Back at the end of 2011 (for Pete's sake, where does it go?) I stumbled across a competition run by Mills & Boon, called New Voices. At the time the small one was the miniscule one, still in nappies and up in the night, and the teens had yet to morph into their current completely self-sufficient non-communicative selves. In the slivers of time I had to myself back then (otherwise known as the miniscule one's daytime naps) I was wrestling with my ongoing ambition to write a romance novel, begun in my early twenties and still unachieved in my mid thirties. In the interim years I'd learned bits and pieces about writing from how-to books and the internet, and I'd had some encouragement from my one and only submission, recently rejected, but The Call was still no more than a dream.
And then I entered New Voices.
It was the second year Mills & Boon had run the competition, the prize was (I think) the same as the first year. The winner would receive a contract with Mills & Boon, the three runners up a Kindle and a phone call with a Mills & Boon editor. I was utterly certain I didn't have a hope in hell, but the lovely pink website sucked me in anyway and I dashed off a chapter of a new story I'd been thinking about and sent it in.
I am now pinch-myself lucky enough to have a contract with Mills & Boon ModernTempted (Harlequin KISS in the US) and that success began with that one little chapter I subbed to New Voices. You must have won, I hear you say. And you would be wrong. I didn't win. I did finish in the final four and scoop one of the Kindles (I still pinch myself about that. Me, who never wins anything!). But that competition, and all that I learned from the experience, without a doubt led to me receiving The Call seven months later.
In fact, all three of us runners-up from New Voices 2011 now have publishing contracts, as well as the very lovely Natalie Charles who was our winner that year. And we are not the only ones. There are lots of entrants of New Voices 2011 who have gone on to sell, to Mills & Boon and elsewhere too.
What New Voices meant for me was a fantastic wealth of advice, encouragement, feedback and information, more in a few weeks than I'd gleaned from months of surfing the internet. Along with great fun and excitement as the competition progressed, I was especially lucky in that my mentor for the final stage of the competition was Liz Fielding, whose knowledge and encouragement was invaluable. She taught me so much in such a short and pressured space of time. I look back on the whole experience and it makes me smile!
Which brings me (ramblingly) to #TemptedToWrite. A couple of years on from the excitement of New Voices and I am so excited to be part of the judging panel for #TemptedToWrite! In fact I can hardly believe it. I can't wait to get stuck into reading the final 10k story entries. But first there are ten days of Q&A sessions on Twitter and Facebook, designed to get you thinking about characters, conflict and plot, with lots of lovely ModernTempted books as prizes along the way.
To take part, head over to Twitter for the first #TemptedToWrite question and for full competition details check out https://www.facebook.com/millsandboon
Don't forget to follow @MillsandBoon on Twitter, and on Friday 24th January look out for a live Q&A session with ModernTempted author Heidi Rice.
This competition has a very different format to New Voices, but the potential experience is much the same. When I did New Voices, I threw myself into it, I watched every podcast, I took part in the Q&A sessions, I read as many entries as I could. I learned loads and I had such a great time doing it. The final #TemptedToWrite prize is the publication of the winning 10k story on the Mills & Boon website, plus an editor to act as your mentor. It's a terrific prize - but there is so much more to be gained from taking part than just that. I would encourage anyone thinking about entering to give it a go - even if you don't win, it is a brilliant way of getting your work in front of an editor and a great way to pick up tips which will move you forward on your journey to publication.