Friday, December 18, 2009

Harlequin Presents Responds

I received my letter from the Harlequin Presents editors at 6.04am this morning. Before I headed out for an eye appointment that would leave me seeing double for hours.

Here is the rundown:

My writing "shows promise." They liked my premise, my twist on the traditional hook and the emotion in my synopsis.They had some reservations about my hero's nationality and some advice on how to fix him. Then they asked for three chapters of my next submission.

They also included three of the standard tips:
1. Ensure that your story and conflict are character-driven.
2. Focus on the internal emotional conflict of your characters.
3. Use secondary characters to add richness and depth to your central romance but don’t let them take over!
So, new story to be written for Presents.

Since I loved the premise of the story I sent for the contest I'll still write it, with some adjustments, for Desire.

As I was moaning about the fact that now I had to come up with another clever premise for Presents, my critique partner Jen Lewis, who writes for Desire, reminded me that as a published author I would be expected to come up with at least three every year. She has a really good point, doesn't she?

And of course, I always repeat this great advice given to me awhile ago  from Allison Brennan
You have not failed. Failed means you stopped writing because you didn't think you were good enough. You will never be a failure until you quit
Smart Woman Allison is.

So, after a little disappointment early this morning, I'm feeling optimistic.

And, my eye appointment this morning was with the specialist who does my laser surgery to prevent detached retinas and everything is going very well. No more surgery this year. I get a whole year of freedom before I have to see her again. Great news.


Anonymous said...

Hi Anne! I'm so glad you posted. I got the same type of response. Those writing tips were in everyone's personal feedback letter (from what I can tell), so I think you can take those with a grain of salt. It's the feedback that's directed at the rest of the story that's gold.

While I wish I could have revised the story I wrote for the comp, I don't feel as bad about it since I've only heard of two people who were asked to send in a partial of their comp. story. The rest of us were asked to try something new.

So, a new story - I don't mind writing it, I just hope I don't make new mistakes in the next one that I managed to avoid in this one.

One thing I do know is that I really have to get better at synopsis writing. They couldn't tell from my synopsis that I had worked out some (not all) of their concerns later on in the story.

I'm glad you're eyes are okay - that's scary stuff.


Cat Schield said...

Bummer! I was hoping for a full request for you. I think what's so frustrating for me is how narrow the requirements seem to be for Presents.

Between this and the last contest, I gave them 3 different stories without catching their interest. That tells me that I could spend the rest of my days trying to write for Presents and never hit the mark.

It might be that you're more suited to write for Desire.

Glad to hear about your eye issues being okay.

Happy writing!

Kelly Boyce said...

I think that's awesome they want to see three chapters of your next submission. It shows they're interested rather than an outright rejection. And feel free to use me if you need a brainstorming session. Congrats!

Anne MacFarlane said...

Mary, I wonder about that, too. Will the next story be closer or further away?

And I got the feeling the editors liked my synopsis but the chapter had problems. Of course, I've analysed every word of the email-twice.LOL

Anne MacFarlane said...

Cat, I sure was hoping for a full request, too. And the issue they mentioned was actually fairly easy to fix. But they said "next" MS twice in the email. So, new story needed.

I don't know where my voice fits. I can usually take my plot ideas and mold them either way. Serious and emotional for Presents. A little more modern and lighter for Desire. Same themes and twists but a different tone. I think. LOL. Who knows?

Anne MacFarlane said...

Thanks Kelly, I still have that ouline of the three book mystery series you helped me brainstorm ages ago so I know how good you are at it.

Anonymous said...

Mine was the opposite. They liked my chapter but didn't like my synopsis! Uh.

I've heard that you should write your synopsis first, so this time I'm going to try that technique. Last time I wrote from a rough outline that was more of a listing of scenes than anything else. When it came time to write the synopsis I found it difficult to sum up what was already there (probably because the conflict wasn't as clear as it should be).

I'm going to brainstorm over the Christmas holidays (I'll ask Santa for peace and quiet) and then I'll dive in after school starts in the New Year.

Anne MacFarlane said...


If you need help - or a second pair of eyes- with that synopsis or brainstorming give a shout, I'd be happy to help.

Rachael Johns said...

Commiserations and congratulations! i know you must be feeling torn. My last sub I got a detailed letter about why it didn't work and like you, those things seemed pretty easy to fix. It was a bit frustrating.

This time I've been given revisions but they may as well have asked for a totally new mss and I tell ya... it's doing my head in!

Good luck with the planning of the new mss!

Anne MacFarlane said...

Thanks Rachael, figuring out what they want is tough. And sometimes revising a MS takes just as long as writing a whole new one. Good luck with the requested revisions. Hope it results in the editors requesting a full.

I'll be spending the next couple of weeks figuring out what to write for them next.

I know we're told to finish the MS before sending off a proposal but with all the changes Presents asks for, it almost seems more worthwhile to wait and get feedback before finishing the rest.

Maisey said...

Anne, thanks for the kind words on ihearts! Sorry to hear about the R, but glad to see you got feedback!

Do you mind if I ask what your hero's nationality was?

Anne MacFarlane said...

Maisey, Thanks for stopping by.

Regarding my hero, it wasn't actually the nationality but how I wrote him that was the problem. Here's what they said

"The nationality of the hero, for instance, appears more of a device to conform with the international nature of Presents, than absolute necessity to the story. Ask yourself what the hero might be like if he were not Spanish, and how would this drive the developing relationship differently"

And they were absolutely right. In the chapter, he could have been any nationality at all - Greek, Italian, American. I think the hero was the weakest part of Ch1. Although I had explained his internal motivations in the synopsis, as I reread my entry, I hadn't delved into any of that.

Maisey said...

Those heroes can be so hard to nail down! In some ways they need to be an archetype, and yet they must also be a unique, complete person.

It can definitely be hard to strike the right balance! What great feedback though! The editor really took some time with you and that's encouraging.