On the 13th of September, Mills and Boon will launch their New Voices contest for a second year. Very exciting stuff if you're looking to be published in category length fiction. I have some thoughts I wanted to share with new writer's looking to enter for their first time. Keep in mind that this is only my opinion and that I'm neither published nor did I final (although my entry has since gone onto win one USA contest and final in another two).
First of all, make sure you get someone to read your entry before you send it. Don't email you favourite author and ask them but equally, don't email it to your mum and ask her advice either. You absolutely have to get another writer or author to check it over for grammar, pacing and plot. But before this step, you actually have to write it. The rules say that your entire entry, if you make it through all the stages, should be no more than ten thousand words (make sure you read the rules at least three times and maybe once backwards too). As a general rule of thumb, each chapter should only be about three to four thousand words in Category length, longer for Single Title.
So, chapter one needs to start somewhere exciting. Don't start with your heroine waxing poetic about her surroundings unless she wakes up and has no idea where she is or how she got there. Start in the moment with your heroine being chased down a dark street or meeting your hero and hating him off the bat. Number one is to write the story that needs to be written. Don't pick up ten Mills and Boon and try to write a cross between all ten that you think will sell because the others did. Hopefully you already have a story written or started. This is a contest that calls for chapter one and two and then the pivotal moment. If you have no idea how your story will end or what your characters will get up to, it's going to be super hard and maybe almost impossible to get that final chapter.
Before you freak out and get all stressed that you're not ready, last year, the finalists got to work with a mentor for chapter two and the pivotal moment. With a few months left to go, get to work on an idea that will blow everyone away. Make sure you write it with voice! Lots and lots of voice! If you have no idea what that means, Google it or check out the following websites.
And Romance Writer's of Australia and Romance Writer's of America are fantastic resources too. Mills and Boon New Voices are on Twitter and Facebook where you can ask questions and meet up with fellow entrants. Make sure you check back regularly to the New Voices website and check out the tips and updates.
The last thing you need to remember is that not everyone is going to love your entry. Last year there were some toxic people who posted comments meant to dishearten and discourage your dreams. Ignore those ones and don't retaliate. They aren't the ones you have to impress with your entry. Also, there can be only one winner. Thousands of entries, one winner. That winner could be you! You can't win it if you're not in it =)
I'm off to a conference next week but in the mean time, I'm going to offer to help one lucky commenter with their entry. Remember that I'm not published and my opinion my not count for anything but it can't hurt right? So leave a comment before the 24th of August with your name and maybe something like 'Pick me!!' and I'll draw a name out of a hat (or rather one of the kids will to keep it fair). The winner can email me their first chapter and I'll give you some feedback and maybe some help if you need it.