PITCH CONTEST NOW CLOSED
The Contemporary Romance Writers Chapter is thrilled to have Carly Byrne, and Pippa Roscoe, editors from Harlequin Mills & Boon’s London Office’s Harlequin Presents team, here today to share their expertise on contemporary romance and consider YOUR pitches as part of our series of pitch contests! Instructions on the pitch contest are below, but first please pull up a chair and get a pen and paper, because you’re going to want to take notes on the awesome and useful advice has laid out here for writers at all levels.
~ Interview by Abigail Owen
CR: Can you share what lines, imprints, or genres you edit?
CB and PR: We acquire primarily for Harlequin Presents, Romance, Historical and Medical series. However, for submissions for other genres that show potential, we will direct them to other teams within Harlequin where appropriate.
CR: Is there anything about a story itself likely to turn you off on a manuscript, even if the mechanics are quite good?
CB and RP: feeling forced and not authentic.
CR: What’s the best and worst part of your editing/agenting job?
CB and RP: best part is making ‘The Call’ to a new author and then working with authors on building their careers.
Not sure there is a worst part – we love our jobs!
CR: Before acquisition, how important is a writer’s platform to you? To publishing houses?
CB and PR: This can be a bonus but certainly isn’t a requirement and won’t impact our decision to acquire an author. We offer lots of support for new authors on building their brand so this is something they can develop once they are working with us.
CR: Before acquisition, how important is a writer’s platform to you? To publishing houses?
CB and RP: this can be a bonus but certainly isn’t a requirement and won’t impact our decision to acquire an author. We offer lots of support for new authors on building their brand so this is something they can develop once they are working with us.
CR: Can you offer some encouraging words of advice to aspiring authors who haven’t received their first contract yet?
CB and PR: Don’t give up! See revisions as an opportunity to learn and make your strong stronger, rather than as rejection.
CR: What is on your wish list of story types to acquire?
CB and PR: New, exotic and glamorous destinations, uber alpha males, kick-ass female surgeon (Medical Romance), 21st century fairytales…
CR: Thanks for agreeing to do a pitch contest today! What genres, subgenres, and/or word counts are you open to considering at this time?
CB and RP: UK acquired series (Presents, Romance, Historical and Medical). Contemporary romances of 50,000 words and Historical romances of 75 000 words.
About Carly Byrne and Pippa Roscoe
Carly joined Harlequin after completing an MA in Popular Literature, and what could be more popular than Harlequin romances! A diehard fan of everything romantic, with a particular penchant for a rugged hero in a Stetson(!), Carly can’t believe she actually gets to read romances for a living!
Pippa Roscoe is the Associate Editor for Harlequin Presents who is so utterly inspired by the amazing love stories she devours, she has been known on occasion to ride the elevator rather than take the stairs, to hopefully one day just ‘happen’ to get stuck there with a delicious tycoon of her own. Her search is still on going, so in the meantime, she’ll fall in love each day with a new Presents hero written by our fabulous authors.
After a four year dalliance in TV, she found her way to Harlequin and the home of happy ever afters. Working with authors across each of the UK acquired series, she considers herself to have the best job in the world!
STAR YOUR STORY WITH A BANG!
Wondering where to start? Harlequin Editors Carly Byrne and Pippa Roscoe have some top tips on how to start your story with a bang and bring your hero and heroine together in a cute not clichéd way!
Starting your story can either be the most intimidating moment, or the most exciting – or even a strange combination of the two!
First of all you have to get over the self-doubt, the negative voice that is poking and prodding and chipping away at the burning desire to put pen to paper. And then you have what seems an almost impossible mountain to climb. But remember all good writers have what it takes to conquer this mountain – dedication, determination, and perhaps just a little bit of crazy (in a good way!) It’s not easy, but if it was then it wouldn’t be worth it!
However you approach that blank computer screen, whether its with a firm idea, an image or moment in your head that kick starts it all, or whether you need to write a few chapters, get to know your characters, get some of their back grounds on to the page before you start feeling that excitement… it doesn’t always have to make the final cut.
So once you have your story in place, go back to the beginning. Look at the first line, look at the first page and take a temperature check…
Is it going to be a 90 degrees scorcher of an opening, passionate, explosive, shocking?
Or is it going to be stormy ‘batten down the hatches’ kind of opening, intriguing, dark and powerful?
Or perhaps is it a little more lukewarm shoulder shrug of a day, laden with internal thoughts as characters ponder their rather unsatisfying exes on their way to work for yet another dreary day in the office?
If you don’t need sunscreen or an umbrella, you might want to take another look at the opening to make sure that it packs the punch that it needs to. So here are some good tips on how to make the start of your story as ‘grab-your-reader-by-the-throat’ as possible.
First Lines: ‘You’re fired.’ Or ‘Would you like to explain what you are doing in bed with my fiancé?’ Think about a line of dialogue that will immediately immerse your reader straight into the heart of the action. Something that packs a real punch.
Bringing the characters together asap: What if the hero is the boss who has literally just fired the heroine? Or the fiancé who has just been caught with another woman? The first meet/or cute meet is always tricky, but doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. There are more options than lifts, funerals, car crashes, on a girly night out – not to say that these don’t work. They do! And well! But think about what makes these characters unique, what ties them together, and that will help you find the right moment to bring them together.
Emotionally: Extreme emotions translate so beautifully onto the page so how about opening at either the worst or highest point in your characters’ lives so far? Emotions drive action, action drives pace and readers do love pace!
Make an impression! Whether it’s a line of dialogue that will make people laugh, or an opening that sees the hero about to jump from a plane… high drama, humour, or think of how your favourite books start. And if you can’t? Take a look at the opening page of any book on your shelf (or on your EReader!). Make notes! See what you’re favourite authors do.
If you can work these things into your opening, the outlook will be sunny!
Now we’d like to give you the opportunity to put these top tips into action! Put the first 200 words of your story in the comments section below and the 5 openings that ‘grab-us-by-the-throat’ will be invited to send us the first three chapters of their story and will quickly receive personalised feedback.
You have the next two days to add your opening to the comments at the bottom of this blog. On Friday 19th June the winners will be announced and given 48 hours to submit their partial manuscript (synopsis and opening chapters) to us. Personal, written feedback will then be sent to each winner on Tuesday 23rd June.
In your pitch please include the following: author name, book title, genre/series, completed word count, 100 word blurb and the first 200 words of the manuscript.
We’ll have our sunscreen and umbrellas at the ready as we eagerly wait to be blown away by the opening of your story!
Authors are invited to submit the below for consideration. Also feel free to post general questions, but please do so in a separate post from your pitch submission. The contest will open 6/17 at 6:00 am EST and close at 11:59pm EST 6/18 – pitches submitted after this time will not be entered. Works being pitched must be completed and ready for submission.
Five pitches will be selected and announced on 6/19. Winners will have 48 hours to submit requested materials (synopsis and first three chapters).
June 23rd each of the 5 finalists will receive a personalized response and critique of their work.
This pitch contest is open to everyone – members or non-members. But we invite non-members to consider joining our chapter so you don’t miss out on other exciting events and opportunities!
Please submit your pitch for Carly’s & Pippa’s consideration in the following format.
- Author’s Name:
- Book Title:
- Word Count:
- Blurb (Maximum 200-Words):
- 1st 200 Words of the MS:
- If your pitch is for a Harlequin line/imprint other than Presents, please indicate which one.
Submissions must be for completed manuscripts only and won’t be considered if they don’t meet the guidelines. Winners will be announced on 6/19 so check back! And best of luck to everyone!