Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Writer's Wednesday: Making the Shift from Medical to Special Edition

Medical and now Special Edition author Lynne Marshall gives the low down on how to shift gears and lines!
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



Medical Romance: 

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





Special Edition: 

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 Los Angeles 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.



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.




36 comments:

  1. Wow, Lynne - what an awesome post! You make the differences between the lines very clear. Thank you so much for sharing about your trilogy submission, too. Fabulous information that every writer should have in her arsenal!

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    1. Hi Christine! I believe in clarity, and I'm glad to know I achieved that today in the blog. It was a definite learning curve for me, and I'm glad to share my discoveries!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

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  2. I concur with Christine. What a great post and the differences between the two lines is now so much clearer. I need to go find a class like Kristin Hardy's.

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    1. Hi Maria!
      I was really lucky/happy to take Kristin's online class at the perfect time. She helped me get the proposal right, and though the outcome wasn't ideal (a three book contract!) I got to write a Special Edition book. Yay! And now I've gotten to write the second book. Double Yay!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting on the blog.

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  3. Yes, I agree with Christine. Fabulous information. I know I've found the transition from Medical to RIVA/Presents more difficult than I thought so its nice to read someone else's journey to another line!

    Cant wait to read it!

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    1. Hi Amy! They really are two different beasts (whichever lines we branch out to within Harlequin Mills & Boon) and it behoove (I've always wanted to use that word!) the author to study and notice the differences between the lines. I was so thankful that SE gave me a chance when I clearly didn't get the proposal right.
      I love your high heat level Medicals Amy - now I must read your RIVA!

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  4. This is great information. Thanks for sharing. And yes, you do write tight. I've always loved the depth of emotion you bring to a shorter story such as a medical romance. That said, I'm enjoying reading CHFN and the way you're allowing the romance to unfold, and bringing in your secondary characters but not letting them overshadow.

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    1. Hi Robena!
      I could have easily gotten carried away with the secondary characters in CHFN, because I fell in love with Kieran and Beverly - the parents. I had a good chuckle when my editor wrote in the margin - TMI - regarding Kieran and Beverly's passion for each other. I had to tone that part down, but you know how I love to write mature love stories too!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

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  5. Lynne, great examples of what you did to fix these stories. What you're saying is that if you had had that tragic car accident, that would have overshadowed the romance? Thanks for sharing your expertise. You really are getting the hang of this... you know... Target and all ;) Wonderful job!

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    1. Hi Donnell - what I'm trying to point out is the SE line is open to drama but not super dark drama. There simply wasn't a need to amputate a leg! LOL (sorry if that sounds unsympathetic)

      I'm trying to point out a subtle difference in tone. Losing a leg might have overshadowed the love story, and since the characters weren't both medical professionals functioning in their jobs, it was over the top for SE.

      Thanks so much for reading and Congratulations for finaling in the Gayle Wilson contest in the Romantic Suspence category with The Past Came Hunting. :)

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  6. Lynne,

    Great post on showing the distinctions between lines. And congrats to you for successfully making that leap! Courting His Favorite Nurse is a great book filled with wonderful emotion and a beautiful romance! Congrats on a job (book!) well done!

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    1. Thank you, Dee J! Have I told you lately that I love you? (to quote Van Morrison, my favorite sixties singer)

      Dee J was my CP for the book, so she should know.

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  7. Congratulations on your SE sale and may there be many more!

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    1. Dear Fi - from your lips to God's ears! :)

      Thank you.

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  8. Congrats on making the successful leap! I read it here--there will be a story for Lucas. Dare I hope for a Lark story, too?

    Nancy aka sheandeen

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  9. Hi Lynne - I've read several of your Medicals and loved them and I'm so looking forward to Courting His Favourite Nurse. Congratulations of your Special Edition release. Great post.

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    1. Hi Helen!
      I am so honored to know you've read my books. thank you. I hope I don't let you down with my SE debut, and also congratulations on your Special Edition - Made for Marriage!

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  10. Hi Nancy!

    Oh, I hope I'll get to write Lark's story, too. I am going over that part of the proposal with a fine tooth comb to submit yet again! Keep fingers crossed for me, okay?

    Thanks so much for reading and posting.

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  11. Great explanations, Lynne. I'm looking forward to reading your Special Edition!

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    1. Hi Cynthia!
      I was trying to explain my personal experience, and if it was helpful I'm glad. I hope you enjoy Courting His Favorite Nurse!

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  12. Hi Lynne! Congratulations on your successful transition! Thanks for the kristin Hardy tip, too, I'll look out for her online classes. Can't wait to read CHFN!

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  13. Hi Louisa!
    Honestly, I don't take anything for granted, but I wanted to help clarify the difference between the two lines. I'm sure another SE author could explain the line better. Yes! If you can take any online classes relating to multiple character/book proposals, I'd say do it. It really gave me a clear understanding of what I needed to do to present my story to the new editors. I hope you enjoy CHFN! I love my RN heroines. :)

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  14. What a great post Lynne! Have your book and just about to start reading it, really looking forward to it!

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    1. Hi Scarlet! Thanks so much. :) Now I'm nervous about all you wonderful authors reading it. Also, I see you've stepped up to be an editor for this lovely PHS blog. Good for you! thanks.

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  15. Hi Lynne,

    Lot of information on this post on how you made the transition. Thanks for sharing!

    All the best and wishing you mega sales success!

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    1. Hi Nas!
      I hope the information was helpful for someone out there. I feel very lucky to be a part of both lines and look forward to writing many more books for them.
      And thank you for your wishes of success. I hope I do too!
      hugs for all of your help,
      Lynne

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  16. Interesting about the lighter tone. Can hardly wait to read this one, Lynne!

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    1. Hi Connie!
      Yeah, I immediately understood where I'd gone wrong for SE - I really had approached it in the Medical Romance frame of mind.

      Of course, this is my experience only, so all sizes may not fit others.

      I can't wait for you to read my book, either! LOL

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  17. Great post, Lynne! Lots of helpful information for the future!!!

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    1. HI Wendy!
      I love to be helpful for fellow authors. But really, that online class about writing the multiple character series came at the absolute perfect time for me and I learned a great deal - especially how to conquer the trilogy proposal (though it could be applied to however many books the author hoped to write for the saga) I would suspect each consecutive synopsis would get shorter and shorter - maybe just a paragraph or two?

      I could go on and on talking about this subject!

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  18. Good morning everyone! I'm looking forward to reading more comments today. Bear with me as my computer is acting a bit wonky, though. :(

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  19. Thank you for this wonderful post, Lynne! I love all of your Medicals and I can't wait to read your first SE. Congrats!

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    1. Hi Gina B!
      How lovely for you to stop by. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and thank you for reading my books! I hope you like my SE debut. I love that it is on the shelves in the US!!!

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  20. Lynne, I just love your observation that in a medical romance 'the medical aspect becomes a secondary character.' You know, I'd never thought about it like that, but you are absolutely right. Everything revolves around medicine so much in a medical romance that it does virtually become a secondary character. I'm really looking forward to reading Courting His Favourite Nurse. Having loved your One For the Road, I'm now really interested to read your debut SE!
    Maggie Kingsley

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  21. Hi Maggie!
    What an honor to see you here! I'm happy to know my observation resonated with you. Our Medical Romances are special for that reason. Also, I've come to learn that small town stories are similar in that the setting becomes an honorary character.
    Thanks so much for commenting. Now I'll bite my nails until you've read CHFN. Oh, I should say that it will be released in the UK in a duo with Lillian Darcy for the Cherish line in April. I'm thrilled about that, too.

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  22. I remember this post vividly, but I've no idea why I didn't comment...

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