After writing ten Medical Romances for Mills & Boon, I made a shift to a straight contemporary line within Harlequin. My debut Special Edition, Courting His Favorite Nurse, is out this month and as you can imagine, I’m very excited. Writing for the new line has been a learning curve, one that I enjoyed, and one that, surprisingly, taught me to be a better medical romance writer as well as offering more experience with straight contemporary romance. The difference between Medical Romance and Special Edition is subtle, but important.
One of the most helpful online courses I ever took was author Kristin Hardy’s class on Developing Shared Character Series. She also offered guidance on writing the series proposal, which was fantastic. I followed her lead and submitted my trilogy proposal, an overview of the three stories, three chapters of the first book, plus a synopsis for each book in the series. In the overview, I submitted a page setting up where the story would take place, and who the family characters were, where in the family they fit, and a thumbnail on their GMC and particular issues with which they would deal.
Though I did not sell the trilogy I proposed, I got my foot in the door at SE with Anne’s book, and have now completed and sold the second story in this family trilogy, Lucas, with fingers strongly crossed for the third, baby of the family Lark.
Comparing the lines and guidelines
Guidelines: “Medical Romance is first and foremost about thrilling romance. Our stories can be intensely passionate, sexy and sassy, or warm and tender; but we're ultimately looking for a range of emotionally intense reads. From innovative emotional concepts that are developed in unique, unpredictable ways to experimentation with format and structure, innovation is encouraged. Synergies with contemporary medical TV drama are also always welcome. Above all, they're a big read in a small book—so go to town on the heart-stopping drama and the emotional rollercoaster of finding love in a medical environment!” Word count: 50K
Guidelines: “Sophisticated, substantial and packed with emotion, Special Edition demands writers eager to probe characters deeply, to explore issues that heighten the drama of living and loving, to create compelling romantic plots. Whether the sensuality is sizzling or subtle, whether the plot is wildly innovative or satisfyingly traditional, the novel's emotional vividness, its depth and dimension, should clearly label it a very special contemporary romance. Subplots are welcome, but must further or parallel the developing romantic relationship in a meaningful way.” Word count: 55-60K
How I learned to change
I found out that using my tried and true dark and dramatic approach with Medical Romance for a Special Edition story didn’t work. The first thing I was asked to do was tone down the drama. Conflict is key with all romance books, but in Medical Romance dark drama rules the day. For once I got to lighten the mood of my story!
Example of what I did wrong:
In my original SE proposal, I had the parents severely injured in a deadly train wreck (We’ve had a couple of those in
in the last few years, so this wasn’t out of the blue of my imagination). Mr. Grady (the patriarch of the family) loses
his leg from the knee down, and Mrs. Grady breaks her leg, then falls at home
and breaks her arm, thus the need to bring their children home, one-by-one, to
help them recover. This is high medical drama, and where this would work for
Medical Romance, it wasn’t what Special Edition was looking for. Los Angeles
How I fixed it
Mr. and Mrs. Grady were out for a Sunday afternoon motorcycle ride when they had an accident where he breaks his leg and she breaks her arm. Though it was still a bad accident, it set the tone for them being young at heart and carefree by taking Sunday spins on his Harley. Now they were dependent on their kids to come home and help them heal. There was light at the end of the tunnel, not loss of limb trauma/drama.
Different settings for these Harlequin Lines
Whereas Medical Romance may be set in the Hospital, an emergency department, a community clinic, home health travelers, or search and rescue, the medical aspect becomes a secondary character. The hero and heroine are medical professionals, devoted to their jobs, everything revolves around medicine.
Special Edition likes families and small communities, but also likes big city stories and even a touch of the fantastical. Whereas my lead character in Courting His Favorite Nurse is an RN, (I love to write nurse protagonists!) her job is not at the heart of the story. This book centers on Whispering Oaks, the community where the three siblings grew up, the stories of their lives and how it affects them now as grown-ups. The extra word count allows the author to expand a bit more on setting and secondary characters, though, as always, the focus is strictly on the budding romance. I am so used to writing short and tight that reaching the word count for SE has been a challenge.
What these Harlequin Lines have in common
Romance! Emotion! Conflict! Happy ever afters!
Visit Lynne Marshall's website www.lynnemarshall.com to learn more about her books. Her eleventh Medical will be out in July 2012 and Courting His Favourite Nurse is out this month wherever good books and ebooks are sold.