TBYL Events finds out how to take “The Next Step”

One of the things that I like to try and do with TBYL is to help take the guess-work out of bookish things for bookish people. Our book reviews try and help take the blind-punt out of choosing your next book and our online store is about making it easier for you to pick up your next read once you’ve chosen it.

Last night’s TBYL Event, “The Next Step” was largely about taking some of the guess out of getting published, demystifying the writing game. I really hoped that we’d be able to help people make their writing dreams a reality.

I was thrilled to be joined by Kate Cuthbert, Managing Editor from Escape Publishing (the exciting new digital publishing arm of Harlequin) and two current Escape authors Rhian Cahill and Charmaine Ross.

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I wanted to find out a little more about what’s involved in getting published. What should a story look like? What are editors looking for and where do writers find themselves coming undone?

Luckily, Kate was both willing and able to answer these questions for us. She very kindly gave us a run-down on what Escape Publishing was all about, and how digital publishing works, including what digital publishing requires of authors. Whilst digital publishing is fast-paced, requiring pretty well-structured submissions and quick turn-arounds, it also affords a great deal of flexibility. This flexibility is unprecedented, allowing for the entry into the market of new authors, new genres (and genre mash-ups) and the thing that I like most, a wonderful variety of story lengths; “Escape Publishing accepts stories from anywhere between 5000 words and 500,000.” Hence we’re seeing an amazing range of short stories, novellas and tomes all on the market, ready for us to download onto our e-readers.

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Kate shared some really practical tips for writers, such as the importance of editing… edit, edit, edit, structural edits and copy as well. She suggested that writers always have others read their work prior to submission, and that they take the time to step away from their story before trying to edit it. A little time and space between yourself and your work works wonders for the editing process. Kate also stressed the importance of not including too much backstory, presenting believable characters who live up to their description, and developing stories with strong, compelling (and propelling?) pacing.

And with romance, don’t ever forget the happy ending!

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It was also really interesting to hear from Rhian and Charmaine, particularly considering that they both had quite different experiences of writing – their genres were different, their methods were different, the challenges they faced were different – but still, essentially, they both had to write, it was a compulsion and something they’ve been doing since they were quite young. Being published was a dream come true, and seeing copies of their digital books sell steadily was a real affirmation of their craft.

I asked them what it meant to become published, and they both agreed that as exciting as it is, it’s also a lot of work. It would seem that both Rhian and Charmaine set themselves writing goals, daily and weekly, in order to get their stories to come to life. Once manuscript has been accepted a new kind of work begins… editing, editing, editing, cover-art, promotion. It’s a job, but nice work, if you can get it.

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Personally, I found this session incredibly insightful and from feedback I’ve received, so did the audience – they’re questions were fantastic too, really getting to the heart of romance-writing as a career.

A huge thank-you to Kate, Rhian and Charmaine, as well as to Escape Publishing. Thanks so much for making the evening so entertaining and informative.

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Our next TBYL Event will be an online one, so our friends across the country (and the globe?) will be able to get involved. Stay tuned also for announcements regarding our next real-life event coming soon.

And hey, happy writing!