So, if you haven’t heard, Harlequin Mills & Boon (the branch out of London) had a big contest over the past few weeks, called the New Voices Contest.
There were over 1,000 entries, and only 21 finalists. The editors at M&B have given some short public overviews on what they liked about the finalists here:
and some critiques of a few of the other manuscripts here:
They’ll be doing a few more critiques over the next week or so, interesting reads for any aspiring author. Harlequin has specific guidelines and many of its published novels are category romance, hence shorter than a lot of what’s on the market. But if you take the time to read some of the entries and their corresponding critiques, you can get a hint or two as to what an editor is looking for in a first chapter.
I’d also like to mention that on the comments section of the finalist announcement post, there were some good examples (in my opinion) of how not to represent yourself in a public forum, especially if you’d like to someday be published by the people judging the contest (i.e. Harlequin editors).
Some potential lessons for aspiring writers to take from this contest:
Don’t enter a contest if you’re not willing to be gracious about not winning (or being a finalist). If you must complain, do it in the privacy of your own home or in your support circle. I don’t believe publicly berating the Harlequin editorial staff for not choosing your manuscript, or even your favorite manuscript is a good professional choice.
Remember that writing is subjective, and when there are 1,000 manuscripts, approximately 3-5% are likely going to be good enough to win, or at least final. So there is going to be some preference involved. It’s part of the industry, it’s part of the craft, it’s a fact of life. If you can’t deal with that painful truth, you might want to rethink this journey.
There are two important aspects of being a good author. Writing skills and storytelling. Sometimes great writers aren’t great storytellers, and sometimes great storytellers need to brush up on their writing skills. A nice synthesis of the two makes it easier to get published, but when an editor has expressed interest in a manuscript, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to publicly chastise their choice because there was a grammatical error or two. Just a thought.
Think twice, maybe even three times, before you post anything that might be considered even slightly negative, anywhere, but especially on a site where you’re interacting with writers and editors. Where you know editors and writers are hanging out and reading posts. A good time to be as professional as possible.
If you disagree, rather than posting your disagreement, ask yourself why. As a writing coach, sometimes a client disagrees with me about something (plot, character, whatever). What I always say to them is, “Explain to me, justify to me, why that character/plot arc/whatever should do that. If you can justify it, then I won’t argue with you. But you have to justify it in the writing. Show me where and how it works.” I think, for fairly simple critiques, the editors did a great job with the entries, exposing what worked and what didn’t work in a spectrum of samples. We can learn something from them, and if you disagree, again, ask yourself why. Then prove it to yourself – in the writing.
Keep writing! Read, write, learn. Repeat.[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://howtowriteshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/bobbiColumn.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Bobbi Dumas loves good writing. Of all kinds. She also loves romance, a mesmerizing story and the company of friends. When she’s not in the virtual world or one of her own making, she can usually be found in Madison, WI with her husband, two boys, and a clan of great writers she feels grateful and honored to know (some of whom you get to meet here, too). Lucky you![/author_info] [/author]