There are no musts

Thanks everyone for your comments! Using the Random Number Generator, I came up with #6, which is Amber! Amber, you can send your 5 pages to me at Lynn AT LynnRayeHarris DOT com.

Okay, maybe there’s one: Thou shalt not bore thy reader.

Aside from that, all rules are rather like Captain Barbosa’s view of the pirate code: they’re guidelines. Guidelines exist for good reason. They are meant to keep you from making the kind of mistakes that others have made before you. They are a set of guide posts to help you along the way.

But they aren’t set in stone. They can be flouted if you feel the need. (But make sure you know why you need to flout them.)

Why did this post come about? Because yesterday, under the hashtag #pubtips, someone on Twitter said that you must not ever change point of view during a scene because you wouldn’t *ever* sell your book if you did. That’s a pretty intense statement.

And it’s simply not true. Many authors jumped in to say how they’d sold 10, 20, 30 books to their publishers without following that particular “rule.” Now, on the other hand, I think I know what the person who said it meant. She was judging contest entries and POV was all over the place. It was jarring for her.

That is a problem. If you are jarring the reader with your guideline flouting, then maybe you need to take another look at the guideline and try to see why it is one. People don’t make these things up just to give you a hard time. They do exist for a reason.

And maybe you should learn how to control POV with one per scene until you’ve got that down so pat that you can then make deliberate choices on when to exercise the option of switching to another character’s head. Merely a suggestion.

Me, I’m pretty much a purist. I believe, for me, that POV is best done one character and one scene at a time. It’s just the way I roll. I think it makes for a more cohesive story, and for a better bonding experience with the viewpoint character. It’s hard for me to care about someone whose head I leave after a paragraph.

However, even I, the purist, have been known to make a mid-scene switch. I can’t remember which book I first did it in, but it might be my 3rd or 4th. The scene started in one POV. It needed to continue in the other. Usually, I have no problem with a scene break in the middle and then continuing right on. But this time, the scene break was jarring. This time, the scene was so highly charged that the only way to keep the tension up and make the switch was to simply make the switch.

I have, to this day, not gotten ONE piece of mail or one review that claims I did it all wrong, or tells me I’m an idiot who doesn’t know how to write. Not one. Remember that. (And if I get one after this, I’ll know one of you is messing with me.) 😉

Unfortunately, when we are still unpublished, we are searching, searching, searching for what might be holding us back from obtaining the brass ring. It’s really, really hard to take a good look at your work and realize that maybe the problem is your story. So we search for reasons why we were rejected without realizing the story isn’t quite right. Having a story rejected doesn’t make you a bad writer. Not at all!

When I go back and look at some of the things I did before I was published, I see it now. I see what was wrong that I couldn’t see then. Yes, I was a POV purist and yes, my book was written in Courier New 12 point font with exactly 25 lines per page, and yes I kept the backstory to a minimum and didn’t dump it into the first chapter.

But that isn’t always enough! I wrote some technically perfect things. But they are lacking in life and spark. They lack what I’ve learned since, which is that good story is far more than technical perfection. You must know who your characters are and what they want. You must know why not getting what they want is a very bad thing. And you must know why you won’t give them what they want but will make it all work out anyway.

Do not write with rules in mind. Write with the story in mind. Write with the goal of creating something compelling and uniquely yours. Yes, in my line there are a zillion marriages of convenience. Yours won’t be like any of the others because yours will be in your voice. Right? You won’t imitate, and you won’t slavishly follow a set of rules someone gave you.

There is no secret handshake, friends. There is only hard work and growing your craft. You can write your story in Arial or Times New Roman. (It should really still be double spaced when you submit it, but it doesn’t have to be when you’re writing if that’s what you prefer.) You can let Word figure out where to break the page (I do turn off Widows and Orphans, however). You should still put a header up there with your title, name, and the page numbers. Just in case someone prints it out and gets things out of order somehow.

You can change POV in a scene, even multiple times (though I’d be careful — do not jar). You can make your heroine a CEO and your hero a construction worker (though probably not in Presents, I gotta tell you). You can do just about anything so long as you do NOT bore the reader. You don’t have to start your story with dialogue. You don’t even have to have both characters on the first page together. But there are certain conventions in a category romance, and you really should know what they are if that’s what you want to write.

A hero and heroine who don’t meet for 3 chapters just isn’t going to work in a category romance. Though I’ll bet there’s a published author out there who did it so well that she sold the book and never looked back. It’s entirely possible. I still don’t recommend you do it, however. 🙂

Now go forth and write compelling stories with characters readers will care about. If you need to switch POV, switch it. If you need to drop some backstory in, do it. But know WHY you do these things and make sure you couldn’t do them better by doing them another way. Just don’t ever say that you absolutely must do something a certain way or you won’t publish. I can promise you no editor is going to read your story, be super excited by your characters and premise, and then get to a POV change and drop the book in disgust. “Too bad, we would have loved to publish this if only she hadn’t made that switch.” Not gonna happen.

In my March book, Strangers in the Desert, the hero and heroine aren’t in the same room together until page six. There might even be POV changes somewhere in the book, though I can’t remember. And talk about taking the usual theme and twisting it? There’s a secret baby — but it’s the heroine who doesn’t know the baby is hers. You can do anything so long as you motivate it well and tell it compellingly. (This book is an RT Book Reviews Top Pick for March, so something worked!)

Now tell me, what rules have you been told are absolute? I’m going to award a prize to one lucky aspiring author. I will read and critique your first scene, no more than five pages. Simply leave a comment on this post. I don’t ordinarily read uncontracted work, for various reasons, but I really believe in helping people so I’m going to break that rule today. I’ll choose a winner sometime this weekend, and you’ll have 24 hours to submit your pages. Must be a romance, though can be any subgenre. My expertise is category and contemporary, so remember that. 🙂

Let’s talk!

It’s a Bargain!

Good news for readers! Amazon is still selling the Kindle version of The Devil’s Heart for an amazing price: $1.71! If you like bargains, then you should snap this one up. It’s gotten some good reviews — RT Book Reviews gave it 4 Stars and said it had ‘Lots of conflict, hot love scenes, and a satisfying ending’. Readers on Goodreads seem to like the book a lot too.

A diamond, and a deal with the devil…

Francesca D’Oro was just eighteen when darkly sexy Marcos Navarre swept her up the aisle—then fled before the ink on the marriage licence had dried. Marcos might have given Francesca a jewel for her finger, but he stole another: the Devil’s Heart—a dazzling yellow diamond he believed belonged to his family…

Years later Francesca, no longer so youthfully naïve, is determined to reclaim the precious gem! But she’s forgotten that Marcos lives up to the treasure’s name—and dealing with the devil is always dangerous!

$1.71 on Kindle – it’s a bargain! I hope you’ll give it a try, and I hope you’ll let me know what you think. 🙂

As always, thanks for reading my books! Y’all are the reason I keep writing them. 🙂

Working, working, working

I’m still here, though I haven’t posted lately! On deadline, as usual, and writing like crazy to get it all done. Add in an emergency trip to see my father-in-law, who had open heart surgery, and I’m feeling frantic. (FIL is now doing very good, though it was questionable at first.) I have a Readers’ Luncheon coming up in a couple of weeks, and then there’s RWA in New York City — which I am SO looking forward to! My editor will be there, and though I saw her in London in September, it will be nice to see her again. She’s a little bitty cute thing, of course, and I feel huge in comparison. Must get to work on that treadmill again!

I’ve had a fabulous review for The Devil’s Heart that I wanted to share with you! Over at Everyday is the Same, Rebecca says, “So far in this challenge I have only given two books a 5 star rating, well this fabulous book by Lynn Raye Harris has become the third! I was absolutely blown away by it.”

Well, I can tell you that certainly made my day! The Devil’s Heart is still available for order from all the major online retailers and eHarlequin, and you can also get it on your ereader — Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo, etc. There are links on the book page, or you can go to your favorite online store and search. 🙂 And if you give it a try, let me know what you think!

Next month, Behind the Palace Walls hits the stores! This book was originally released in the UK under the title Prince Voronov’s Virgin — so if you’ve been waiting for it, it’s almost here! Though you can order it now from eHarlequin and they will ship it to you without the wait. 🙂

And that ends the book commercial! :mrgreen:

I’m currently working on a sequel to my most recent UK release, Strangers in the Desert. It features a hot sheikh. I love hot sheikhs. I’ve left Sheikh Malik and his heroine in the desert, so must get back to work and see what they’re up to today. I hope it’s something fun. 😉

(Oh, just discovered these blog widgets! Aren’t they cool?)

Blog Widget

Blog Widget

In the mailbag

Today comes a lovely review over at Enduring Romance for Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge. Rebecca says, and I love this part:

Lynn Raye Harris has a great voice. I have a feeling I’m always going to enjoy her books. I’m looking forward to reading the one that’s out that I still haven’t read. But I’m MORE excited for her to have a new release, because based on what I’ve seen so far, her writing just keeps getting better and better!!

That’s what every writer hopes to hear! I want to get better with each book. I want to make better story choices, and I want to write the kinds of stories that resonate with readers each and every time. I know I won’t please everyone, and I’m fine with that.**

Reviews are a mixed bag, no matter who you are. I try not to read the negative ones, though sometimes they slip through the radar. I always read the glowing ones, and yes, they make me feel good. I don’t let them go to my head, but I do love that happy feeling they give me for a while. It’s always wonderful to know that something you sweated over, something that you wrote, found its way into a reader’s heart and made them happy. Those kinds of reviews trump the bad ones and make it all worth it.

Thanks, Rebecca! You’ve made me happy today. 🙂

**For a hilarious look at just how I didn’t please someone, go check out my Amazon UK reviews for Prince Voronov’s Virgin: one reader thinks the book must have been written by a man or a computer. I admit to being upset at first; now I just find it funny. Important Note: if you are related to me in any way, you are forbidden from commenting on that review or from writing a glowing review to counteract it. I mean it. You won’t be doing me any favors. Readers have a way of finding out that authors are enlisting family to say nice things. They don’t like it, and I understand that. If you are not related to me, feel free to glow away. 😉

Interview and review – updated

Hey, y’all! Just a quick post to tell you about an interview I did over at CataRomance. When you’re done reading that, take a look at the nice review Julie gave me.

Here’s a snippet:

Cavelli’s Lost Heir’s winning blend of steamy sensuality, electrifying sexual tension, heart wrenching emotion and intense romance will keep readers riveted from the first page to the very last! Tender, sexy, glamorous, dramatic and fabulously readable, Cavelli’s Lost Heir is a must-read for Harlequin Presents fans from a fabulous new writer who is on her way to becoming one of the line‘s brightest stars: Lynn Raye Harris!

And tomorrow, I’ll be over at The Pink Heart Society! I’ll update with a link as soon as it’s available. 🙂

As promised, here is the link to my blog over at PHS!

Guest blog, review, and giveaway

I’m still flying high on my news of the other day, and you’ll notice that my web designer has changed the header of my site to reflect my new status — which, I must admit, still hasn’t exactly sunk in. 🙂

Today, I have a mix of things for you. First, I’m guest blogging over at one of my Heart of Dixie chaptermate’s group blog. You can read the post here.

Over at The Writing Playground, Smarty Pants is having a Free Book Friday with a Harlequin Presents theme — and she’s giving away a copy of Cavelli’s Lost Heir! Since I know SP really well, and have to pass the book to her at some point, it will be signed to whoever wins. 🙂

And finally, over at Pearl’s World of Romance, the fabulous Pearl reviews Cavelli’s Lost Heir. Here’s a taste:

CAVELLI’S LOST HEIR is the perfect book to escape the harsh reality of everyday life and get lost in a few pleasurable reading hours, dreaming of being whisked away by a dark, tall and handsome prince. If you have an ounce of romance inside you and you’re looking for a quick and satisfying read, this is one you shouldn’t miss.