Thursday, April 16, 2015

Know Your Line - Writing For Harlequin (or any other series line)

Motivational speakers say, "If you don't know where you are going, you will end up in a place you
don't want to be." When it comes to writing for a series this statement is amazingly true. You have to know and fully understand that line if you want to be successful! Today, I am simply going to focus on writing for Harlequin, although if you are a serious author, this would also include writing for any other publisher.

Series writing, sometimes also referred to as "category" writing is pretty simple to understand. Individual lines with a specific theme, voice or style. Please note, I am not say similar plots. This is all about the voice (why is that Meghan Trainor song running through my head now?). I should also note, this is not simply about the word count or the title. An author writing for this line is crafting his or her own unique story, but at the same time, working within the parameters of the particular line.

There is a lot of freedom within the lines, despite what many writers on the outside perceive. The parameters are pretty dang flexible, while at the same time, pretty clear and to the point. Your story has to meet those parameters.

If you are someone who wants to write for this company, it is beyond crucial that you spend a lot of time reading these stories. Even more important, you spend the time reading the line you want to write for. It has to become a part of your thinking and mentality.

The idea of this extensive reading is to really figure out the voice and the tone of that line. Again, this goes far beyond simply the plots and the characters. Yes, certain plots and characters work better for each line, but this does not mean you have to be limited to that idea.

Now, if you are someone who thinks this is only for romance, I want you to think about authors who write the follow up stories to lines and authors such as Louis Lamour, Star Wars, Ian Fleming, Star Trek and so forth. These books are still coming out despite the fact that the author might be dead or these are just spin offs of an original movie. To truly write these for these series, an author has to invest a lot of time reading and understanding the voice. This is not an easy task.

I bring this up because I see far too many submissions by authors who tell me they are going to write for a particular series line, but really don't get it. Sure the page count might be there. Sure there might be a sheik and a doctor in the story, but the story just doesn't fit. It is because the author has not taken the time to learn the line.

And one final note. Although I might be talking about Harlequin here, this same approach goes for any other publisher. Everyone is different. Everyone has a unique voice and tone. You better know it, or expect a rejection letter.

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