What an editor is looking for. . . . . . a smooth plot.
And for category romance—the tropes need to be strong and follow through. Are the characters consistent? If your heroine is spunky in the beginning –is she spunky in the middle and in the end? If, as in a category romance we need three tropes, do all the tropes resolve and carry the characters forward? Remember in category romance the hero and heroine need to either be together or thinking of each other for 95% of the book. Their relationship is the primary focus of the story. They need to meet, have the spark, overcome their internal conflict—rake/reluctant virgin/different class/overbearing parents—resolve said conflict and fall in love. If all sentences lead to that, then my job is easy. :)
As you are reading your manuscript, consider whether you have set up the conflict—do you have enough back story or perhaps there is too much? What is going on in the middle of the story? How are the hero and heroine resolving the conflict? Are all the loose ends tied up? Even if it is a series, the story that you are telling needs to be effectively resolved with lingering questions acceptable for the overarching series but not pertaining to the hero and heroine.
Nitpicky things editors look for—words or phrases that are repeated often. Phrases such as “gazes collide or locked,” “stirring of desire,” when used a lot, stop a reader in the flow and she’ll start watching for them. That takes her out of the story. Also, overwriting. Short and sweet—even in historical romance—is better than filling your manuscript with purple prose. Some examples from Edward Bulwer-Lytton: As soon as the Promethean spark had been fully communicated to the lady's tube" (meaning: Once the lady lit her pipe), "a nectarian beverage" (wine), "a somnambular accommodation" (a bedroom), though there is nothing wrong with flowery prose when used sparingly, it’s best not to fall prey to the temptation, even though it is strong, especially while writing historical romance.
Speaking of historical romance – it is fabulous when the author has done research into the time period. There is nothing worse than referencing the wrong king or historical incident in a story or assuming that throwing the term ton in automatically makes a story a Regency. Words make a difference, too. For instance, when writing about women’s dresses – the term modiste did not come into circulation until 1840, so it is only appropriate to use in Victorian and Edwardian time period stories—not Regency.
If an author keeps the above in mind, then really there’d be no need for me :) though an objective eye is always helpful to smooth things out. There will always be an editorial letter because everybody sees a manuscript differently, however, it can be less arduous for the author if some of the tips above are considered.
Enjoy and happy writing!
Erin McCormack Molta has worked as an editor for more than 24 years. Her passion has always been romance and fantasy. She started out in the Scholastic Book Clubs, then moved on to Disney, where she acquired and edited Paul Zindel’s gruesome, but bestselling YA thrillers. Erin has worked on every genre imaginable—all types of novelty books, easy readers, and picture books, as well as chapter books, middle grade, and YA novels—and is now looking forward to working with adult romantic fiction.
For more information on exactly what Erin is looking for, check out the submission guidelines on Entangled Publishing's website. You can contact her at erin(at)entangledpublishing(dot)com.