Well, I did get a letter from Harlequin Mills & Boon about my competition entry this morning, and now I’m not quite sure what to do next! I’d made my writing plans based on not getting anything more than a form email back from them, and I decided to finish and edit (rewrite really) my competition entry, which I know I can make far better than what I originally sent off, and submit it via the slush pile. Now this letter has left me unsure of what my best course of action might be (besides the obvious one of keep on writing and working to make my writing as good as I can get it!).
It looked to me pretty much like a form rejection letter, tweaked a little for the competition entries. But it did say that they felt my writing showed promise, and there were a couple of positive comments handwriiten on the hardcopy of my entry cover letter. I am thrilled to get a little encouragement with my first submission! But it also implies that they don’t want to see more of that story, as the letter enclosed a “With Compliments” slip with an editor’s name on it, to attach to the first three chapters and synopsis of my next manuscript. So now I don’t know what to do.
I do want to finish and re-submit my rewritten contest entry, but I don’t want to “waste” the slip on a story that has already been rejected. I have a finished first draft of another story that needs some serious rewriting, but I think it’s more Modern Heat that Presents, so that would be a different editor, anyway. I have two other sets of characters and situations in mind that could be good Presents stories – one an idea that has been hanging around for a couple of months and was going to be the next story I wrote, the other a minor character I only wrote last week in my contest entry, who is very strong and is demanding his own story. What I don’t want to do is spend ages fiddling around with the competition entry now, only to find that when I finally write the next story and send it in that the editor whose name I have has moved on to a different line. But I don’t want to drop the original story either- I feel I am learning so much from keeping on working on it, plus I feel that I know those characters so well now. So I have a dilemma!
What I am currently thinking is that I can probably finish the first draft of the competition entry in the next few days, then I will set it aside and start working on the next story. But it will take many months before I have the next story finished and good enough to submit. I don’t want to do what I did with the competition and send in something that really needed a lot more work. Or the other option is to go straight onto the rewrite of the competition entry as soon as I have finished the first draft, and send that in when it is properly edited. My concern there is that everything I’ve read about editing suggests setting the story aside for a while once the first draft is done, before going back to edit, I’ve even seen suggestions of as long as a couple of months.
I do wonder how long other writers leave first drafts for before going back and editing. I guess that is a question where the answer will be different for every writer, and also something that more experienced writers who have developed their writing and editing skills may handle differently to someone like me who is still early in my journey (sheesh, I’ve wanted to write since I was fifteen, why did I waste so much time?). Maybe asking these questions about editing is just a distraction from the decision I need to make right now, before I write any more. This letter has thrown my old plans out the window, and thrown me into confusion. I just don’t know what to do.
I decided several hours later, with the help of a few “What the hell are you asking for- get writing the new story!” type comments on the e-Harlequin forum, to just jump into writing another story. Once that is done I can come back and edit my contest story, and see how good I can get it.
I’m not sure which one to go with though. The cousin of my current hero, Antonio the celebrity chef, is an appealing character and he would be a delight to write, but he seems so straightforward that I can’t see without digging very deep what his inner conflicts would be. He doesn’t really have a story forming around him yet, while the other idea is a little more developed, and scenes from it have been playing in my head for a couple of months now. I think Antonio can wait!
The difficult part is that I have become so immersed in the characters and situation for my contest entry that it’s a massive shock to suddenly pull out from that deep involvement with them and start again with new characters. Dumping Bruno and Rebecca so quickly in to move on to writing the next story feels like breaking off a relationship I’m not quite ready to let go of yet. But scenes with James and Sarah do keep popping into my head….
I’ll have to remind myself, I’m not being unfaithful to Bruno and Rebecca, we’re just “on a break”!
Woo hoo! The title and a possible first line for James and Sarah’s story just popped into my head. Time to start writing, who cares if I’m being unfaithful when a shiny new story is calling my name! But I must finish this one. I definitely don’t want to turn into a serial story dumper. It will be fun to try to apply all that I have learned in the process of writing the competition entry right from the start on a new story.