequin. But I have entered. And I have submitted to Harlequin and been the lucky recipient of lots of advice from the editors there. And I can pretty much safely say that I would not have the contracts I now have if it hadn’t been for all my Harlequin rejections. 🙂
Anyway, I’m thinking that if you’re wanting to enter SYTYCW, you’ve written some sh*t. And when I say sh*t, I’m meaning awesome, excellent wordage type sh*t. But of course just writing sh*t doesn’t mean you’re going to get anywhere with it. So herewith a few tips/things to think about from yours truly before you stick that sh*t up.
- Why are you entering? Is it to win? Is it to get editor feedback? Or do you just want to know what other people think of your work? This is important because it will have an impact on your expectations and feelings around the contest. Being honest with yourself and what you want from the contest will help when it comes to dealing with criticism and disappointment. But don’t let those feelings prevent you from sticking that sh*t up.
- Love what you write. This is SO important. If you don’t love your work, then how are you going to expect anyone else to? And how are you going to write it again when you get that nice fat contract?
- Don’t write what you think other people want. Write what YOU want. This is being true to yourself, your voice and the story you’re writing. Sure, you want to get published but why force yourself to write something you don’t enjoy? It shows in the writing when you hate what you write, believe me, it shows (see #2).
- If you’re serious about getting published in category romance then KNOW YOUR CATEGORY. Buy a whole bunch of the latest authors and read them, get a feel for what kind of things the editors are looking for. Then put the books away and write your own story. Don’t write theirs, write yours.
- Be original but not too original. The reason why category sells – hell, genre fiction as a whole – is because of the familiarity factor. People love to read romance because some things stay the same – the HEA for a start. The trick is to be familiar enough so readers/editors don’t get scared, yet different enough to make people go ‘wow, haven’t seen that before’. This does not mean making a Presents hero a surprise alien. Or setting a romantic suspense on Mars (unless you’re aiming for Carina Press). Or having a closed door romance with sexy times. Often it can be very slight, simple twists on tried and true set-ups. For example, gender swapping traditional roles (no, I don’t mean having the Presents hero be the nanny – though you ‘could’ give this a go in Superromance).
- Know your characters. Romances these days are more and more character driven. Which means your characters and their decisions and actions determine the course of the story, not the set up you give them. And THAT means in order for your story to work, you have to know your characters as people. And that’s not as simple as knowing they have toast for breakfast and don’t like chocolate. Are they generous? Selfish? Masochistic? What do they do under pressure? What about when they’re happy? What was their early life like? You get the idea.
- Be prepared for criticism. You probably already know this but I’m saying it again. Not everyone will like what you write. Shock, huh? If criticism is painful to take and gets you down, don’t read it. The only opinion that matters in the writing process is the editor’s. However remember the converse – for every person who hates your writing, there will be someone who loves it.
- It’s okay to be scared but stick that sh*t up there anyway. Because do you want to be published or not? If not, then don’t. But if you do, you have to come to terms with the fact that people WILL be reading your writing at some point. So you have to put yourself out there. It’s hard but do it anyway.
- Don’t edit your book to death trying to achieve perfection. As my crit partner and awesome writer Maisey Yates says, looking for perfection is like trying to find a unicorn in the dark. Impossible because unicorns don’t exist. If you’re sick of the sight of your story then it’s time to stick that sh*t up there, not make it into something you’re never going to achieve. Besides, remember this – your hot mess of a book is someone else’s perfect romance.
- Not placing does not mean failure. I didn’t place. I entered New Voices twice and SYTYCW twice. Didn’t come anywhere and got form rejections. Then I got picked up by Samhain, Entangled, and sold on proposal to St Martin’s Press. Does that make me a failure? It might make me a blow-my-own-horn trumpeter but hell, I reckon I’ve earned it. 🙂