This is a question my critique partner and I have been chewing over this week. Possibly other unpubbed writers aiming at Mills and Boon feel the same- there are three lines edited from the Richmond office, all quite different, how do we know which line to aim for?
I really don’t have a clue where my writing would best fit. I do like writing intimate scenes, but on the other hand I also have wondered how on earth it would be possible to keep writing them in fresh and different ways book after book after book! Maybe closing the bedroom door is okay with me. Still deal with the emotional effects of the lovemaking the morning after, without being there in the room with them the night before. There does still seem to be a surprising amount of heat in some Romance stories too, the difference seems to be – just don’t mention his erection. More of a generalised heat than a localised heat, I guess! I know there’s more to it than the sensuality level, it’s about emotional intensity too.
The best answer seems to be to write the story as it wants to go, rather than trying to force the characters and their story into a pre-conceived mould. Write the story, at least to finished first draft, and then see which line it feels like it fits best in. In a way, I’m missing the point by worrying about which line to target now. The point is, just write the best story I can. Really get to know my characters as real people with real hopes and dreams, real motivations, real character flaws that get in the way of then being happily in love, at least to begin with, and let them be themselves, not some tick-the-box cardboard cut out misconception of what an Alpha is.
No matter what line it is, the editors and ultimately the readers are going to want to see believable conflicts, believable emotional responses, and lots of delicious sexual tension between the hero and heroine. I need to make sure I don’t confuse things happening with plot- plot is really the characters growing and changing as they respond to the situations they are in, and solve the emotional blocks stopping them being together. Plus have to keep on developing the great intangible of individual “voice”, which I guess does just come from writing writing writing and not forcing my style into a mould any more than my characters. That’s what I’m trying to do anyway- maybe I’d better print that out and stick it to my laptop to remind me!
Then, once I’ve done all that, is the time to worry about where the story fits!
I found this short article by Ally Blake, who writes for both Romance and Modern Heat, on the differences between the lines. It’s so helpful, with comments from writers, blurbs, and extracts, comapring and contrasting Romance (aka Tender or Sweet), Modern (aka Sexy or Presents) and Modern Heat (aka Presents Extra or Sexy Sensation).
She seems to be reassuringly echoing what other writers have said- write it first then decide where your voice fits. And I’ve been told that the Richmond editors do buy across all the lines edited there and that voice is the most essential element they look for, so specifically targetting to start off is not necessarily such a big deal, we just have to wow them with our voice. Now why does that seem like the hard part?!