Friday, October 21, 2011

Date With Kate - Animal help with New Voices disapppointment!


Hares and Tortoises, Swans  and  Rams – and any other animals who give us lessons to be learned from New Voices

So the big event of the week was the announcement of the  Top Twenty  - the Top 21 actually in the big Mills and Boon New Voices contest.  21 lucky ‘winners’ – 21 writers whose work caught the eye of the editors. 21 out of 1088  entries.  They will go forward into the next  round, write their second chapters, be judged again, move on . . .
And the rest of you? What are you going to do?  Put your entry in the bin – or the recycle bin on your computer?    Sit in a corner and cry? Curse, swear, kick the cat? 
Well yes, you’re entitled to do all of those – exc ept perhaps kick the cat. I can’t recommend that.  Charlie  and Flora would mever forgive me.  But disappointment will do  things to all of us that we might regret later. It’s natural. Disappointment isn’t easy to cope with, no one likes it, everyone wants success . And in such a public event as the New Voices contest there’s a success that is much  more visible than most.

So first of all – congratulations to those  in that select 21.  And good luck for the future. And , at the risk of sounding slightly callous and perhaps a touch cynical, the ‘Good luck’ bit are the words I want to give the most emphasis to. Because even if you are in that top 21, you haven’t   got there yet – there’s that second  chapter and the second judging and then the Top 4  - and then writing the pivotal scene ., . . and then more judging . . ..  and even when there is a winner – what does she have to do?

To write the book.

And the book will  need to be submitted, and assessed and probably revised and the revisions revised . . . .

There are lots of wonderful things about being a writer of popular romance  - not the least of which is sitting here, chatting with you  -  but one of the most difficult things  is that from the very start of your career – that moment when you think to yourself ‘I’d love to write a romance’ or, reading a great romance book ‘I’d love to write a book like this,’ or even when reading a not so good romance ‘I could write a better romance that this’ . . .  From that point when you set out on the road  to write your first book  and all the attempts afterwards, you put yourself out in to the public arena – and you risk getting kicked in the teeth by rejection. It’s part of the job, part of the path to success, part of being a writer. And I’ll let you into a secret – it doesn’t get any easier.  I may have 60  titles behind me but every time I send a script in to my editor  or a book comes out I panic.  My editor usually has  revisions she wants to see, sometimes – and it has happened  - twice - - there’s the dreaded ‘set aside’ ( We think perhaps that you should set this book aside for now  . .. )  Just this week I saw that Romantic Times only gave The Return of the Stranger 2stars. Ouch! That stung – and it’s funny isn’t it the  way that the  2 stars stick around in your head much longer and stronger than the  5 star:
Mrs Walker triumphantly produces a powerful and intense novel which involves your emotions from start to finish. Heath is a super hero full of brooding passion and the delightful Katherine evokes your sympathy. Not to be missed - as they say they saved the best till last.

(Oh yes, I feel a lot better now!)

So you were up against 1087 others - When I started out  there were  4 -5,000 unsolicited manuscripts arriving at M&B every year.  When I went to the offices for the first time they showed me the filing cabinets, walls and walls of them,  filled with the other submissions. I was so glad they did that after they said they liked my book (The Chalk Line)  otherwise I’s had turned round, run away- fast – and never looked back.

I had two submissions  rejected before The Chalk Line was accepted and then – I’m sure I’ve told this before – I stumbled badly over ‘second book blues’ – and ‘third book blues’ if the truth is told.   Both books had to be ‘set aside’ and come back to when I was ready, Admittedly there was a lot going on in my life, I was ill, my mother was dying – but the truth is that those books just weren’t good enough.  So Game of Hazard was my second book  - though really it was my 4th – and The Golden Thief and Chase the Dawn became books  rather later on.

So where do all those animal references in the title come into this ? The Hare and the Tortoise – surely that’s obviously  - the Hare and the Tortoise had a race and speedy Mr Hare set off  fast -  but the tortoise  kept on going at his own pace and  he gets to the end too. In fact he wins.   We all have our own pace for writing, our own pace for success -  some of us will  flare brightly and shoot high – but  I would always suggest that would be writers remember that editors are not looking for the fireworks  of one book wonders but the slow and steady and regular production of  books by a career novelist.  That’s what category romance publishing is all about.


And the swan and the ram? Well there is a theory that that fairy story that most resonates with you is the ‘script’ for your life -  it doesn’t have to be the one you enjoy  - personally I always hated The Ugly Duckling – the way the poor little creature was mocked at and laughed at – and then one day . . .”He looked . ..  and he saw . ..  and he said ‘I am a swan!”   And as someone who was always told I would never, ever be a writer, that it was all just a daydream, and I’d do better to forget it . .  . that resonates with me.

And the ram? Well, way back when – in  the long ago ancient times before I was a published author – before I’d even finished my very first  - very bad – submission to M&B,  there was a song that I couldn’t get out of my head. I hated it – but it wouldn’t go away. It was sung by Frank Sinatra  and it was called High Hopes. It’s going round and round in my head now.

Once there was a silly old ram

Thought he'd punch a hole in a dam

No one could make that ram, scram

He kept buttin' that dam


And why? Because he had High Hopes.  high apple pie, in the sky hopes.
I don’t like the song  - but it’s sort of become a theme tune of mine. It certainly was way back  over 25 years ago when I sent in The Chalk Line to M&B  and  put my courage on the line and risked another rejection.  26+ years later I still feel I’m doing that with every  manuscript I submit. I may sometimes end up, like that ram, with a bit of a sore head, but  I have this stubborn determination that I keep on butting that dam  then “Oops there goes a billion kilowatt dam.”

So to return to the New Voices Contest  - those 21 writers have achieved a lot -  but they aren’t yet  winners. The winners are the ones who get their books finished, whether through a contest or  ‘the slush pile’  - and revise it, and revise it again if necessary –  until it’s accepted and they see it on a bookshop shelf and on Amazon – and  then they really are a winner. And no one will care if the book won a contest or came up through the ranks if it’s a great read.

So are you going to  give up now – or are you going to become one stubborn determined ram and keep on butting your head against the dam?   It’s the only way.

I’ll admit something now  - I’ve never won a contest in my life. But last year I did have the amazing feeling of seeing my book The Konstantos Marriage Demand  chosen as Best Presents Extra by Romantic Times.   So – to encourage you not to give up  and I hope inspire you to keep going  - I have a signed copy of  The Konstantos Marriage Demand to give away  to someone who posts a comment to this post today. Tell me what you’re writing,   what you plan to do now  - no moaning about not finaling  in the New Voices allowed -  the disappointment should have turned to iron in  your spine now – it’s onward and, I hope, upward . As I keep saying ,  nothing I do can guarantee that you’ll be published – but there is one thing that will guarantee that you’ll never succeed and the only person who can do that to yourself is you – by giving in. 
So any time you’re feelin’ bad
’stead of feelin’ sad
Just remember that ram

Oops there goes a billion kilowatt dam


Kate's book, The Return of the Stranger is available now  in Presents EXTRA on  and Mills & Boon Sexy in Australia. 
You can read all her most up to date news on her web site and her blog

Charlie took some finding - but eventually he came in and  his winner - well, there are 2 winners because Flora came along and helped to pick too  - so the winners are:
ALISON
and ROANNE 
Have won copies of The Konstantos Marriage Demand - please email me your postal address to kate AT kate-walker.com and I'll get the book in the post

33 comments:

  1. Well said! I have one monster of a headache and felt close to giving up but I seem to be the stubborn type :-)

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  2. This was a great post to read. Another reason to be a reader, not a writer.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  3. Great advice Kate! I'm not even close to giving up. In fact, I'm writing more than ever at the moment :)

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  4. I'm going to do what a very wise woman advised me to do. Keep it simple and dig deep!

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  5. Hi Biddy! I sometimes feel as if I always have a monster of a headache - of the dam butting ram type but the great ting is that it's really nice when it stops - when you get a book accepted and you can actually stop for a while! And you are so close to being deflowered as a non-published virgin that you have to keep going - keep being stubborn!

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  6. Marybelle - I'm glad you enjoyed the post and sometimes I really envy my readers who get to read the boks without the worry about getting them written/revised/accpeted. Thank you for being one of my faithful readers.

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  7. Hi Alison - I was so glad to read your comment - great to hear that you're writing more than ever. Keeping on keeping on is the only way to get there in the end - in fact i should be keeping on writing right now!

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  8. Hello Melanie! Now I wonder who that wise woman was! Mind you if you hard it from me then I ws actually quoting fabulous Tessa Shapcott M&B Executive Editor - she was the first to say 'Keep it simple, dig deep' and I alway always keep her words in mind when writing. Nothing but nothing guarantees emotional intensity like that approach.

    Good luck!

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  9. 'Next time you find, with your chin to the ground
    There's a lot to be learned, so look around... '

    ...to find encouragement and motivational words from Kate! I'm all fired up now - determination and a positive outlook will lead to success :0)

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  10. Thank you for this post, Kate. Determination and persistance, a stubborn refusal to give up, finally saw me seeing success. My debut novel was published earlier this month and, as great as that may be, I still dream of writing for H,M&B one day.
    Lorraine Nelson

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  11. Yes, great post Kate. I had entered the New Voices comp and unfortunately didn't get into the second round. I'm disappointed but glad for the feedback and will be writing the full story on my blog, so it can't be half bad. :)

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  12. Hi Kate, I'll second what Roanne has said - no second round for me, but the feedback was great. Someone I used to work for loved the saying 'all grist to the mill' and I think that applies with New Voices - a great (and profitable) experience. Don't put me in the draw as I have recently won a signed copy of one of your books and I don't want to be greedy. Have to say I loved 'The Konstantos Marriage Demand' and can see why it was chosen as Best Presents Extra. Hope no-one is kicking the cat! Mine, Saffy, has just demonstrated what she thinks of my writing by burrowing under the latest chapter I had printed off and depositing it on the floor! She was SO sure there was something more interesting under there.

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  13. As a reader I am amazed that there were 1088 entries. Just putting your work out there is one step that I'll never take. For the 1067 not chosen, everyone of you should think you were next in line and get down to it. Readers need stories to stay readers. Way to go everyone!

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  14. Hi Lesley

    I'm thrilled that I got you 'all fired up' - now I hope you go for it. It's a sad fact that rejction is a common part of an author's life and we can either learn to deal with it or we might as well stop now. If you do achieve any success please let me know

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  15. Hello Lorraine - and congratulations on the publication of your debut novels - determination and persistence keep you going and trying - and clearlythis has resulted in your success. So keep on keeping on and hopefully one day that other dream will come true

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  16. HI Roanne - so many people didn't get into the second round but if you keep on writing - on your blog or wherever then that - plus the feedback - can only help you to keep on improving and I hope one day you'll get there. Good luck!

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  17. Hi Suaie - everyuone's name goes into the draw but thgank you for saying you already won a prize. Thank you too for saying how much you enjoyed The Konstantos Marriage Demand - the honest truth is that knowing readers loved it means every bit as much (if not more) as that Best Presents Extra. Reviews etc are usually only one person's opinion - but sales come from a lot more people!

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  18. PS - Susie - I forgot to say that Saffy was probably settling down for s good read of your manuscript. My cats always used to sit on top of my typescripts before I sent them in by email and I used to have to tell my editor thsat if they found some muddy smudges on the pages it was the cats' fault!

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  19. Kaelee - you ake some very true comments - just putting your work out on the New Voices site is a huge step - like throwing your baby to the wolves. I'm not sure that I would ever have had the nerve to do it before I was published. And it is so so true that readers need stories to stay readers - even if all 21 of the NV finalists got published there would still be demand for more - so keep writing everyone!

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  20. Great post, Kate! Inspirational as always.

    Chris.

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  21. What an amazing post. Kate I have to say thank you for the many hours of reading pleasure ;o) your books are so great, I have started collecting your books and have already many on my shelf. Look forward to many others!

    For all the inspiring writers out there, best of success and thank you.

    Rita from South Africa

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  22. Hi Chris and thank you - thank you too for your personal note this week. I'm amazed to be called inspirational, but I do hope that I can help encourage people to try - and try again

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  23. Hello Rita - lovely to see you. I'm honoured that you are collecting my books - I just saw on my blog that you have found The Chalk Line - that's amazing! I'm intrigued now to know how many of my titles you have found. Thank YOU for being such a loyal readxer - I hope you continue to enjoy my novels in the future

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  24. Thank you for another great post, you truly make people feel better with what you say. I always feel encouraged with your posts. I am going to finish The Mill Owners Revenge and if that does not see the light of day then I will write more and keep going until i succeed and I'm hoping with the critique group i have now found and the advice I have received then I will get a book out there one day. And sit and re read your Straightforward Guide to Writing Romantic Fiction and 12 Point Guide. xx

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  25. Thanks Kate for more inspiring words. I wasn't holding my breath for making the top 20 and I wasn't upset when I didnt but what surprised me was the lost feeling I got once I posted my entry. I knew I had to keep writing and had already done chapter two but I felt stuck as if there was a pane of glass between me and my computor. Seriously weird. I guess in my mind all I was concentrating on was those two chapters. The fix it I devised is this, I seriously need to set up a blog so my plan this weekend is to do that and then hunker down in front of the story and get it finished. I know I can do it, I already have two books sitting in M&B slush piles so there is no excuse. It will be done.

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  26. Hi Kate,

    Love the great advice you have given to all the aspiring authors but i am so glad that i'm a reader and not a writer. I personally don't think i could have handled the stress.

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  27. Hello Charl - it makes me feel good to know that I make people feel beter. I could never promise you'll make it to publication - I just know you'll never succeed if you defeat yourself. I hope that what youi've learned, the critique group - and that couple of bokos! - will help you improve your writign each time you try

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  28. Hi Ann I think yo've put your finger on something that always bothers me about this sort of 'First Chapter' contest - I can se it's a good way of judging writing, character, voice etc - but I do worry that sometimes people spend so much time making sure they have the 'perfect' first chapter that they forget it needs to be the first chapter of a full story - I don't think I would ever win a contest like this because my first chapters are always the beginning of a story and so they are perhaps more unfinished in many ways - so I hope that pane of glass goes away and you can get on with telling your characters story. Good luck with it!

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  29. Hi Sonali - as I've said before - I'm always glad that there are so many reders who just want to read! Where would we authors be without you - thank you

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  30. I need to go and find Charlie to pick a winner - he's run off into the garden so it may be a whbile - but just in case anyone who entered the New Voices Contest ever wants to come on one of my workshops or course - do keep an eye on the Events Page on my web site so you can see what's coming up. On my blog on Monday I'll have news about one of those courses and how you can make a great 'Early Bird' saving.

    Rihgt - Charlie! Time to pickj a winner!

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  31. Thanks for the wonderful advice and pick-me-up, inspirational post, Kate!

    What would we readers do if aspiring writers give up?

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  32. Riya - you are so right! I know I'm a writer too but as a reader there are so many authors I've discovered as new writers that it would have been a tragedy to miss them out. I always enjoy readign the newest books by the newest writers and finding out if they are an author I want to stick with and follow

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  33. Charlie took some finding - but eventually he came in and his winner - well, there are 2 winners because Flora came along and helped to pick too - so the winners are:

    ALISON
    and ROANNE

    Have won copies of The Konstantos Marriage Deamnd - please email me your postal address to kate AT kate-walker.com and I'll get the book in the post

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