Writing a Mills & Boon novel – Part 5: The rejection letter

I know you’ll all be very sad to hear that my first attempt at writing a Mills & Boon novel was rejected. I know. It’s devastating.

My eyelashes are matted with hot tears and my pale cheeks flushed pink under the weight of my emotion. I feel as though my very soul is torn in two. I am a molten pool. Deep, deep within me, I longed for this, and yet at the same time I dreaded it. The voice in my head told me it would come to nothing, in my heart I knew it could never be. If only I’d listened…

Sorry, I was channelling my character, Beth, for a moment. Sadly you’ll never get to meet her now. But you can read the chapter I submitted HERE. In the meantime, let’s have a look at my rejection letter:

“Thank you for submitting the first chapter of *For Love Nor Money* [yeah, that’s what I called it – I know, I am too much] to our Romance Fast Track. Whilst we really appreciate the care and attention that has gone into the preparation of your submission, regrettably the feeling is that your story and characters are not sufficiently developed for publication.

Here are our top tips to bear in mind for your next submission:

1. Ensure that your story and conflict are character-driven.

2. Focus on the internal emotional conflict of your characters

3. Use secondary characters to add richness and depth to your central romance but don’t let them take over!

We are pleased to have had the opportunity to see your work, and thank you for thinking of Harlequin.”

Not sufficiently developed enough for publication? As IF. Well… okay, you don’t get to hear much about Stefano’s emotional conflict but it’s the first chapter. And I couldn’t have squeezed much more in about Beth if I’d tried. We know all about her job, her academic background, her little girl, her fraught relationship with her mother, the fact that she was married but that it ended… in unusual circumstances (well, I have to keep something back). That’s more than anyone needs to know about a Mills & Boon heroine, surely? We even know that she has unruly copper hair that just won’t be tamed and that’s just, like, SUCH a metaphor, guys, come oooooon. No?

Secondary characters? Okay, guilty as charged. I’ve got a daughter, a mother, an assistant, a boss, a waiter and an auctioneer already and we haven’t even started. They’re right, it’s far too many. No one in Mills & Boon land has that many interactions in one day. As I said in my previous post, it really is all about the hero and heroine. So fine, we’ll cut the waiter and maybe the assistant but I need the boss and the mother and daughter are completely crucial. How else will I explain the fact that someone with a rebellious spirit AND a sense of responsibility has managed to find love with a ripped billionaire in his late twenties?

Come to think of it, how many ripped billionaires in their late twenties could there actually be? Probably not enough for everyone. Which is why it’s even more important that our heroine’s hair becomes a symbol of her emotional conflict. No one bags a billionaire without metaphor-hair.

Oh to hell with it. There’s no point trying to resurrect this thing. The only thing to do is to bin it and start again. New (identical) characters, new (identical) conflict, new (identical) story. Any suggestions?

I’m thinking… we’re somewhere warm. Maybe the South of France. Our heroine is taking a much-needed break from her tumultuous life. She definitely isn’t looking for romance. She bumps into a Frenchman (maybe literally). His name is Florian. He is breathtakingly, stomach-wrenchingly, pants-tinglingly gorgeous. He’s not looking for a relationship. And he just happens to be a billionaire…



Writing a Mills & Boon novel – Part 4: Getting into character

Writing a Mills & Boon novel – Part 3: Losing the plot

Writing a Mills & Boon novel – Part 2: Isn’t it supposed to be sexy?

Writing a Mills & Boon novel – Part 1: How hard can it be?



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