Welcome Aimée and thanks for sharing your story. In fact thanks everyone for sharing your stories. What a fantastic group - I'd like to follow this up in another twelve months and see where we all are. In the meantime...it's over to Aimée.
New Voices 2011 was the best thing I ever did.
Until then, I’d been writing on and off for years. The writing bug always gnawed away at me, but I had no idea how to make fantasy a reality. I put my dreams to the side in search of a career. It wasn’t until after NV ’10 finished that I discovered the competition, but it sparked a ray of hope.
What if Mills & Boon held the competition again?
I’d always read romance, and loved the complexity and emotional intensity of the genre. Could I pull it off? I figured I had about six months to find out. I joined Harlequin’s online community, made writing buddies and I penned my first 50k story. It was crap of course, and my dear CP told me that. She also pointed out where I went wrong. Around the same time, Harlequin started a Book In Three Months challenge and I popped in every day, soaked up all the advice I could and interacted with other writers.
I frantically began writing another story, one I aimed at my favourite line (RIVA) and hoped I’d hit the mark. After polishing the first chapter as best I could, I entered it into NV ’11. It didn’t place, but the advice I got was priceless. I decided to submit my revised chapters to M&B in October, but knew the wait would be painful.
To distract myself, I did NanoWriMo in November. Instead of writing a story aimed for a particular line, I wrote something I wanted to. I managed to get my 50k down by the end of December and had my first draft of The Monster of Fame. I LOVED this story. It was different from what I was used to reading, but it was something I did for me. There was no pressure to fit, only a desire to write. I wasn’t going to do anything with it, but to keep me occupied while I waited to hear back from M&B, I edited and revised. I then sent it to my CP for her opinion. I knew it wasn’t right for Harlequin, but I couldn’t bear to scrap it either.
She convinced me to enter it into SYTYCW—which I did. By the time I’d had another whack at revising it, people had heard back from the competition and I wasn’t one of them. I didn’t want to give up though. I researched different publishers and sent it to a few who I thought may give it the time of day. You can imagine how shocked I was a few weeks later when I had an R & R on the full and two offers of a contract in my inbox!
I chose Beachwalk Press and I couldn’t be happier. Pamela Tyner is fabulous and even though they are barely a year old, I feel secure, safe and part of the family. The Monster of Fame will be released October 15th and I can’t wait!
Around the same time as the offers came in, I heard back from Mills & Boon on my NV entry (I’d almost forgotten about it by this point!). They thought I had a very commercial voice, yet my story didn’t quite fit. The editor requested I send a revised partial to her, and that required a complete re-write.
Off I went and re-wrote the whole thing, only to receive an ‘it’s not quite there yet’ email a month later. We emailed back and forth, deciding to go with a new idea I had and was itching to write. She asked me to send her a one page synopsis, mapping out the conflicts, motivation and character development—not an easy thing to do, believe me. The first one wasn’t right for RIVA. She loved the second though and asked for a partial. I still wasn’t quite there, but she called me and went through the points I had to change. I’ve just sent in another revised partial with the suggested changes and now I’m biting my nails waiting for a response.
During all the waiting I revised my NV entry again and it will be released with Beachwalk Press early in the New year. My October release, The Monster of Fame, is part of a series so hopefully I’ll be writing for them for a while yet, but I’m still not giving up on my M&B dream. If it weren’t for New Voices, I’d have never taken up writing again and for that I’m glad.
The best advice I can give to anyone trying to be published? Never, ever give up. If you want something bad enough, grab it with both hands and keep trying. You will get better and eventually succeed. When you do, it will make all the R’s, all the heartache, worth it.
My site: www.aimeeduffy.co.uk The Monster of Fame Blurb:
Can the voice of an angel heal a tortured soul?
Annabelle MacIntosh enters a reality singing contest to save her family from their mounting debt. Miles Oliver, celebrity judge and the owner of the biggest record company in the UK, doesn’t think she has what it takes. She sings like an angel, but when she performs all he can focus on is the terror in her eyes. It’s a look he knows only too well. After the pressure of fame destroyed his wife, Miles swore he’d never let the same thing happen to anyone else. Driven by the guilt he’s carried for years, Miles tries everything in his power to make sure Annabelle doesn’t succeed, because he doesn’t believe she’ll survive it.
Annabelle needs that prize money, and she’s determined to win it. As she fights to make it through each round of the contest, an attraction begins to develop between the two adversaries. The longer Annabelle remains in the competition, the deeper her attraction grows to the man who’s trying to prevent her from reaching her goal. Can she convince Miles she’s strong enough to fight the fame monster and win?
Genre(s): Steamy Contemporary Romance
Coming October 15th from Beachwalk Press
Ann is recovering somewhere from a trip to LV and the RWAus conference but I suspect she's also VERY excited. 24th August is the release date for her book Taming the Outback. Here's her story of her trip to publication.
When the voices in my head got so loud they needed to be heard I sat down and wrote a Young Adult story. I thought that was where my voice was so I gave it all I had. My first manuscript was quickly hashed out and revised at least eight times. I proudly sent it off to six different publishers and sat back waiting for the postie to pass my gate every day with good news.
The rejections flowed in. I was upbeat at first but after the last one I was devastated. Everyone liked my story and I had already completed book two and was onto book three. I couldn’t understand where I had gone wrong. I used the services of an editor as well as a critique group so it was a major blow to my confidence.
A friend wanted to submit to Mills and Boons New Voices competition but kept procrastinating. To encourage her I offered to write alongside her, chapter for chapter. Each Sunday we would go over each other's work and before long we had our stories done.
Neither of us made it to the top twenty one but the contest taught me a lot. I had a good voice, my hero was a little bit too alpha but he was redeemable. I had some lovely comments about 'The Farmer Wants a Wife.' I was glad I had made the effort.
Maybe this is the genre I should be writing I thought.
I went back to the computer and after thinking about it I started another story. I wasn’t ready to turn Magnus into the nice guy. I still loved him as an overbearing rich hunk who was used to getting exactly what he wanted on his terms.
So I wrote about Libby, the single struggling mum who finds herself the new owner of not one but two outback stations. Taming the Outback was submitted to Mills and Boon and rejected. I found it hard to understand what I was doing wrong.
One night I ranted on Facebook. Not entirely professional but I was frustrated. "Yes you have a great voice but this story is not developed enough." How many times was I going to hear this?
What did that mean? I asked my dear Facebook family and got many answers. I was still none the wiser though until I got a message from a freelance editor Annie Seaton. She asked me a few questions and offered to look at my work.
The next day she told me what I was doing wrong. Nothing major, but obviously enough to mark me as a new writer. Another rewrite of Taming and it was ready to submit.
This time I decided to try different publishers that seemed to be doing well, had great writers and I submitted to eight in total. That’s when the email stalking started. If anyone tells you it’s a fallacy --don’t believe them. I checked mine every few minutes, sad but true. Within twenty-four hours I had three contracts sitting on my desk. I was over the moon and I'm sure everyone could hear me screaming. Thank God for Annie.
Before I accepted the Breathless Press offer, I emailed a few of their writers to make sure I was signing with the right publishing house. They were only too pleased to help out. The publisher is always available and my editor is awesome. She is making me a better writer and I appreciate the help every day.
My next manuscript with a slightly less alpha Magnus was picked up within four hours by the same publisher. I was ecstatic. I wanted one published story before this year's RWA conference and I already had two. Life was good.
What happened to my young adult you might ask. Well, I had trouble letting it go so I sent it to Annie. She in turn sent it to a freelance editor in USA who deals with primarily this genre. Apparently, and they both agree, this is where my voice is. I was shocked because of the rejections earlier but after working with an editor who knows her stuff I understand where I went wrong and how to fix it.
Witchling is due out in time for Christmas in print and ebook and Changling, book two in the series has just contracted. Book three and four are almost complete. Lycaon Press are a new but innovative publishing house with an experienced team and I'm enjoying working with them as one of their early authors.
Do you ever ask yourself 'Is it worth it to enter a competition? There are people so much better at writing than me.'
If I hadn’t entered the New Voices Competition in 2011, I never would have had the success I have had so far. Eventually, maybe but I think I would have struggled. I believe things are meant to be and happen for a reason. It is my feeling that all of the rejections and consequent contacts I have made would not have happened as they did.
Give it a go next time round. What have you got to lose?
You can find Ann on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/annb.harrison.7 or at her website http://www.annbharrison.com/
Big welcome to Toni Kenyon today and her road to publication. Hope you've been enjoying these snippets. I have! And I love the title Private love in a Public Place.
I can't believe it's been a year since New Voices! I entered the competition in 2011 because I think not only is it a great chance to get work in front of an editor, but also I think it's a great chance to get some valuable feedback from other writers. Writing can be something we do in a vacuum and I don't know about other writers, but I certainly enjoy getting feedback on my work. Personally, I have no real perspective around what I write. Dependent upon how I'm feeling on any particular day (or sometimes any given hour) my work vacillates from the heady heights of brilliance to the lowly depths of total crap! I need readers to give me the perspective I don't have myself.
You can read a short extract of 'SECOND CHANCE MOM on my website http://www.tonikenyon.com - or the full chapter can still be found on the New Voices website.
Unfortunately, Mills & Boon didn't 'discover' me through New Voices, but I did discover a whole new bunch of writing buddies. *waves* at the New Voices FB gals. There's nothing like holding hands with a group of writers who are all waiting for the outcome of a romance competition. One of the things I really love about romance writers is the camaraderie and the encouragement we all give each other. I'm a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand and RWA and I spend a lot of time hanging out on the community boards at Harlequin. I've met friends on-line, who I've never met face-to-face, who understand the inner workings of a writer's brain and have been with me every step of the way on the road to publication. I don't know anywhere else I can find this kind of loyal support.
I remain a fan of on-line competitions, because they have been good to me. Harlequin SuperRomance ran a Memorial Day Challenge in 2011 and I came runner up in that competition. As a result the revised/requested full of RETURN TO ALA MOANA BEACH is with an editor in Toronto. You can read the winning extract on my website.
The writing, submitting and waiting process can be harsh (that's where your on-line buddies come in) and I don't like to dwell on the ever-increasing pile of rejections I've accumulated over the years. I believe that does not equate to the standard of my writing, but is more related to the turmoil the 'market' finds itself in in recent times.
So, in the meantime, I haven't rested on my laurels. PRIVATE LOVE IN A PUBLIC PLACE is a book dear to my heart. I come from a musical family and sing in a band. http://www.slyriders.com
Mags and Julian's story crosses some boundaries in genre fiction, so after much soul searching, I have decided to press on and publish their story myself. I know I wouldn't have had the courage and the confidence to take this step if it had not been for the support and encouragement I have received from the wider romance writing community. Another great reason to get involved.
I would encourage anyone who is thinking about entering an on-line competition like New Voices to take the plunge and press the 'send' button. You just never know where you may end up.
Good luck everyone - and may the Goddess of Publication Shine on You
"PRIVATE LOVE IN A PUBLIC PLACE:
Mags O'Brien lives on the alcohol-soaked, drug-enhanced concert circuit, managing out-of-control rocker Julian MacAvoy. She helps him spread his musical gospel to his adoring followers, despite the fast-spinning turnstile on his bedroom door, and the broken hearts he leaves in his wake.
Mags believes she’s immune to Julian’s magnetic personality but when controversy hits the tour, she finds herself in danger of falling at his feet, slave to his appetites and her own desire and need.
Julian refuses to be tamed, but the pressure of the ravenous crowds clamps tighter and tighter around him. His chaotic world starts to crumble when he realizes his motivation to continue touring comes from an unobtainable woman. Can he force her to make the agonizing choice between himself and her estranged husband?
An erotic and candid look at life on the road."
Toni Kenyon lives in Auckland with her husband-to-be (and their two dogs) her son (and his cat) – the goldfish is just squatting! She’s a Registered Legal Executive by day and sings in a band by night. In her spare (yeah, right) time she continues to pursue the dream of one day getting ‘the call’. In the meantime she's indy publishing. Follow the journey on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Toni.Kenyon.Author or visit her website at www.tonikenyon.com
This week Susie Medwell, aka Zara Stoneley, is visiting to tell her NV story. It's wonderful to know there's someone else out there flying by the seat of their pants - and it's worked! Good Luck Susie/Zara!
When I found out about the New Voices competition last year, it was the first I had heard of it. I’ve been writing on and off for years, and submitted a partial to HM&B (and got a standard form R), but once I saw the competition I was hooked, little knowing what it would lead to.
NV proved to be a massive stepping stone in my writing career for several reasons. I signed up for Facebook so that I could join the NV group, and then Twitter as well and as a result I found out that - 1. Romance writers and readers are a wonderful supportive group of people, 2. There are blogs with lots of helpful tips and guidance out there and 3. There are lots of other epublishers out there who publish romance.
After entering NV, and out of work, I decided I wanted to take my writing seriously and would give myself 12 months to either get it out of my system or succeed. I took a couple of online courses, and attended a one day workshop all of which were invaluable. I also joined in with SYTYCW (another new one on me). I hadn’t got a full ms, and didn’t intend entering one, but I was interested in the advice etc. As part of this I completed some of the tasks and I submitted a first page which was actually selected for a crit – the comments from the editors were a real encouragement.
In January I discovered the Festival of Romance blog, and found out that a competition had been launched at the festival, by Xcite, to win a publishing contract for an erotic novel. The only problem? Well there were two, the first being that it was just over one week before it closed, the second that I hadn’t really read much erotica!
I did some frantic reading, loved it and decided to give it a go – 3 chapters and a synopsis (eek). After checking with Kate Allan that the closing time for entries was at midnight I got my entry in with minutes to spare. The winner was due to be announced on Valentines Day, so there was only a two week wait. I did think about it briefly, but hardly expected to win – it was more an exercise in trying something different and challenging myself! Then on the 14th I got a surprise email to say I wasn’t the winner but they were interested and could they read the rest? More frantic writing ensued. My ebook was published on April 19th so all in all it was a whirlwind experience, with not enough time to chew nails, stalk inboxes or anything like that. It was great though, I found that I really enjoyed the writing and it just flowed.
I think though that a big contributing factor to having the story accepted, was that a short time before I had rewritten an old story (contemporary romance) and subbed it elsewhere. I have blogged about this here, but basically I tried a totally different approach and wrote how I wanted to rather than how I thought I should for M&B and in doing so ‘found my voice’. This was the style I used for Xcite – if I’d been writing as I had in the past I don’t think I would have succeeded.
So what next? I’ve had another erotic novel, plus a short story, accepted and have been commissioned to write a novella (details to follow soon hopefully). I’ve also got a couple of contemporary romances out with other publishers, so there is a lot of inbox stalking going on.
My advice to any aspiring writer would be to get involved with competitions like New Voices because you meet some great people, get great feedback and learn such a lot; keep writing, keep reading and explore all the opportunities out there – there are lots of publishers looking for a wide variety of stories. My writing has changed beyond recognition over the last 12 months; I can’t believe that this time last year the NV competition wasn’t even open for submissions!
My only note of caution? Unless you write a best seller then it takes a while to build up a proper income and you really do need quite a good back list – a massive incentive to stop procrastinating and carry on writing!
If you’d like to find out more about me or my books I’ve got two of everything! J
Susiemedwell.blogspot.co.uk – contemporary romance and general chit-chat
Zarastoneley.blogspot.co.uk – erotic romance and erotica
I’m on Facebook as Susie Medwell, and also have an author page http://www.facebook.com/ZaraStoneley and I’m on twitter! (I like to talk a lot)
Welcome to my blog!
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