Monday, August 15, 2011

Michelle Styles's tips for the New Voices 2011 competition

The Mills and Boon New Voices 2011 Competition really gets  under way next month on 13 September when unpublished authors can start uploading their first  chapter. You can find out more about this brilliant completion at The winner will have her book published in a Mills and Boon series and gets a Mills and Boon editor for a year. And entry is free!

To help get people going with their entry, I thought I’d give a few tips.

1.       Do your research. Decide which series you are targeting and read a few of the debut authors as well as reading guidelines and listening to podcast.  Know the promise each series makes to the reader. Think about what themes you like to write about. Which series can you see yourself writing forty books for?

2.       Make sure you have sustainability. Even though the contest only requires the first chapter, try to write a complete draft or at least a partial. Many times my first chapters change after I have finished the book.  You don’t want to suffer from first chapter contest syndrome and remember you can submit the manuscript through normal channels afterwards. Yoiu want well developed characters rather than cardboard cutouts moving through plot points.

3.       Series books are short and don’t have much room for subplots. Make sure the meet between the hero and heroine (the incident which causes their world to change) takes place in the first chapter. Don’t go for a long set up. Hook the reader with the premise. Make her want to turn the pages and find what is going to happen next to this couple.

4.       Keep your chapter focused on the hero and heroine, rather than adding lots of secondary characters. The reader wants to know who to root for! Everything starts with strong  main characters. Make sure they shine in the first chapter.

5.       Make sure your heroine is empathetic  and the reader wants to spend time with her.  Give the reader a reason to identify with her the very first time she appears.

6.       Make sure the reader will fall in love with your hero instantly. It might take the heroine a bit longer BUT the reader does have to think yum rather than yuck. If your hero needs to be redeemed, show that he is capable of redemption.  Think Richard Armitage in North and South. The first time the heroine sees him, he is beating someone up. But  the viewer knows he is doing it because that man’s smoking amongst the cotton bales endangered the entire factory.

7.       Above all remember they are looking for a NEW author rather than a carbon copy of an existing author.  Work with your voice. Create the sort of characters you love rather than trying to create characters you think the editors want.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin and Mills and Boon. She writes in a wide variety of time periods including ancient Rome, Viking, Regency and Victorian. Her latest book To Marry A Matchmaker was published in the UK in July 2011 You can read more about her books on
You can also find her on twitter @MichelleLStyles


Writer Pat Newcombe said...

Brillian tips, Michelle. Good luck with all your books.

Mel Jolley said...

Thanks, very helpful tips Michelle. Now I must go edit that first chapter lol.

Okay my verification word for this comment is 'hornie'! Hmm ;-)

Michelle Styles said...

I am glad you both found them useful!
One other thing you might want to think about is the backstory wound for each character and how the scars from that effect their behaviour at the beginning. The story will be about how the growth of the emotional relationship heals those wounds. the healing is another way of explaining the character arc.

Pat Cochran said...

OOPs, my comment disappeared! Trying again!

(not an author, just a reader!)

Thanks to Mills & Boon for offering
this opportunity to unpubbed authors
and to you for offering these good
suggestions to these authors!

Michele L. said...

Very nicely done Michelle! I am just a reader of books but what a great set of tips for someone who writes.

Love your books by the way!
All the best and have a great week!

Michelle Styles said...

Pat and Michele L I am pleased as readers that you all found the tips useful.

It is a good contest that Mills and Boon do. I know that it has inspired several people to become serious about their writing.

And thank you Michele L for sayign you like my books. It means a lot. I am in the midst of polishing the latest ms.