GUEST BLOG: LILY HARLEM

How I got started writing and advice for aspiring writers

People often ask writers how they started. Well I can only answer by telling them how it happened for me. I’ve always enjoyed reading – especially romance with the door left open – and when I found myself living in a new area, with no friends and no job I realised the time was right to write!!

I checked out the local University and took a part time course in creative writing. Soaked up every bit of feedback and advice my wonderfully talented teacher gave me and then I was off…

I wrote and wrote and wrote, and when I had more words than I knew what to do with I started sending them off to publishers and editors who advertised on ERWA (Erotica Reader and Writer Association at www.erotica-readers.com ). It’s a great site and they always have a ton of requests for long and short stories in all erotic romance genres, some pay, some just get you a foot on the ladder. The website also has a host of information about reading and writing steamy stuff!

I went with royalty paying publishers, ones who would edit my book and give it an ISBN number, and also ones who’d expressed an interest in the themes and lengths of stories I’d written. No point sending an epic historical romance to a house that’s asked for short snappy space sex! I got lucky on a few short stories which went straight to print in anthologies and then longer ones were accepted by Ellora’s Cave, Total-e-Bound and Xcite. The result, as you can see from my website, is a cacophony of publishers and editors for both my long and short stories, all of whom I adore working with.

New authors should also try competitions – some are advertised on ERWA. My first big success was a contest hosted by ‘Love Honey Vulgari’in 2009. It was the first time I’d attempted writing something truly steamy and ‘Madam President’ won first place! (Read it for free by following the book link at www.lovehoney.com ) I couldn’t believe it, not only did it pay handsomely it also boosted my confidence and profile to suddenly be an ‘award winning author.’ So go for the comps but don’t be disheartened if they’re judged on public vote, many people enter and have a data base of thousands to vote for them whether the story is any good or not. Better to have a panel of judges or better still, a publisher give your book the thumbs up.

If you can find a crit partner to read your stuff before you send it off then all the better. When looking for a crit partner you need to find someone who already has an interest in the genre, someone who can pick out writing hiccups in the middle of a ten people orgy laced with whipped cream and strawberries and not be so shocked and stunned by the content that they miss the fact you’ve given one person three arms and someone else two tongues! I have a crit partner and she’s awesome and way ahead of me in the erotic romance game. I admire and trust her and I’m always very excited to receive her comments. We have the same editor, who introduced us, which helps us to be consistent in the house style. I love the fact that she’s so honest with me. If it’s good she tells me, if it’s not she tells me too.

But if you send that perfectly polished manuscript off and it gets rejected – don’t worry. What author hasn’t had rejection letters? Or these days, rejection emails. Just delete and focus on the positive. It’s hard sometimes, and as you go about your daily routine you find yourself sighing in frustration, but when the positive begins to out-way the negative life sure feels great. Just to get loads of stuff out there, that way you’re bound to find someone who likes something. As for the information in a rejection letter, nine out of ten times there is no explanation, but if there is, for example ‘we like your style but we’re looking for M/M stories at the moments’, then it’s well worth having a bash at M/M and sending your new submission to whoever sent the rejection letter. If they like your voice they’ll want to hear it again.

Here are a few other tips I stick to when doing the actual writing, maybe I’m a bit kooky but this is what works for me…

~~When writing dialogue just go for it, let it flow out of your fingers as fast as you would speak. Don’t even think about speech marks and punctuation, or if he is scratching his head and she’s licking her lips, you can add all that in afterwards – dialogue moves the story forward and if you can get it flowing naturally then you’re onto a winner.

~~Don’t get bogged down with adverbs, eg. he groaned ‘loudly’, she panted ‘heavily’, it’s considered much less lazy to write ‘his groans were loud in her ear’ or ‘her heavy pants filled the small space’. There’s usually a way to describe your scene better if you circle around the adverb and it will make the story meatier.

~~Let a story brew in your head. Have the idea, jot it down if you need to, and then sit quietly and play out the scenes like watching a film in your imagination. It will give you a clear picture of what you want to achieve in your writing and help you with the tiny details.

~~If the house is quiet make the most of the peace and get busy getting those words down. You can iron and dust and cook with everyone around chattering and demanding help with homework and lifts to friends and clubs. Writing, for me at least, requires silence, so silence has become a very valuable commodity in my life.

~~Incubate the final product. When it’s written tuck it aside, for a few days, longer if you can, then go back to it. I can guarantee you’ll spot silly mistakes, inconsistencies or simply find better word choices to slot in. There’s nothing worse than sending a manuscript off and then on a re-read seeing stupid errors. In fact now, when something has gone I refuse to look at it again unless it’s with an editor.

~~Start off with shorter stories, maybe just one scene, (but give the characters a background and a way to step into the future,) then if you don’t quite hit the mark you’ve not wasted 50,000 words plus.

I can only recommend doing it my way because it’s what I know and it worked for me. Get the brain cells into gear at a locally run or on-line course and then when you’ve grasped the basics of creative writing just get it down. Write and write and write. First attempts will make you cringe in later years but you have to start somewhere. Try offering free stories too; it lets readers hear your voice, and the time it takes you to write them will be worth it. I’ve got two free stories coming out.’ Stockholm Seduction’ with Ellora’s Cave and ‘Unhealthy Obsession’ at Total-E-Bound. I hope you’ll check them out and when the house is quiet get your creative juices flowing and have a bash at writing in this fabulous genre.

Good luck and happy writing

Lily x

Lily Harlem lives in the UK and when she isn’t chasing her workaholic man around she is sitting at her desk letting her imagination run wild!!

Lily’s stories are made up of colourful characters travelling on everyone’s favourite journey, falling in love. If the story isn’t romantic, sexy and exciting, it won’t be written, at least not by this author.

Comments

  1. Great post Lily and wonderful advice. 🙂

  2. A very informative and helpful post, Lily.
    Sarah

  3. Hey, Lily – good for you for pursuing your dream and getting pubbed!

  4. Hi Lovely Lily!

    I had a giggle about sending off books then seeing inconsistencies afterward. I did that recently. A bit of a head-desk moment.

    And all I can say to that fit of stupidity in sending it off too soon is, in true Brit style, blimey. (LMAO!)

  5. Great advice for new writers, Lily 🙂 And I’ve done the same thing–sent off a manuscript too soon, lol.

  6. Really good advice all around, Lily. I have a stack of rejection letters that I could paper my bathroom with! But I persevered and got published. As my husband says, not everyone is going to like what I write. The trick is to find the readers who do!

  7. Great post Lily! I used to have QUITE the adverb habit…LOL.

  8. great advice, Lily!

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