Author (and Past Writing Contest Winner!) Lynn Raye Harris Shares Her Experience & Tips
I hope you are all gearing up for the ! When I was asked if I would write a blog post about my experiences as the winner of the Instant Seduction Competition, I said, “Yes, yes, yes!” That competition changed my life in the best possible way.
I sent my entry on the day the contest ended (Feb 14, 2008, appropriately) and promptly tried to forget about the whole thing. No one knew how long it would take, but in March the editors announced they’d gone through 600+ entries and found a winner and two runners up. I was pretty sure I wasn’t one of these people because I’d had no call or email.
About 6PM on the day after the announcement, I realized I’d missed a call on my cell phone. I’d just spent a long day at my computer, probably playing around on the Internet and rechecking this blog for the announcement of who won if the truth be told, and my phone was charging in my bedroom. At first the foreign country code didn’t excite me; I thought it was my friend in Mexico. Just to be safe, I decided to Google the code.
That’s when I learned I’d missed a call from the UK. Took me another fifteen minutes, complete with shaking hands and thumping heart, to figure out the number belonged to HMB. Since it was late in the UK by then, what followed was the longest night of my life. I couldn’t sleep. I fantasized about being a runner up. (I also worried it had been a mistake and they would never call back.)
Shortly before one p.m. the next day, my phone rang. Sally Williamson, my wonderful, adorable (and so tall and lovely I should dislike her for it but really can’t because she’s too sweet) editor delivered the news that I’d WON the competition!
Sally gave me two weeks to enjoy myself, but then the hard work began. I didn’t have a contract, but I had an editor for a year who treated me as if I was already one of her authors. I had deadlines, revisions, and phone calls when I needed them. It was a fantastic learning experience! Best of all, I got to meet Sally at the RWA National Conference in San Francisco.
After six months work — finishing the book, and then revising it twice and tweaking it once more — I finally got that magical phone call we all dream about. On October 6th, at 7:27 AM, Sally called to buy my book.
Since then, I’ve written two more books for the Presents line. You can read the competition winner, Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge, in its entirety starting this month if you order it from eHarlequin. It will be in the shops, both in the US and UK starting August 1st. (And if you read the winning chapter and here on the blog, you might be surprised to see how things turned out quite differently than what I originally wrote.)
Quick Tips (these are simply my own observations, not official):
- Feel strongly about what you enter. In other words, make sure it’s your very best work.
- Don’t worry too much about minor things. A typo will not prevent you from winning if your voice is what the editors want. (Though of course you should turn in the cleanest entry you can! Once it’s gone, however, don’t obsess that you typed “your” when you meant “you’re”.)
- Be yourself. Copying your favorite Presents author’s style and tone is not authentically you. The editors want YOUR unique voice, not a clone.
- Don’t let backstory overwhelm your first chapter! There’s time for that later.
- Not winning isn’t the end of the world.
Pssst, after you read the ORIGINAL first chapter Lynn submitted to the contest, you read the final version that appears in Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge with the widget below. ~Amy