Author (and Past Writing Contest Winner!) Lynn Raye Harris Shares Her Experience & Tips

by Lynn Raye Harris, author of Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge (Harlequin Presents, August 2009) and the  Instant Seduction Writing Competition winner

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):

  1. Feel strongly about what you enter.  In other words, make sure it’s your very best work.
  2. 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”.)
  3. Be yourself.  Copying your favorite Presents author’s style and tone is not authentically you.  The editors want YOUR unique voice, not a clone.
  4. Don’t let backstory overwhelm your first chapter!  There’s time for that later.
  5. Not winning isn’t the end of the world.

Good luck!

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

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Comments ( 17 )
  1. bburnham
    July 10, 2009 at 12:56 pm


    I’ve been around since the first comp and I can see how your chapter has changed. I feel like there is more emotion this time around. Great chapter!

    I also want to thank you for your comment #5, because even if you don’t place, there are good things that come out of entering the comp. After the MH comp, I joined up with a group of writers from all over the world (Ireland, England, Australia, California) and now we support each other as we target our favorite lines.

    This will be my third time and I have to say I have learned sooo much in the time since I entered the first comp. What has really helped is reading, reading, reading. (But, be careful, not to leave any copies lying around at work. I now have to bring more than one book to work in case any of my coworkers want to read during their downtime.)

    I have an e-book copy of Spanish Magnate, but I will be around at the literacy signing next week to get a signed copy from you. Looking forward to reading your next book.

    Barbara Burnham

  2. Susanna
    July 10, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Lynn,

    Once again, you’re encouragement not only inspires but you’re a proven “lead by example” reflection.

    I’m excited and scared at the same time. In reading this recent post, the intensity almost makes me cry; reminiscent of the time when you first posted your experience about “the call”.

    You are a gift and whereas I spent all day yesterday researching the type of place I wanted to journey with my characters, today has left me a little unfocused.

    I wanted to thank the editors and you for the encouragement that has motivated me to delve deeper.

    Thank you,

    Karen in California

  3. mulberry
    July 10, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Lynn Raye, thank you so much for posting this! You were a well deserved winner of the IS comp, and I’m so looking forward to finally reading the completed version of your story.
    Like Barbara, I think it’s going to be interested to seeing how well I can use all I’ve learned since that first contest!

  4. mulberry
    July 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Oops, why do I always see the typos only after clicking send?

  5. Lynn Raye Harris
    July 10, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Hi, Barbara! Thanks for the compliments — and I’m so happy to hear that you feel good things came out of your experiences with the competitions thus far!! That is precisely the right attitude. You’ve made connections with other writers that will enrich your life and writing. Great!

    Reading does indeed help a lot. Read, read, read. It’s the best way to internalize the elements. I look forward to meeting you in DC and signing a copy for you!!

  6. Lynn Raye Harris
    July 10, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Hi, Karen! Thank you so much! If I can inspire you at all, I’m very happy to do so. I’ve been inspired by such wonderful writers and I’m honored to now be the inspiration for someone else. 🙂

    Be courageous! Write your story and submit it; but if you don’t win, do NOT give up. Keep going. And I know just what you mean about research! It’s easy to get lost in the worlds we are trying to create.

    Much good luck to you!

  7. Lynn Raye Harris
    July 10, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Mulberry, LOL! You are so right about typos after hitting send. I do it all the time.

    And I’ll bet you’ve learned a lot since the first contest. I know I have! Good luck on your entry!!!

  8. blairwitch
    July 11, 2009 at 10:05 am

    As one of the lucky ones to have been here from the start watching your progress and to have already read your brilliant debut book, I just wanna say congrats again and thanks for sharing your experiences. When I read your first chap in the actual book I immediately saw the differences between it and your brilliant winning chap – interesting to see how your time learning from the editor really made your book sparkle! Enjoy DC!!

  9. Lynn Raye Harris
    July 11, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Hi, Rach! You have me blushing now. Thanks. 🙂

  10. Tina Duncan
    July 12, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Hi Lynne,

    What a wonderful post. I particularly like your point 5: that not winning isn’t the end of the world. I entered the Instant Seduction contest. I didn’t win and I didn’t place but guess what? I sold as a result of that competition. I will be doing a guest blog later this month to tell everyone how that came about so stay tuned.

  11. abby green
    July 13, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Lynn I just finished reading Spanish Magnate and well done on a fantastic debut! You were indeed a deserving winner and I hope you enjoy the literacy signing in Washington. You’re an inspiration for others out there and good luck to everyone entering the new competition. I’ll be looking forward to reading the winner’s debut novel especially if it’s anything like Lynn’s!
    x Abby

  12. Lynn Raye Harris
    July 13, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Tina, you are a wonderful example! Many, many congratulations to you. I look forward to reading your debut and getting the chance to meet you someday!

    Abby, you are a fabulous woman! 🙂 Thanks so much for the compliments. I am quite pleased you enjoyed it, especially when you write such amazing tales of alpha heroes and their lovely heroines yourself! Thank you, thank you. It means a lot to me.

  13. Meg Masters
    July 16, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Hi Lynn,

    Just registered as new member today, though I’ve been lurking for quite some time, and I had to leave you a comment. I’ve just finished reading your debut novel and can I say WOW! It was a wonderful read. I really enjoyed it. Your characters were very believable on the page. I especially liked your heroine—she was so strong yet sweetly feminine at the same time.

    I can see why the editors choose your entry as the winner. You and your story well deserved it—congratulations. I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.

    It’s so exciting to see so many new authors making a name for themselves among all the wonderful established HMB authors. There’s nothing like “New Blood” to keep the line interesting and to inspire yet more would-be talent to try their hand. So glad you got the chance to share yours.

    As for me, well, I tried to enter a chapter in the “Feel the Heat” comp last year, but I think my entry was rejected as being too late for consideration, which is a shame as I felt it was a good chapter. But I have no one else but myself to blame. I only stumbled across the competition the day before closure and rushed to meet the deadline, but to no avail…sigh! But I’m better informed now and won’t have that trouble this year. I’m working on a new entry, living in hope of winning…of getting that life changing phone call, too.

    Congrats again, and thank you for sharing your journey with us all—I’m inspired.

  14. Lynn Raye Harris
    July 30, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Hi, Meg! Sorry to just now reply, but I’ve only just discovered your comment! Thank you so much for the comments on my book! You have quite made my day. 🙂

    I’m sorry you didn’t get into the last contest, but I wish you good luck with this one!! As Tina Duncan proved, you don’t have to win to sell.

    Thanks so much for replying. I’m happy if I’ve inspired you at all.

  15. mulberry
    July 30, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Hey, good luck with this contest Meg!

    I didn’t manage to enter FtH either, but can say with no doubt at all that the 18 months since getting a big fat rejection for my Instant Seduction competition entry have been the best and most productive time of learning how to write in my life.

  16. Kimmora_d
    November 25, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    I just got your book Lynn and I can’t wait to read it. I’m hoping one day soon I will be published just like you. I’m still working on my book and hoping for the best. You have insired me!

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