SO this one is hard to read, and probably harder to write for Ms. Bloom. No one likes getting rejection letters, but it is a part of the writing world. Sometimes it’s because of the book itself, timing, placement, the editor, the writer, or a combination of them all. A lot of the time it doesn’t have much to do with the talent of the writer. It’s still a very subjective field so there’s no exact science to it but I did get to learn what the top ten for Harlequin are:
- Pacing: This is another word for how quickly your story moves. If your first chapter is riveting, but then the momentum slows down after a few chapters, we tend to stop reading.
- Voice: Does your story have a distinct “voice?” Is it unique and true to you? If there is a “sameness” to the prose, go back to the drawing board—and keep writing (Never quit, okay?). Voice often comes from practice and focus.
- Lack of Motivation: So, the hero is mean to the heroine for no reason? And…the villain kills people because he’s bad. Okay, but we’re not buying it. As writers, you need to show us how your characters became who they are.
- Flat Main Characters: We’ve seen the plain Jane before, the helpful auntie who imparts wisdom, the cranky cowboy with the heart of gold—yawn. Okay, he can be a cranky cowboy, but what else makes him special? Why do we have to love your plain Jane? We are truly looking to be dazzled by the fictional people you’ve created.
- Not Original Enough: There may be similar themes in romance, but great writers make the stories their own. If we feel we’ve seen it before too many times, we may pass.
- Plot Holes: You create a plot, a subplot and sub-subplot and they make no sense. Red herring here, red herring there, no idea how to shock the reader and the mystery falls apart. Plotting is incredibly difficult, which is why it’s always good to work with a critique partner or friend to iron out the kinks. Feedback can be so helpful. Your plot doesn’t have to be too complicated, but it should possess a degree of logic.
- Already Reviewed: If you’ve sent us your project before, chances are, it’s in our database. Make sure you send it to one editor at a time and remember that that one editor reviews for all the lines. We generally don’t keep looking at one manuscript over and over again. If at first you get a rejection letter, work on the next book.
- Unedited: You whipped up this romance in five days and, without even proofing it, thought you would send it to us right away. Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll overlook all the typos, strange formatting and pages that cut off in the middle of a paragraph. Maybe we won’t. Take the time to read and re-read your work. Self-editing is important!
- Not Plausible: The hero and heroine are in the middle of a big fight and a dancing unicorn therapist helps mediate their dispute. Huh? That’s right—romances can seem far-fetched (with billionaires, marriages of convenience, exotic locations and lawmen galore), but don’t make them too far-fetched. Keep that sense of this could really happen.
- Not for Our Programs: With our expanding offerings, it’s less likely that your story wouldn’t have a place at Harlequin. And yet, sometimes, it’s just the truth: The story isn’t what we’re seeking or we don’t think we can sell it within our programs. Many of us have turned down romances that we’ve loved because we knew they didn’t fit the series promise. If you’re not sure what we publish, be sure to check out our writing guidelines on www.harlequin.com
Read the rest of the article here and be sure to check out Harlequin’s Writing Guidelines as well. There is really nothing to lose to go after your dream. I wanted to share what I’m learning with others out there because I think, as writers, we tend to help each other out, a lot, and we should continue that. Some of my biggest fans are other authors I devoured when I was just a reader and not a writer too.
As always Happy Writing and Reading!
P.S. – Thanks Patience Bloom!