Writing Opportunity Update: Tips From the Editor!

April 25, 2008

Interested in writing for Nocturne Bites? Thinking of submitting your story? Read this first! Associate Senior Editor Ann Leslie Tuttle shares her list of the most common writing problems and reasons that submissions don’t make the cut.

By Ann Leslie Tuttle, Associate Senior Editor, Silhouette Nocturne and Silhouette Nocturne Bites

Nocturne Bites provides us with a wonderful opportunity to showcase exciting new talent while building our existing Nocturne series authors. I’m constantly scouring our electronic slush pile for that great voice and story to present to our readers. And I want to thank all of you who have submitted to Nocturne Bites.

While it’s been exciting to see such an enthusiastic response to the line, it’s also been disappointing to have to pass on so many projects by obviously talented writers. Fortunately, Michele Hauf‘s Racing the Moon (available May 1st) will soon provide an example of exactly what editorial we’re seeking–and I might add set a high standard in the process. But it’s our hope that this brief overview of some of the most common writing problems I’ve seen in the Bites we’ve passed on will better acquaint potential writers with our acquisition needs.

Tone. These are dark romances about characters realizing their love while they face and overcome larger-than-life situations. It’s high drama and, as the conflict escalates, so do the emotional tension and sensuality. Unfortunately, some of the recent submissions I’ve rejected have been too light in tone and more reminiscent of paranormal chick lit by bestselling writers like Mary Janice Davidson. Last Wolf Watching by Rhyannon Byrd or Scions: Insurrection by Patrice Michelle–both of which are available in Nocturne this month–are great examples of the type of editorial we’re seeking.

Plotting. Just as the word “bites” implies, these are short paranormal romances for the busy reader. But they still need to pack the full flavor of a Nocturne. Within the space of 10,000 to 15,000 words, writers face what seems to me a daunting challenge of setting up a special world, introducing readers to their protagonists, and outlining both the emotional and external conflicts. By the novella’s conclusion, the skilled writer has tied up all the loose ends and made sure there is sufficient basis for the protagonists to realize their love. And she’s certainly won my admiration in the process! Reunion romances can work well since the protagonists have a past. And for paranormals, the sense that the heroine is the hero’s destined mate and/or the strength of the attraction they feel can make the declaration of love at the end highly believable.

Characterization. The Nocturne Bites hero reminds me of a Medieval warrior. He’s pure Alpha and, although he can be demanding, arrogant and mysterious, he’s commanding, worthy of respect and impossible to resist. The Bites heroine is strong but she possesses a certain vulnerability. And, although she may have special powers that actually make her more powerful than the hero, it’s the hero who helps her recognize and accept her abilities. Both characters should be well developed and sympathetic to readers.

Sensuality. These romances can be highly sensual, but the story should not be all about their lovemaking and short on actual plotting and character development.

Pacing. Because these stories are action-packed and mission oriented, there is not much room for much extensive scene setting, introspection or interaction with secondary characters. The opening will ideally hurl the reader right into the heart of the story and take her on a whirlwind ride until she reaches the breathtaking conclusion in which the protagonists confess their love and the threat they are facing is overcome. It’s important that the writing not become episodic as the author tries to make too many leaps to move the story forward.

Point of View. Lastly, these novellas should provide both the hero and heroine’s POV. However, you might watch that it doesn’t become too formulaic with each chapter ping-ponging between the hero and heroine’s POV. And, just to make an obvious point, their POV should ring true to their character and his/her experiences.

Since the large volume of submissions we’ve received has not permitted me to personalize our rejection letters, I hope this overview will enable you to tailor your novella to meet our needs. I’m constantly looking through our submissions and hope that I will soon be working with some of you. In the meantime, I wish you all the best with your writing careers!

 -Ann Leslie Tuttle



  1. Thank you, Ms. Tuttle.
    I’ve started a story that I think fits the line. I’ve also been reading Nocturnes as well making sure to learn the line.

    I appreciate your time in helping us make our submissions the best they can be.

    All my best,
    Tambra Kendall

  2. I just wanted to say THANKS so much for this post. It certainly is helpful in understanding exactly what you’re looking for. 🙂

  3. Dear Ms. Tuttle,

    Thank you so much for atking the time to give a better idea of what Harlequin is looking for. I will certainly take the points into account for my next submission. I haven’t heard from Harlequin concerning my first submission, but I think it may have fallen foul of some of the points above

    I would also like to thank Harlequin for the opportunity for an unagented author to submit my work. I hope that one of my stories will suit your needs and I look forward to the day I receive that golden acceptance via email.

    Yours Sincerely
    Sahara Berns

  4. I can’t wait to read the first Nocturne BITE! 😀

    Thank you so much for posting this! You’ll be getting something soon from me. 😉

  5. Dear Leslie,

    It is refreshing to have an editor be upfront about what they truly want in a manuscript. Thank you for taking the time to be frank and forthright.

    Going to download a copy of Racing the Moon to read a good story and get a feel of what Nocturne Bites is all about.


  6. […] refresh your memory by reviewing the writing guidelines, or these tips from the editor […]

  7. Ms. Tuttle, thanks for taking your valuable time to post these guides. They were very helpful when I was going back through my submission, WOLF’S BANE, which is even now in your inbox. I love the Nocturne series and hope one day to be a part of it.


  8. I am a young write on the sixth chapter of my “book”. I continue to edit and change the chapters that I have which is normal, but I think my mind is stalling while I try to come up with all the exciting events and how I should end it. I would just like to know how to make time pass more slowly to elongate the chapters and make them more detailed. This is my first book so I seem to be in some sort of a rush for some reason. If you have any ideas to help. Please respond. Thanks. 🙂

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