Warriors Wanted Blitz: Tips from the Harlequin Historical Editors

Whether you’re polishing up your entry for the Warriors Wanted blitz or looking for some general historical romance writing advice, the Harlequin/Mills & Boon UK editors share their top tips to make your story stand out from the crowd…

Commissioning Editor Vic Britton says…

“For me, the opening few lines to a story can make or break a submission…being thrown directly into a dramatic, tense, fast-paced moment, or being pulled into some witty, clever banter between characters, can be just the thing to ensure we’re physically unable to put the story down! Make your opening scene memorable (in the right way!) and you’ll have given your submission the best chance possible of being picked up!”

Editor Nic Caws says…

“Historical worlds are some of the most fun to create (and to read!) but all that world-building means that secondary characters can sometimes steal the limelight from your central characters. To keep your story focused, ask yourself whether the appearance of a secondary character moves the central relationship forward or offers a fresh insight into your protagonists. If not, ask yourself if it needs to be there…”

Senior Editor Sheila Hodgson says…

“Historicals require lots of research to help create that richly evoked ‘world.’  But the key to using it in your story is knowing what to include and what to leave out! Think of all those setting and world-building details you’ve researched like the background to a painting. They should give context, without dominating the subject (your hero and heroine’s story and romantic journey).”

Editorial Assistant Hannah Rossiter says…

“You could write the same love story a thousand different ways. But, as an author, it’s your job to work out what is the most exciting, unique path that will lead your hero and heroine to their Happily Ever After. Uniqueness comes from character development—it’s only through getting right inside your characters’ heads that you’ll avoid the trap of cliché.

If you’re stuck—don’t worry, it happens to everyone!—take a step back and write down everything you know about your hero and heroine. Think about their lives outside the confines of the story and, importantly, what’s happened to them before page one of their romance. It’s this knowledge that could help you to answer questions like ‘Why would he do this’ or ‘How will they overcome this?’ and ensure that your hero and heroine are truly original.”

Senior Editor Linda Fildew says…

“I look for stories which immerse me immediately, from P1, into the atmosphere of the chosen time period.  I want to feel the bite of cold as a wounded warrior struggles to find shelter in a winter landscape, or the pang of excitement and fear as a debutante takes to the dance floor for the first time, in the arms of the best-looking man in the room. Research is important in creating an authentic historical backdrop, although it’s the life and emotion you give to your characters which will draw readers into the world you have created around them.” 

Editorial Assistant Chere Tricot says…

“You only have one chapter to grab our attention so make sure we can really get a sense of your writing voice and the emotional tension between your characters from the start! I would advise writing the second, and maybe even the third, chapter before you submit so you can get a feel for where you want the story to go. This in turn will allow you to fine tune the opening chapter.”

Editor Carly Byrne says…

“A dramatic, exciting, fast-paced plot is great, but it’s the central characters who are the beating heart of a romance. Ensuring they are complex, well-rounded and likeable individuals is crucial to keeping readers invested in their story. And when they come together on page, make sure their chemistry is spine-tinglingly electric!”

We hope you find these tips useful! For more writing inspiration, join the Warriors Wanted blitz bootcamp from June 1 – 5 on the Harlequin Writing Community on Facebook. Be sure to request to join the group in advance. And keep an eye on SoYouThinkYouCanWrite.com for more details about the blitz and how to submit.

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