Fine Tuning Your Submissions Recap

This Twitter chat was done in August by Stacy Boyd, Susan Litman and Allison Lyons to lead in to So You Think You Can Write. The full recap can be found on the Harlequin Community Forums, but we chose a few appropriate snippets to encourage those polishing their manuscripts and chapters for the SYTYCW contest!

Stacy Boyd (@StacyBoyd) is Senior Editor for Harlequin Desire. Susan Litman (@Susan_Litman) is editor for Harlequin Special Edition and Allison Lyons (@Allison_Lyons) is editor with Harlequin Intrigue.

Q: What is the number one thing that writers can do to fine to their manuscript before sending it to you?
Allison: Great question! I would definitely say you should know which editor to send it to.

Q: What are the most important things the editors will be looking for in submissions?
Allison: I’d say hooking the editor right away is very important.

Q: How about amnesia stories for Special Edition?
Susan Litman: We’d LOVE a good amnesia story at HSE! The magic is in the storytelling/voice, so give it a try!

Stacy Boyd: Voice is very important. Editors will ignore many, many faults if the voice carries us away.

Q: Voice gets confusing for me sometimes. Any tips?
Stacy: Voice is not a style. It’s letting yourself shine through. It’s as if the reader can hear you telling the story.

Q: My newest manuscript has a prologue (hero’s POV) – is it acceptable or should I work it into Chapter 1?
Susan: No way to tell w/out reading. A prologue should heighten tension/conflict/fuel the story, or else pull it.
Stacy: And you might have to fold it in to chapter one anyway due to the word limit.
Susan: A prologue has to have purpose for the overall story, or else it doesn’t add anything.

Q: How much of the internal conflict needs to be made clear in Chapter 1?
Allison: Don’t give all the details in ch 1 but there should be enough to hook the reader and make her want to turn to ch 2.
Susan: You always have to establish the seeds of conflict.Engage our emotions with these characters!
Stacy: Enough to make the reader understand just how high the stakes are for the characters.

Q: I see a lot of the Nocturne are Vampire, Wolves, or witches…Would I be wrong to do a different immortal before?
Stacy: A different immortal could make you stand out.
Susan: Not at all! Nocturne has explored all kinds of immortals!

Q: How is the conflict different in Intrigues than in the lines without a villain?
A: Villains are good source of external conflict, but those actions should be directly related to internal conflict of h/h.

Q: The first chapter really needs to resonate for the competition. Any tips?
Allison: For suspense, start with a bang. Literally. A gunshot.
Stacy: Make that first line and first paragraph count. And leave the reader wanting to turn the page at the end!
Susan: Work on strong, memorable intro of character & setup of conflict.

Great advice that works all year round! Good luck with your submissions–and read and comment on others at Read 1st Chapters!  And check out these editors on Twitter for more insights!