Write Your Romance in 150 Days: You asked, we answered!

You had a ton of questions about the Write Your Romance in 150 Days Challenge. We’ve attempted to answer them all here, broken down into topics:

The Challenge

The deadline is fast approaching and I’m worried my story won’t be finished. Would you recommend holding off sending it if the last three chapters are a little hurried and not as polished as the rest, or should I go ahead and submit to the challenge?

SYTYCW: The 150 Day Challenge is an open submission call, not a contest. We’ve challenged you to finish your WIP in 150 days! But there’s no deadline  and you can submit to the series of your choice through our regular channels. All of our regular submission requirements and response times apply. Remember, you’re submitting to the premier global publisher of romantic fiction for women, so you have the greatest chance of success with a polished manuscript. Submit when you’re ready!

Do you need to officially sign up for this contest, follow a certain submission protocol, etc., or do you submit according to the requirements of the specific line you are targeting?

SYTYCW: You don’t need to sign up to participate, and there’s no specific submission protocol. Submit when you’re ready to the series of your choice.

I am diligently working on my manuscript but am unsure if it will be done by your deadline. Can I still submit it after the end date? I’m alright with it not being part of the 150 Day Challenge but now I have embarked upon this journey and hope it can be accepted at any time.

SYTYCW:  We’re so happy you’ve decided to take on this challenge! You can submit to us at any time, following our writing and submission guidelines.

I guess I missed that the 150-Day Challenge was a contest. I thought we were just being challenged to write a book in 150 days. Is this going to be like SYTYCW contests in the past or how is this going to be at the 150 day deadline?

SYTYCW: The 150 Day Challenge isn’t a contest. If you feel at the end of 150 days your manuscript is polished and ready to submit to us, please do! But we’re open to submissions for any of our romance categories all year round. You will receive a response from the editors within our normal response times, and personalized feedback is not guaranteed.

I have a full manuscript with Desire right now, does that mean I can’t submit for the challenge?

SYTYCW: We usually ask that you submit only one manuscript at a time to Harlequin, so you might want to wait until you have received a response from the Desire team before submitting a new project.

Harlequin Series

My 150 WIP has a 40-something h/h. It’s a second chance at love, for them. The pair get dumped into a murder investigation. I’m keeping the mystery part of the story cozy. The story doesn’t fit Intrigue, (my fav). Would editors still be interested in the premise?

SYTYCW: A Harlequin Romantic Suspense can have lighter suspense and we do accept characters who are in their 40s. This line’s focus is on the romance and the characters, with a dash of suspense. The level of suspense can vary and doesn’t have to be graphic. Or, if you love Intrigue, is there a way you can revise your story so it meets the requirements?

Is it true that Harlequin is no longer accepting Inspirational Historical romances and is doing away with the line?

SYTYCW: It’s true that we are discontinuing Love Inspired Historicals after June 2018.

I have a manuscript which would have gone to Superromance, but now that line is going away. Would Special Edition accept a story which is partially set in Australia?

SYTYCW: Most definitely, Special Edition would accept an Australian setting.

The story I’m writing is targeted at Harlequin Intrigue. I noticed in a lot of the Intrigues that the hero and heroine more or less live together during the course of their investigation and are running from the bad guys. In my story they aren’t under the same roof nor are they running from the bad guys but they spend most of the time on page together. Would this still be acceptable for Intrigue?

SYTYCW: That is completely acceptable. You are welcome to give the hero and heroine different domiciles.

This question is for Love Inspired Suspense: I have two polished manuscripts, ready to be sent in.  Should I submit before the deadline or wait?

SYTYCW: How great that you have two books ready to go! Given that we aren’t running a specific contest with rules, you can submit your stories whenever you like. In fact, you are way ahead of the game in terms of writing a book in 150 days. 🙂 Please note that as per our regular requirements, we ask that you submit one manuscript at a time.

What is Love Inspired Suspense policy/rules regarding the “Dear Reader” note at the end? What is and isn’t allowed to be put in that section?

SYTYCW: Unless your book is already bought, you don’t need to include a Dear Reader letter with your submission.

I am targeting Harlequin Romantic Suspense. I want to use a Western theme. I notice most of the RS books I read with that theme are set in Montana, Wyoming or Texas. We have ranches in California too and was interested in that for a setting. Would California be a viable setting for a ranching series? If not, would Nevada?

SYTYCW: In Harlequin Romantic Suspense, we love Westerns set anywhere that could have a ranch! So, yes, California is a lovely setting.

I’m aiming for the Heartwarming line. In the Heartwarming stories I’ve read, there seems to be a lot of immediate antagonism between the H&H, mostly told from the heroine’s POV. I don’t have that in my manuscript. I tell the story from the POV of both the hero and heroine. The first two turning points are driven by the hero, and predominantly deal with his external and internal conflicts. It’s his actions at the third turning point that force the heroine to face her internal conflicts Although there are clues and twists in the story that hint at how she will react, it’s not until the third turning point that her internal conflict comes to the fore. My question is – if the conflicts are cumulative, and the stakes for both H&H escalate through all four main turning points, is it okay that the story is a slow burn rather than antagonistic from the beginning? Should I be aiming for a different series than Heartwarming? Should I re-structure my novel?

SYTYCW: It’s great that you’re reading books from the line you want to write for! There are no set plot requirements for Heartwarming – whatever works for your characters and the romantic conflict. One thing to consider is your choice to not reveal the heroine’s conflict until later in the story. Our readers prefer active conflict, where the hero and heroine must grapple with the emotional conflict together as they work towards their Happily Ever After, rather than a secret being a barrier between them.

I’d love an update on the features the editors would like to see for the Cherish line. In 2015 the editors said that they wanted a variety of jet set locations, gorgeous glam settings, no small towns settings, no cowboys and they weren’t keen on children and family as secondary characters. But the recent releases have cowboys,small town family situations, children as secondary characters and secluded snowbound settings.

SYTYCW: From your question, I’m guessing you’re a UK reader! On Submittable, Mills & Boon Cherish and Harlequin Romance are listed as equivalent, but it’s a little more complicated. Cherish is actually comprised of two North American lines: Harlequin Romance and Harlequin Special Edition, which are paired into 2 in 1s on the shelf, and alternate for the first eight slots in the e-book line up. So, if you’d like to write jet set settings and glamorous settings, please submit to Harlequin Romance; if you’d like to write the more cowboy, small-town themed stories also reflected in the Cherish line, please see the Harlequin Special Edition series guidelines on Submittable.

I love Harlequin Presents. If I submit to the Presents editors and they feel it would be better suited for a different line, will it be passed along? Also do I only pick one editor for my target line or all of those editors in the Presents line?

SYTYCW: Possibly, yes – however, your best chance is always to target strategically, as there are enough subtle differences between Presents and the next-most similar line that if you’re targeting one, you’re likely to miss the other. What’s more likely to happen is that in any feedback, it’ll be suggested that you look at the series guidelines for the line we think your voice might fit, and write a new submission, with the eye on that series. And, unless you have a previous working relationship with a specific editor, the best thing to do is just address your submission Dear Editors.

Submitting to Harlequin

I understand that Harlequin Kimani is no longer accepting new manuscripts. Are the other lines open to African American main characters and which lines would be best?

SYTYCW: All our lines are very open and eager to have African American main characters. The best approach would be to check out what each line is looking for—suspense, home & family, inspirational, sweet vs. racy—and submit to that line.

Do any of the lines accept romances told in 1st person POV, either single or dual? I know Desire had a call for those at one time but my stories tend to have some supsense/action elements that Desire isn’t looking for.

SYTYCW: We generally want 3rd person because it’s very rare that we’d find a romance in 1st person that works for our readers. But if you feel confident that 1st person is the right way to tell your story, then you should do it and submit. Just be prepared in case it’s not what we’re looking for. Our newest series, Harlequin Dare, will have some stories with alternating first person POV.

Sweet romances don’t have sex – except married couples can go behind closed doors. Can there be a scene behind those doors, after the fact, without any sexy stuff but with conversation dealing with the fallout of the door having been closed?

SYTYCW: The closed door “rule” is to eliminate the sensuality that many readers aren’t looking for in a romance. It’s all in the execution, so if the scene is handled well, this shouldn’t be a problem.

In her SYTYCW post on submitting to Harlequin, Stephanie Doig  mentions the possibility of submitting to a specific editor. Will that be the case for the 150 day challenge or will the manuscript go into a pool for a particular series?

SYTYCW: The 150 Day challenge submissions will not be separate from regular submissions. You can submit through our regular channels, and target a specific editor if you wish. You might consider targeting an editor if you have a prior relationship (have met at a conference, for example) or know something about her particular submission interests.

Stephanie also mentions the importance of having an online presence for marketing “to promote their books across your platforms as well as ours. Should a website be dedicated to writing, or can it reflect other interests? Is there an example or two you could give me that would illustrate what you’re looking for? I did start a twitter account (yay me).

SYTYCW: Most of our authors have a website where they showcase their work and present their professional profile. It can be as detailed or simple as you like. Feel free to search for your favourite authors online for inspiration! Twitter is a very popular platform to engage with readers and the romance writing community.

Thanks for all of your questions! We’ll continue to post advice and challenges here on the So You Think You Can Write blog as you continue your romance WIP. Good luck!