5 Things That Keep Me Reading: How to Catch the Editor’s Eye During the #HWBlitz By Claire Caldwell, Assistant Editor—Harlequin Heartwarming
Do you have a clean, contemporary 70k-word romance up your sleeve? From April 4th to 22nd, Harlequin Heartwarming will be accepting submissions for the #HWBlitz. All entrants will receive editorial feedback by May 20th, and if we like what we see, we just might request your full manuscript! So with this exciting opportunity in mind, here are five things guaranteed to make me sink my teeth into a story:
- A targeted submission. I might love to read ghost stories or memoirs in my spare time, but I’m acquiring for Heartwarming, so if a historical romance or sci-fi epic cross my desk, I have to take a pass. Heartwarming books don’t have sex and focus on the characters’ emotional obstacles to loving each other. But as long as they’re clean, set in the present-day and about 70k words, Heartwarming books can cover a great range of tones, subplots, and themes, from suspense elements to humor and beyond. Reading a few our books and checking out our guidelines can help you get a sense of the line and see if your story could be right for us.
- Motivated heroes and heroines who do more than just date. Nothing gets me turning the pages like a romance that starts with…not much romance. I love being thrown into the characters’ lives as they’re actively working toward their goals, only to be interrupted by their growing feelings for each other. With the longer word count in Heartwarming, there’s time for emotions and tension to build, which avoids some of the pitfalls of more surface-level insta-attraction. What do your main characters want most, and how could loving each other stop them from attaining it?
- A setting that takes me away. Whether it’s a bustling big-city neighborhood or an isolated research camp at the South Pole, I want to feel like I’m right there with the characters. What does that city sound like first thing in the morning? What does it feel like to step outside in Antarctica? Use all five senses to build the world your characters inhabit and draw the reader in.
- Secondary characters with lives of their own. I love stories where the secondary characters aren’t just foils to the hero and heroine, but have their own relationships and motivations that not only contribute to the plot and conflict but also add richness overall. Try to dig deeper than a secondary character’s role in the romance (ie. matchmaker) and show us who he or she is as an individual.
- Surprises! You might think editors have seen it all, but making your story fresh can be as simple as putting a new spin on a classic trope or giving the heroine a stereotypically “male” career. If there are elements in your story that you’ve seen in books before, consider what you could change to freshen them up. Or better yet, send us something you don’t think we’ve ever