I have just had a stoke of genius! Whilst writing the blog post below I was simultaneously trying to watch a BBC4 Italian crime drama; one term of Italian language lessons nine years ago obviously preparation for multitasking with subtitles,when I suddenly saw the face of my hero – not on the screen but in my head, Anyone see Zen with Rufus Sewell earlier this year Shamefully cut thanks to budgets? Inspiration for an Italian hero if ever I saw one. And who says watching TV is wasting time?
Okay, stop daydreaming - back to business: Last year I came upon New Voices somewhat unaware; a post on the Mills & Boon Facebook page piqued my interest, I clicked, noted the rules & regs & posting date and that was that. Completely ignorant of the vast amount of advice, knowledge and help available online I wrote and posted and that was that.
This year is already very different. New Voices has its own distinct Facebook page with over 300 followers including published authors, past participants and new entrants. Three of last year's entrants have forthcoming books with HM&B, many others have found success with rival online and offline publishers, I have taken two courses with the brilliant Jessica Hart and joined the Romantic Novelist's Association New Writer's Scheme (look at all those capitals) and nervously, email-obsessively await feedback.
I will, of course, be entering again. I have written just 1000 words but spent hours thinking about it, dreaming about it (writing and deadlines combining with tents and Scandinavian serial killers in an unsettling combination: may need to change my current reading material and holiday in an apartment in future), characters are beginning to make sense, a plot to develop. My expectations are more realistic this year, my focus on the entire book, not just one chapter. However, if I did learn anything from last year it would be this:
1. Act professionally. If you want to be a writer then every NV interaction is with potential bosses, colleagues and customers...
2. So, be polite, but not over the top! Sycophancy is embarrassing, rudeness even more so.
3. Want comments on your writing? Comment on others, we all want attention but with 800+ entries (based on last year) are more likely to click on those writers who have commented on us.
4. Remember, the commentators may mainly be your fellow competitors but they are also your future readers so treat their comments with respect even if you disagree.
5. Of course you will disagree with some comments but take a deep breath, ignore the urge to be rude about their entry and even more importantly resist the urge to argue. Thank them for taking the time to comment.
6. Even if you disagree, if the same point is made over and over then take it under consideration – remember these are your future readers.
7. It is a first chapter competition. Telling people they will understand when they read Chapt 2, 3, finish the book won't help – they are judging you on what they can read
8. Make sure your comments are constructive. Don't like something? Say it nicely, tell them why and give examples. Help them improve.
9. If you can't say it nicely and constructively then don't say it at all!
10. Market yourself. Use Twitter, FB and forums but remember – there has to be give and take. If it's all “me, me, me” people will ignore all your postings no matter how witty they are!
11. Have fun and good luck!