The countdown has begun! On May 15th, our Harlequin Presents Blitz will be open for submissions. So, what’s next? Well, you’ve heard from the Harlequin Editorial team. Now, we’re going to give you a glimpse into the life of a Presents author! Here’s our author’s top tips on what it takes to write for Harlequin Presents…
Try, try again would be my advice because rejection, and hopefully encouragement to improve, is part of the selling-that-all-important-first-book process. The only person who suffers if you give up out of hurt pride is you. You must be willing to take professional advice and accept that there is always room for improvement.
I find it very helpful to listen to my story and can often pick up mistakes I would otherwise miss. More importantly, I can hear the rhythm of the story and also where it jars or wanes. If a robotic voice can hold my interest and move me then I feel more confident that the story is working. I have found it a useful way to start the day and get back into the story that I am working on.
First, don’t beat yourself up over rejections or books that aren’t working. Writing a Harlequin Presents is hard. You’re in very good company with your struggles, believe me.
Persistence is key to getting accepted, but more importantly, understand what readers expect from a Presents. They love a virgin, or at least an underdog, and they love a hero who has everything but a heart. They want to be swept into a world larger than their own so make the most of glamorous settings and always fly by private jet.
Write in very deep POV. Concentrate on the emotional highs and lows as the conflicts get worked out and put it on the page. When you’re past the midpoint and think your book is falling apart, dig for the *real* reason the hero refuses to love. (Then go back and fix your beginning to fit this in. Books aren’t written, they’re re-written.)
Read, read, read, read, read. And then read some more. For those who want to write category romance like Harlequin Presents, read everything you can get your hands on from the line so you can soak in its particular flavour. Also, be aware that you’ll need perseverance and a thick skin. It’s a rare author who sells on their first attempt – an author’s unique voice takes time to develop, and I say that from experience. I eventually sold to Harlequin Presents on my fifth attempt but I would never consider those first four rejected books a waste of time as it was through writing them that I learnt the craft.
Read the line and learn what works. Presents is such a glamorous, exciting world, the cat and mouse dramatic tension between the hero and heroine a wild rollercoaster ride like no other. But it’s tricky to nail. So read, absorb and learn. Then write a story that will capture that tumultuous, passionate journey.
My favourite thing to remember about writing Presents is that these are essentially fairy tales for grown-ups. You have the indomitable heroine swept into the hero’s world where she finds excitement and pleasure, both physical and emotional. It’s where she also finds the beast/handsome prince AKA the hero, and breaks his curse by showing him the power of love. If that sounds over the top, then good. It’s supposed to be. Because Presents is all about emotional intensity. It’s about writing with everything dialled all the way up to 11.
One of the things that new writers need to keep in mind is that strong internal conflict is the engine that drives a Presents, and it’s actually very tricky to get right. Without internal conflict, you’ll find yourself adding all sorts of things to your book such as evil-exes, interfering family, changes of jobs, stalkers, basically anything that will keep your hero and heroine from getting together too soon. Sadly that won’t work in a Presents. What should be keeping your hero and heroine apart is the decisions they make themselves. But giving them a reason not to want to be with the love of their lives is difficult and that’s where character and backstory are important. Hint: if you think this is difficult, it is. This is why writing romance is hard!
I think the best advice I could give to anyone trying to get published right now is to read everything you can get your hands on in the category you’re targeting and know what readers really want. Don’t be afraid to be daring or to take some risks, its easier to scale back a wacky plot than it is to try to inject some flavour into a dull one! Embrace the revision process and learn from your own mistakes and blunders. Writing is a constant learning process but with each completed manuscript you see where your strengths lie and your own unique authors voice will emerge. Good luck!
Before you go, why not take a look at this Q&A with Maya Blake, Abby Green and Jennifer Hayward? They discuss, with Editor Carly Byrne, how to get started, how to make a Harlequin Presents your own and why they’re head over heels in love with the series!
If you’re ready to immerse yourself in the world of billionaires, glamour and sensuality, we’d love to hear from you! The Harlequin Presents Team