A few weeks ago, Mills & Boon (the UK Harlequin) announced through Twitter that it was throwing a contest targeting its Modern Tempted line. Here in the USA we know Modern Tempted as KISS, a fun, flirty, contemporary line that's put out a ton of great books. Two of my writing friends have just signed contracts with KISS and I've been looking forward to reading their incredible debuts since they announced the news.
The #TemptedToWrite contest has two parts: a writing preparatory course that runs for ten days and the actual contest. The writing prep is the real reason I decided to participate. Over the course of ten business days, Mills & Boon will ask questions designed to help you understand your characters, their motivations, plot points, and other aspects of writing that are targeted toward the Modern Tempted/KISS line. Each day participants can post excerpts of their story in answer to the given question to a Facebook page. A panel of judges (made up of editors and M&B authors) pick their favorite entries and provide feedback and prizes; a top blogger also goes through and picks her favorite answer of the day, comparing it to elements found in Modern Tempted/KISS books, and also offering some awesome prizes. Basically, it's one of those rare opportunities to receive feedback from professionals who can help you learn how to make your writing even better. And since I know very little about the line other than the fact that I like the stories, I thought it would be worth it.
I have been surprisingly successful so far, with two of my answers being picked as winners (one from each set of judges), but more importantly, I've been able to view others' work and takes on the same themes. I've been able to examine other winners' answers and break down why their answer was so successful. It's an incredible opportunity and despite all the other work and stress I'm dealing with, it's been worth every moment.
I think the best thing I'm getting from this experience though is a sense of hope. My stories have always been outside the box - a mixture of genres, heroes a little too dark, new takes on old ideas. It's how I've always written and since I started taking myself and my craft more seriously, it's only become more obvious. I've never allowed myself to dream that I'd be able to write for a publisher's line...it just didn't seem to be in my cards. But this story is coming together and getting good reviews from people who are really knowledgeable, so there's got to be some hope.
So here's the real challenge...the contest portion of #TemptedToWrite limits you to 10,000 words and I think my story is going to be over that. I have no idea what's going to happen with it at this point, but I know I've got to finish writing it. If I can cut it down and have it still make sense, I'll enter in the contest. If I can't (deep breath here) I'm going to query Harlequin KISS and see if they're at all interested. It could easily be a rejection, which would sting, but I think I have to try it.
I'm absolutely terrified, but maybe that's the point of this whole thing. Terror means I'm taking a risk. And taking a risk as a writer means growth. A painful, but inevitable, pattern if you intend to survive as a species.