Posted On November 18, 2011 by Print This Post

From Idea to Acceptance: Five Things to Smooth Your Path to Publication with Christina Hollis

We’re happy to have Harlequin Author Christina Hollis with us today. Christina gives us some great tips on navigating the bumpy road to publication. 

I wrote this blog because writing is a solitary process, and not everyone can get to writing groups. They are such a fund of useful information – everyone has their own tips and wrinkles when it comes to the writing process. These are a few of mine.

1. EDUCATION – I’m not talking about paper qualifications, or what you learned in school, but things you can find out for yourself. Join your local library and they’ll point you in the direction of any local writing groups. Many writers are insular by nature, but give networking a try. Swapping ideas and experiences is invaluable, whether you’re putting some thoughts on paper for the first time or you’ve just had your tenth blockbuster accepted. Read, listen, learn and then go and try it all out for yourself. Join the local chapter of the RWA (US) or RNA (UK). The more you learn about the craft of writing, the more you’ll get out of it.


2. TECHNOLOGY-Like fire, the Internet is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. When I started writing full-time, twenty years ago, every fact had to be checked at the library. For me, that meant a forty mile round trip with a baby. The reference section was up two flights of stairs with no lift. You can imagine the problems I had! Nowadays, research is a snap as long as you’re careful to verify, cross check and reference your sources. Useful though it is, the internet can also be a tremendous time-suck. When you’re working alone, the temptation to check the news headlines or catch up with friends on Twitter can be irresistible. If possible, unplug your internet/wifi connection so you’re not tempted to switch and surf. Alternatively, consider using an Alphasmart Neo. Nothing more than a keyboard with a memory, it allows you to work but doesn’t have the distraction of the Internet.  When you’ve reached your target for the day, a couple of clicks uploads all your work from the Neo into a document on your computer. Then you can go browsing online. Brilliant.


3. PLOTTING PACKAGES – Software packages such as Scrivener and Liquid Story Binder can help you organise your writing work.  I’m using one called Snowflake at the moment. This was invented by Randy Ingermanson, who likens the development of a plot to that of drawing a snowflake. You start out with a simple idea then embellish it, step by step, until you have developed a complete story outline, laid out in a way that must make a welcome change for overworked agents and editors. Now for the bad news: Snowflake will only help you crystallize your plot and characters. Good though it may be, it doesn’t actually write the book for you.


4. NOTEBOOKS – Some women shop for shoes. Others bankrupt themselves for bags. My work-related money pit of choice is stationery. Just one whiff of that new paper and plastic smell of a WHSmith or Staples, and it’s goodbye advance check. My excuse is that writers should keep a notebook handy at all times. You never know when inspiration will strike. Top of my Christmas list every year is  a new Moleskine Notebook and diary. They look good – black and efficient. They feel nice to the touch, and pens glide across the surface of their paper, encouraging me to write. And here’s a girly point: they match. Disadvantages? The price, although the two little extravagances I’ve outlined here are good value for money.


And finally…

5. READING – AND READING AGAIN – Reading your work aloud to yourself is one of the best ways of improving it. You can discover and prune rambling sentences, cut out close repetition and generally tighten up your whole text. If you’re thinking ‘I’ve been backwards and forwards through this story a thousand times already – I can skip this bit!’ Er – no, you can’t. Actors may rehearse scenes in any order in the run up to a play and be word perfect, but they still need a full technical and dress rehearsal before opening night. 

If you can then find someone to read your work through again and give you honest, constructive criticsm, that’s even better. Sometimes when reading your own work it’s all too easy to see what you expect to see, not what is actually there. A friend you can trust to tell you the truth about your work could save you their weight in rejection letters.


Here’s a blurb on Christina’s latest book THE WEIGHT OF THE CROWN. 

Now duty is his only mistress! 

For notorious playboy Prince Lysander Kahani, playtime is over…Left with a country to run, he draws the line at playing nanny to his orphaned nephew!

Instead he sends for a professional. But one glance at buttoned-up Alyssa Dene and Lysander’s wicked side re-emerges! Wary of his scandalous reputation, Alyssa tries to keep her distance – but Lysander draws her like a moth to a flame.

Lysander is fighting a battle between public duty and private desire, but he is determined to make Alyssa a royal offer she won’t refuse…

 Weight Of The Crown.



Do you research via the web or use books? Keep a notebook or use writer’s software? Share you tips for writing success. 

Sloan Parker joins us on Monday, November 21st for a discussion on women writing M/M romance.


Bio: Christina Hollis writes Modern Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, released as HarlequinPresents/Extra in the US. Her latest book, Weight of the Crown, is available now.

See for details.

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24 Responses to “From Idea to Acceptance: Five Things to Smooth Your Path to Publication with Christina Hollis”

  1. Thank you for this wonderfully informative article, Christina! I totally agree with your second point, about the Internet being “a wonderful servant but a terrible master”, but what are your thoughts on the various writing sites such as 750words? They keep you ‘on target’ with your writing but perhaps the sense of competition would negatively affect to work one produces. And as for your question at the end of the post, I wish I was organised enough to keep a writer’s notebook! My stories are usually scribbled on the backs of library receipts, in the margins of lecture notes and in blank spaces in magazines….

    Posted by Ellie | November 18, 2011, 3:39 am
  2. Hi Ellie, thanks for commenting. I love 750words – as with #1k1hr on Twitter, it offers a real incentive. If nothing else, it convinces insular writers like me that We Are Not Alone….
    Incidentally, I have that problem with scribbling notes on receipts, etc. instead of in the notebook. That’s another plus for the Moleskine – it has a little pocket in the back cover. Anything larger goes into an A4 file*, filched from the stationery supplies of Son No. 1.

    *when I get around to it, ahem.

    Posted by Christina Hollis | November 18, 2011, 4:24 am
  3. Hi Christina!

    I’m chuckling at your comment about finding a CP who will give honest and constructive criticism. I exchanged at least eight emails with one of my CPs last night about one of my chapters. It’s so important to have another pair of eyes on the ms.

    I jot my ideas down on notebooks of all sizes and keep a micro recorder by my bed in case I wake up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea. That doesn’t happen very often. 🙂

    Thanks so much for being with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 18, 2011, 5:12 am
  4. Hi Christina! Thanks for being here with us at RU!

    I read all the time – my Kindle is a wonderful thing – and I make sure I read outside of my genre (category romance) so that my writing doesn’t get stale. It helps me to think outside the box and keep m ideas fresh.

    I research on the Internet and drop it all into a Scrivener file. I use “Write or Die” to keep me on task and off the Internet – although I can’t do the kamikaze version that deletes all of your words if you don’t make your goal – yikes!


    Posted by Robin Covington | November 18, 2011, 5:39 am
  5. Thank you for stopping by, Christina. That’s some pretty nifty ideas you shared.

    Posted by Mercy | November 18, 2011, 5:56 am
    • Thanks, Mercy. Robin’s clearly the expert here but I’ve just Googled Write or Die and it’s available as an app. It’s claiming to put the ‘Prod’ into productivity, which is the best advertising tag line I’ve seen in a long time!

      Posted by Christina Hollis | November 18, 2011, 7:22 am
  6. Hi Christina,

    Reading is my best tool. I read people who write genres I would like to try. I also read non fiction. Unbroken has been on the bestseller list for months. It is a true story about survival and what a WWII POW went through. Reality is stranger than fiction.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | November 18, 2011, 6:58 am
    • Hi, Mary Jo. Thanks for commenting. I love non-fiction, especially biographies. I’m not surprised Unbroken has been a best seller for so long. There aren’t many of us who could survive those conditions, and I think it does us all good to read about what others have been through.

      Posted by Christina Hollis | November 18, 2011, 7:25 am
  7. Thanks for this information, Christina! I’ve heard good things about the Snowflake plotting process. I’m seriously thinking of using that with my next story.

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | November 18, 2011, 8:11 am
  8. Morning Christina!

    I’m a big user of Write or Die as well, plus have an alphasmart. I have all the equipment to write, but…lol….not the time. That’s something to work on!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | November 18, 2011, 8:38 am
  9. Christina –

    Welcome to RU! I use a combination of the tools you mention above. I love my Scrivener software and have figured out how to sync with Simplenote so I can write on my iPad and send it back to Scriv on my Mac. I have a notebook–initially only for my morning pages (from Julia Cameron’s work). Now my ugly spiral has become my total life notebook. Morning pages, plot ideas, character journals. Basically whatever, whenever. Love having my thoughts all in one place. Scary sometimes, but good.

    I read still, but I need to do a better job of really analyzing what I’m reading when it works for me.

    And I do love a list so thanks for this great resource!

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 18, 2011, 10:04 am
  10. Hi Kelsey, thanks for commenting. I love reading, but I agree with you – it’s better to read in depth than in quantity. That’s what I tell myself when I have to get my library books renewed because I haven’t had time to open them, anyway!

    Posted by Christina Hollis | November 18, 2011, 11:02 am
  11. Christina,

    Thanks so much for sharing your insight with us today.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 18, 2011, 6:57 pm
  12. Thanks RU for bringing this great and insightful tips and advice from Christina Hollis!

    Christina, awesome post!

    Posted by Nas | November 18, 2011, 8:45 pm
  13. Hi Christina, sorry I’m late!

    I use all sorts of research methods–the internet, Google Books (written during my era), and current reference books. They’re all valuable in different ways.

    Thanks for the great tips!

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | November 18, 2011, 9:23 pm
    • Hi Tracey, thanks for commenting. Although some online info has to be taken with a pinch of salt, the internet is such a blessing. Time saved by not visiting my library’s Reference section means more time to spend in the fiction department…

      Posted by Christina Hollis | November 19, 2011, 1:44 am

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