As I'm sure you're all very well aware by now, the fabulous New Voices — aka The Mills and Boon X-Factor — has launched over on www.romanceisnotdead.com. I spent a very nice afternoon on Sunday browsing through some of the 144 entries already loaded and left fairly detailed comments on a couple which I particularly enjoyed reading. Once again I'm an author mentor for the second round — along with 19 other fab authors such as Abby Green, Natalie Anderson, Liz Fielding, Donna Alward and Fiona Harper — but at this stage I think it's really invaluable for people to get commenting and if you're a new writer, to take the time to read some of the entries (and the comments) as well as your own.
But I do have a little bit of advice... So here are:
Heidi's Top Tips on the Pollyanna Approach to Commentary:
For Commentators: Be Nice. Be Constructive. And Say It Gently!
A constructive comment is an invaluable thing but a comment that just says: 'Your hero's a complete tosser!' or 'Your premise is ridiculous' doesn't actually help anyone. It may be your opinion and that's always valid, but think about why you didn't like the hero, what was it about him that turned you off. And can you think of anything that may have helped to turn you on to him again. If you're a writer yourself, it can be helpful in your own writing to think about how you would revise or edit another's story. And last but not least, be gentle, because us creative types have fragile egos... It's a huge step putting your work out there and many people will be doing it for the first time. We've all been there, so we all know how it feels if someone is unnecessarily harsh or abrupt. And if there's absolutely nothing you liked about an entry, I'm not sure I'd comment at all.
For Commentees (is that a word??): Value Criticism. But Don't Take It Personally.
As writers whether we're published or unpublished we all have to learn to take criticism of our work and use it constructively, because we're writing these stories for readers as well as ourselves. And great writing is about writing and then rewriting and then rewriting some more and.... Well, you get the picture. The opportunity to get constructive feedback from people who read romance is the real reward of this competition so make the most of it. That said, feel free to ignore comments that aren't helpful or suggestions that you know won't work for your story (this is after all your story and your characters and you know them best) but remember, if a lot of commentators are basically saying the same thing it is probably something you want to look at. And last but not least, whatever anyone says don't take it personally!! Some very nice person who had taken the trouble to read my book and write about it on Goodreads told me she thought it was 'morally repugnant' (and several other not entirely complementary things besides) but I pasted my best Pollyanna grin on my face and figured.. Ok, she didn't like it but at least she told me why in exhaustive detail (and I certainly hope she doesn't take the trouble to read any more of my books!). So if I can do it, so can you!
As part of my Mentoring Duties I'm going to be doing a New Voices Workshop at Mayfair Library tonight at 6.30pm... And I'll be reporting back on it here tomorrow for all those who can't attend.
But until then to all the entrants and commentators.. Keep writing, keep commentating and let's make this competition a positive experience for everyone!
PS: I have rather arbitrarily illustrated this post with a photo from my recent photoshoot with the wonderful photographer Anne Mortensen.. What d'you think??? I'm so chuffed, I think she's made me look like a proper romance novelist - and captured my best Pollyanna smile!