Posts Tagged Mills & Boon

Benefits of Writing Competitions

At the end of January Morton S. Gray celebrated the publication, by Choc Lit, of her first novel, The Girl on the Beach. The Girl on the Beach by Morton S GrayMorton’s success was the result of dogged perseverance and the culmination of a series of competition successes. Not surprisingly, she is now a great advocate of writing competitions and she’s here today to tell us how they helped her on the road to success:

Innocently entering a writing competition caused me to take my writing seriously! In 2006, a friend started a fledgling publishing business (sadly no longer trading) and she held a short story writing competition to raise the profile of the company. I entered, primarily to support her, and unbelievably won with my story “Human Nature versus the Spirit Guide”.
It was a wake-up call for me. I’d had a baby and not been well for a couple of years, so I was looking for a new direction. The competition win made me look at writing as a serious option for the future and it was relatively easy to combine with a small child still taking naps in the afternoon. I started to take courses to learn to polish my work. I entered several competitions and began to get shortlisted.

In 2008, I entered a Mills and Boon novel competition, the forerunner of their SYTYCW competitions. I quickly decided I wasn’t a Mills and Boon writer, as it is a particular way of writing and much harder than people might think to keep the focus on the main protagonists throughout a novel. However, the competition introduced me to several people with whom I’m still in contact.

Competitions give you a framework within which to work. They give you the discipline of a deadline and a word count. Not as many people enter these competitions as you may imagine, especially the smaller local ones. I’ve been involved in running a local competition and I was surprised not only by the relatively few number of entries, but by the fact that sixty percent of the entries were essentially the same story. Tip – think around the set theme for a while and don’t go for the obvious. Your entry will stand out if it is different.

Morton S. Gray

Morton S. Gray

I continued to get shortlisted for flash fiction, poetry, short story and novel competitions. In 2013, I came second in the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference competition for the first chapter of a novel and that resulted in an appearance on the Tammy Gooding show at BBC Hereford and Worcester Radio. All good experience. Later that year, I shortlisted in the New Talent Award at the then Festival of Romance, with another first chapter. I met a different group of writers, many of whom I’m still in contact with in real life and online.

These encouraging signs for my writing kept me going. It is easy to get despondent when writing, as it can be a very solitary occupation. Don’t spend your life thinking no one will want to read your work, imagining that it’s rubbish, not up to scratch, not worthy of anything but the bin. Been there, done that! Keep going, keep writing and get your work out to competitions, send it to magazines, publishers, agents. Writing is a constant learning process and is generally about persistence. You need an imaginative spark, yes, but you also need to be willing to check your work over time and again to make it the best it can be. What is the point of a manuscript in a drawer?

I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme and made sure I submitted a novel for critique every year. I also made a promise to myself to take part in the annual novel writing challenge NaNoWriMo and I’ve managed seven years running to write 50,000 words in November. One of these novels, when edited and passed through the RNA NWS critique service, I sent off to the Search for a Star competition run by a publisher I’d admired for many years, Choc Lit and I won! My debut novel, The Girl on the Beach was published on 24 January 2017.

I suppose the messages here are keep writing, learn your craft, polish your work and get it out into the world. My novel could so easily still be in that drawer under the bed. Competitions are a way of assessing how you are progressing, hopefully you’ll meet friends along the way and who knows, you might win a publishing contract like me.

I love Morton’s encouraging message and I love the blurb for The Girl on the Beach – the novel is now sitting on my Kindle hankering to be read. I think it might tempt some of you too:

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.
For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …
But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.

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A Disappointment, An Award and Kobo Writing Life

A few weeks ago I told you I was on a shortlist of eight for the Kobo-Silverwood Books-Berfort Open Day Writing Competition. I heard this week that I didn’t reach the final three. Congratulations to those who did: Phoebe Powell-Moore, Edward James and Sarah Channing Wright. Curiosity will definitely make me buy the winning novel when it’s published later this year.

It’s not all bad news though. As some of you may have seen on Facebook, I was awarded the Hwyl Stone (pictured) for Most Improved Speaker by Sutton Coldfield Speakers’ ClubSutton Coldfield Speakers' Club.  This was a nice confidence boost. The stone is supposed to have similar properties to the Blarney stone and was collected in Wales and made into a trophy by a former member.

Finally, to show I’ve no hard feelings against Kobo, here’s some interesting stuff from Kobo Writing Life:

  • A useful blog post looking at Goal, Motivation and Conflict – the three essential things for every character. Without these it’s difficult to move the story forward.
  • There’s also a good post on why you should enter competitions. Take a look at it if you’ve been dragging your feet lately and not submitting anything.
  • Kobo are now running a Romantic Novel competition. It’s free to enter and the winner gets a publishing contract with Mills and Boon. Closing date July 14th 2015.

Kobo do seem to do more to help and motivate writers than Amazon KDP. Or have I just missed the Amazon stuff?

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The Kindle Debate

A Picture of a eBook

Image via Wikipedia

Are you a fan of the Kindle and similar e-book readers or do you like to turn real pages and enjoy the smell of a new book?

According to a Telegraph article, Mills and Boon readers are leading the way as buyers of e-books, possibly to avoid the ’embarrassment factor’ of being seen reading them in public (personally I think there’s nothing wrong with reading M&B but I suppose if you’re a big butch male then you might not want to own up to your secret pleasure!). One of the best-selling romantic downloads on Amazon is the M&B The Temp and the Tycoon by Liz Fielding.

Sales of e-book readers amongst romance fans have been so great that Sony has designed a pink version of its reader complete with M&B logo (not one to buy if you prefer to hide your reading preferences!).

Philip Stone, charts editor at the Bookseller, said “Mills and Boon are probably the publisher feeling the biggest benefit from e-books. They were first out of the traps to take advantage of them.”

Whatever our current feelings about e-readers versus ‘real’ books I think we will see increasing numbers of people using them on buses trains etc. I started off very anti e-readers but am now beginning to find the thought of having all my books in one little device instead of piled around the house rather attractive.

This does mean that, as authors, we can no longer look forward to that thrill of spotting someone reading a book in public that we have written.  But on the upside, e-books make self-publishing a lot easier. Have a look at Carol Bevitt’s blog for some useful information from freelance writer Deborah Durbin about Kindle Direct publishing.

So, on balance I think we should welcome this new technology. For many of us there will be a long cross-over period when we read both physical books (I, for one, a have a huge backlog to get through) and at the same time get to grips with the new technologies of e-readers (great for holidays and travelling). 

Let me know what you think.

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Can men write romance?

Can a man get inside the mind of a woman as she falls in love? Can he describe the emotional roller coaster we womenRed heart travel when we think we’ve found ‘the one’? If, as many believe, men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then how can a male know what goes on in the female mind?

I started thinking about this after reading the latest issue of Romance Matters (the magazine of the Romantic Novelists’ Association) . It features an interview with Roger ‘Gill’ Sanderson. Roger writes medical romances for Mills and Boon and has published 47 books since 1996. He says, ‘Love is a universal emotion. If you’ve been in love you must have sympathy with women.’ However, he does admit to asking for help occasionally,  especially in the area of women’s clothing!

Roger isn’t the only man writing romance.  Bill Spence is also a member of the RNA and writes historical sagas as Jessica Blair. He served in the RAF during World War II and started his writing career with Westerns before moving on to sagas in the early 1990s.

Michael Taylor is another British author who has found success in writing about love. He came to talk to my writing group a couple of years ago and was as far from the pink, fluffy Barbara Cartland image of a romance writer as you can get. His books are set in the past and he spends a lot of time researching his novels.

Michael says, “Men are at least as capable as women of feeling emotion, and are no less as vulnerable in love and out of it.” 

He says that he found the romance, ‘Lorna Doone’  (also written by a man), moving and sensitive and one of the inspirations that started him writing.

In fact in 1906 ‘Lorna Doone’ was chosen by male students at Yale as their favourite novel – perhaps showing that men and women are not as different as we might think.

I haven’t yet read any of Roger’s or Bill’s books but I have read ‘Clover’ by Michael Taylor. I enjoyed the well-drawn characters and authentic period setting but I think it might have turned out to be quite a different book if Michael had been a woman. One of the main protagonists is Ned Brisco, who is trying to build and fly an early aircraft. If the author had been female, I think more emphasis would’ve been given to the heroine trying to make her mark on the world and less on the technicalities of this invention.

But it’s not possible to say which would have been the better book. Men and women can both write well about love because it is a universal emotion. However, the two sexes will give a different emphasis to other parts of the supporting story depending on their own interests and outlook on life.

Variety is the spice of life so – Vive la difference!

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