Writing Wednesday: Targeting Submissions, Rejection, Voice, & the Contest Elephant in the Room

Welcome to my first Writing Wednesday! I’m getting back into writing reviews and adding fun Friday features featuring published authors, so I wanted to make sure I left a little corner to update you on my writing, discussions going on in the writing world of interest, to share call stories of fellow writers, and to generally geek out over all things writing. I hope you enjoy this first installment!

Breaking Her No Dating Rule

Yesterday on Facebook and the Harlequin boards I witnessed and participated in a lively discussion on targeting category lines, entering contests, rejection and finding your voice begun by Amalie Berlin, an author with Harlequin’s Medical line. Here’s a snippet of the post that started the discussion:

When you submit and get a Rejection from a particular line, do you automatically decide that means you shouldn’t be writing for that line and move on to another?

I keep seeing instances where folks say they are submitting to yet another line since their writing didn’t work for X line. Hopping from one line to the next… I’m not sure that’s a good way to go about things.

And as this has been on my mind a bit lately(with the Blitz going on), I feel like I need to say something in order to help without pointing fingers. I say this with love.

I understand the siren song of the contest/fast-response opportunity—seriously, I understand. If you fall prey to it a couple times, everyone does and everyone can understand. But if you keep changing your focus again and again, it’s like dating a bunch of people you’re really not into just because you want to get married. You might be happy for a year or two(or a couple books), but it won’t last. Eventually you’ll realize you’ve ended up with a spouse you were never all that crazy about, and a relationship that either breaks apart fairly quickly, or leaves you old, twisted, and bitter about your long, loveless marriage.

People lined up on both sides of this issue, stating whether or not they thought it was a good idea to enter everything until you find your voice. Side discussions began about whether loving a line was enough, and what happens when your voice doesn’t fit the line you love.

As I watched and added my two cents, I began to think about my own journey. I read very widely in general and romance is no different. I read Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense, Intrigue, Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Desire, Presents, Romance, and the occasional Blaze (mostly through my fingers!), Medical, and Love Inspired Historical. Yet I’ve only submitted to three lines: Love Inspired, Harlequin Heartwarming, and Carina Press, all through contests (SYTYCW, Write from the Heart, #PitMad, and Blurb to Book).

I’ve found the Harlequin community to be very helpful for finding information on writing category romance for Harlequin.

Kansas City Cover-UpI received invaluable advice from published authors like Julie Miller, Sarah M. Anderson, Janet Tronstad, Donna Alward, and Michelle Smart and made many friendships. But like Amalie, I’ve also noticed the frenzy around contests and that many people do enter every contest regardless of the line. I didn’t participate in Killer Voices, Prima Flirty, Blaze Blitz, or the Romance Christmas challenge because I wanted to focus on this line. I felt left out and a little deflated. But I knew I didn’t want to write those books. So I waited for this opportunity to write for Love Inspired.


It’s taken a long time to figure out what I want to write, and some days I’m not sure if my voice fits the line. People have told me my voice would fit better elswhere. But as much as I love the emotion in Jennifer Hayward and other Presents writers’ books, I can’t write tycoons and princes.

I like creating small towns and writing series. That said, many home and hearth lines want cowboys, and I have no desire to write them.

His Hometown GirlI love the strong emotional conflicts in Heartwarming, but I don’t write that long, nor could I pack as much emotion in as a Karen Rock.

Finding a home for your voice that is interested in your settings, hooks, and characters is like finding the sweet spot in your bed–sometimes you find it as soon as your head hits the pillow, and other times you have to flop around for a while, adjust your pillow or position, and even stick one foot outside the covers to find it. Unless there’s feedback (the unicorn of submitting), you may not know what to fix because you don’t know what’s not working. Writing groups, critique partners, and contests can help. But you have to decide if you’re willing to conform to the guidelines of a particular house/line, or if you need to look elsewhere.

For those who are still worried about finding their voice, I’d like to leave you with Amy Ruttan’s wise words, to encourage you that finding your voice, and a true home for that voice, is so worth it:

I admit, it took me a while to figure out my voice even within Medical. My editor kept saying “Be true to your brand” and I felt like a doofus scratching my head wondering what the heck that was, until I tried for another line I loved and thought would be a fit. She liked it, but I had serious issues to work out in the partial AND she said that’s not where my brand is. In medicals I stand out because of that voice, that brand my editor has been building for me. I wouldn’t have stood out in this other line. It wouldn’t work in this other line. I see that now. It sucked, but you know what? I feel all the better now for it. Now I know where to aim and I’m excited! 

It Happened in Vegas

Also, a rejection doesn’t mean that a publisher is rejecting your voice or that a different story of yours wouldn’t sell to that line. Try to take each “no” as a standalone. No to this book, at this time, in this form, for this line, at this publisher.  That’s my two cents, anyway. Leave yours in the comments section.


2 thoughts on “Writing Wednesday: Targeting Submissions, Rejection, Voice, & the Contest Elephant in the Room

  1. Hmmm, I think WordPress ate my comment! Reconstituting now, so I apologize if it comes twice!

    Great summary of the conversation and different points of view. (And I love that cover… It so fits the quirky, mischievous heroine so well!)

    Can totally understand the difficulty in figuring out where to target. Have you given any consideration to Special Edition? They accept but don’t require cowboys, are a Home & Hearth line, and aren’t as long as Superromance or Heartwarming lines. They are a touch longer than the short category lines, but they’re also long established and have a healthy reader base.

  2. Great post! 🙂

    I’m really glad I made sense that day and that my words helped you. I have serious deadline brain at the moment. hehehe.

    I agree with Amalie, have you thought about Special Edition?

    I’ve been waffling through a second line and yeah, I look at a line, I enjoy the books but now I’m wondering if I can deliver 10+ books for that line without having a burn out because I don’t enjoy it. When I first tried for Medicals, I hadn’t read more than 1, but DANG I love writing them. LOVE IT.

    Best of luck on your search! xo

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