What are you looking for?
That’s a question I hear a great deal in my role as managing editor of the historical division. Well the truth is pretty simple. We’re looking for a well written romance set against an historical back drop with historically accurate details, a compelling conflict, and a satisfying happily ever after ending.
Usually that answer causes some glazing over of eyes. Well of course we’re looking for all that, and the historical details aside, that’s pretty much what TWRP is looking for overall. So allow me to answer a slightly different version of that question.
What aren’t you looking for?
I’m so glad you asked! J
While we never like to say never, there are some plots that are always popular (marriage of convenience, best friends falling in love) and others that have been “done” so much that readers (and, admittedly, editors) tire of them.
Heroine in disguise. It’s been said that more than 100 women donned uniforms and marched off to fight during the Civil War… we’ve seen submissions for each and every one of them L . It’s not that we haven’t published some of these stories with great success and it’s not that we don’t enjoy or appreciate them, but they’re difficult to make work no matter the genre. Yes some big name authors have used this plot device many times over but I’d advise anyone interested in submitting such a story to one of our historical lines to please, please make sure you’ve found a fresh, unique approach to telling it. We’re pretty tired of the same twists that particular plot entails.
The female doctor. Again, we’ve published a lot of these. And again, history tells us there were not a lot of female doctors until the mid 20th century. In the US, nursing as a profession wasn’t even thought of until mid-Civil War, so it’s understandable that authors are drawn to this plot device to show caring, nurturing heroines. But we see queries almost daily where the heroine wants to buck the constraints of society by becoming a physician. I’d like to challenge our authors to find another way to show how strong and brave your heroine’s are. She can still be a healer and she can still help others... but unless you’ve come up with something truly unique and new….this one has been done to death.
Weak conflict. We say this all the time, but it really is what makes the difference between a great read and a mediocre one. If your hero and heroine’s conflict can be resolved with a simple conversation “by the way, I gave birth to your child five years ago” or “I didn’t really sleep with Peggy Sue” then you have weak conflict. Give me external reasons to keep these two apart as well as internal. Maybe she can never love a gunfighter, maybe he’s got a death sentence hanging over his head. Keep me turning those pages to find out how they’re going to work things out and stay together.
It’s a miracle! Speaking of conflict resolution…If your heroine can’t have children and refuses to marry the hero because he wants a large family, don’t have her miraculously turn up pregnant on page 351. If the hero is dead set against marriage and children because his last wife died in childbirth and he blames himself , don’t have him change his mind out of the blue on the second to last page without some life altering event to explain the change of heart. We all love happy endings but please make them satisfying. And if you have kept the reader guessing for 350 pages, don’t insult her intelligence by eliminating the conflict just because you’re closing in on 90k words and want to wrap things up.
The first draft. If your writing is full of passive voice, telling rather than showing, abrupt PV shifts and talking heads (dialogue with no layers of detail, emotion and/or setting), brush up on your mechanics before submitting. We know how excited you are to have finished your baby, but the time to polish is before submitting . Don’t make the mistake of thinking the editors will tell you what you need to work on; that’s what critique partners are for. We see such a high volume of submissions and can only publish the cream of the crop. You’ll drastically increase your chances if you submit a highly polished MS. Remember, there is no such thing as good writing…. only good rewriting!
And last but not least….
I have no clue, I just submitted my story to a bunch of places. It is a waste of both author and editor time when we receive a submission that doesn’t fall within our guidelines. If you don’t know whether or not your story fits the romance mold, find out before submitting. And if you aren’t sure what the word count limit is for the line you’re targeting, please double check. If you’re over word count, the time to trim is before you submit. I can assure you that the editor will not read your entire 150k MS and tell you what scenes to cut. Instead you will receive a friendly note suggesting you trim and resubmit.
So let me reiterate that we’re looking for well written, historically accurate romance… but there are a few plot twists we’ve seen a little too much of lately. Short stories are a hot with readers right now (have you heard about our new Love Letters series? See below for the guidelines) and holiday themed stories rae always a treat since we see so few.
Wishing you all an enjoyable holiday season and lots of writing time in the new year!
News of an arranged marriage
Dear John letters
Mail order bride
Death of a loved one
We regret to inform you
Sometimes… a letter changes everything.
In the historical series Love Letters a character’s life is forever changed by the receipt of a letter, Let your imagination run wild as you consider what life-altering news would be in your hero or heroine’s envelope and how it would lead to the love of a lifetime.
Stories must be historically accurate and suited to one of the following lines: American Rose, Cactus Rose, English Tea Rose, Vintage Rose. Story length should range between 20,000-25,000 words. The letter must occur within the first three pages of the story.
Please follow the general submission guidelines on the website for formatting and submit through the firstname.lastname@example.org. “Love Letters Series” should appear in the subject line, as well as your title.