Close but no cigar. I’m talking Golden Heart over here.

Golden Heart Scoresheets came back yesterday. For those of you who don’t know what the Golden Heart is, it’s the National Romance Writer’s of America writing contest. You enter in your category, send in the first fifty pages and a synopsis, close your eyes and pray.

*And I mean really pray. The scoring instructions are a little whacked. “Score 1-9, using tenth of points.” With no rubric! This English teacher is cringing.*

Anyway, the award ceremony is this huge formal event at the national conference in New York City–Have I Mentioned I’m Going to the Conference?!? Eeeeek!

I sent both books from my Crimson Bay Series in. The first one received AMAZING scores. It earned a few “perfect 9’s” with a few “eight-and-a-half’s” thrown in. But there was one darn “seven” that lowered my score enough so that I didn’t final.

The second in the series received great scores, too, though they weren’t as high as the first. The average score was a solid “eight” with no “nines” and a couple “high seven’s”.

Instead of being disappointed that I didn’t final, I’m actually pretty excited. Book One did so well! The response was great! The scores are near perfect! How can I be upset about not being a finalist when I really was close? As for Book Two, I’m now going to take some time, go back through it, and look for kinks with a sharp eye. There’s got to be places I can smooth things over and amp other things up.

So…close, but no cigar. Great scores…but no final payout.

I also entered the Daphne DuMaurier contest, which has an award’s ceremony at the national conference too, and I should be getting the scores back any day now. I’ll post something about those as soon as I know. (I’ve been holding my breath to final in the Daphne since I first heard about it. Daphne DuMaurier is BY FAR my favorite author and Rebecca is BY FAR AND AWAY my favorite book. Hands down. No contest.) To final in her contest would mean soooo much to me. I’ll let you know…

Until then I’m writing away on Book Three in the series and going back to edit Book Two a bit more.

Did you enter the Golden Heart? How’d you do?

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Ah, the Golden Heart

Great contest hosted by RWA. Great finalists, I’m sure. Sadly I’m not one of them. And now that I look at the finalists again I’ve realized none of the entires I judged finaled either. HOWEVER, there were SFARWA pals that finaled for the RITA! (I’m proud in a tremendously jealous sort-of-way and can’t wait to watch them take to the stage in Nashville. And I still can’t get over the excitement that I’ll actually be there! Eeeeck!)

I wish I could be standing among the finalists’ ranks right about now and really long to read their manuscripts to see how far off I was. I haven’t received my scores yet but I’m sure when I do I’ll have a clearer picture of where I went wrong.

Then back to editing manuscript 2 I go…while writing and revising manuscript 3. By the way, for those who continually email me about my progress (hello dear, sweet family), I’m stalled on page 165 (43,000words) because I had to go back and make the hero-heroine’s first encounter sizzle off the page. Oh, I could seriously do this forever. *grin

Writing Hoopla

Tonight I’m heading to the city with a friend for the launch party of How To Knit a Love Song. There’s going to be fabulously talented company, flowing drinks and a reading from Rachael Herron, herself! I’m stoked.

I entered the Daphne Du Maurier contest for my latest paranormal romance yesterday. The link to the RWA Kiss of Death Chapter site is: http://www.rwamysterysuspense.org/ I was more nervous to enter this one than the nationally renowned Golden Heart. Seriously. Daphne Du Maurier wrote Rebecca, my favorite book of all time. That’s my go-to book. The one I’ve read too many times to count and could still pick it up this second and get lost in its pages.

To final in that contest (let alone win it–ah, my heart’s swooning) would mean so much to me…not to mention the awards ceremony takes place this summer at the RWA National Conference in Nashville. Oh, what do you know! I’ll be there that night anyway! What a coincidence…it must be kismet.

Speaking of Nashville, I’d like to share with you all the great things Tennessee has to offer a Californian like me:
Nobody can pass up a chance at seeing Graceland, the home of the King.
And I’ve heard the Country Hall of Fame is a hoppin’ place to visit if you’re around those parts…


The night skyline is a sight to behold, I’ve heard. Certainly worth noting.

And let’s not forget Nashville’s Hermitage or the Nashville Parthenon in Centennial Park.

Too bad I won’t be seeing any of those things…that’s right. I’ll be seeing the inside of my hotel room, a dozen conference rooms, probably a nearby restaurant or two…and that’s it; the whole enchilada And I couldn’t be more fine with the idea.

Because inside that hotel, lecturing in those conference rooms are great sights too..





And just in case you don’t recognize any of the faces (the shock! the horror!), they are romance writing greats Nora Robers, Linda Howard, JR Ward, Gena Showalter, and Allison Brennan. Nashville has more to offer me this July than ever before. Can’t wait!

Updates

1-I’ve reached my first turning point in my current work in progress! Yay! It’s smooth-sailing for me and conflicting as hell for my hero and heroine. I love it.

2-I got a partial request-Yay! Then a full request 9 minutes later from the same person-Doubly-Double Yay!

3-This month my Golden Heart Score sheets come back for Dark Tide Rising. I entered this puppy in December. I’ve been having all kinds of anxiety dreams since then…I’m ready to hear. And I’m tempted to do something drastic in the case that I final–I’m gonna have to think about it.

4-Everyone in my house has now caught the cold that’s been going around Internet-world. Thank you facebook friends for passing that along through the keys.

5-And I know I forgot to post something about it (horrible-horrible-me) but I went vegetarian for the month of March. (Oh, and I cut sugar, white flour, soda, sugary-Starbucks goodies, and salt too–Lisa, you may have had something to do with that. Darn you and thank you at the same time.) I had some crazy idea about depriving my body of something it’s so used to in order to gain perspective for what my hero is going through in my current book. Today is Day 5 and I woke up craving tri-tip.

Odd to think about oatmeal, granola, coffee and red meat as a tantalizing breakfast…

It’s all subjective

I volunteered to judge the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Contest for unpublished writers and the scoresheets were due back yesterday. When I first signed up to read the six romantic suspense manuscripts I was pumped. From 2002-2005I read 9th and 10th grade expository essays, people. Can you say monotonous?

I was hyped to actually read something with some meat to it. Something written by my peers.

But as I started reading I found myself doing the same things I did to the essays I graded years ago.

Writer X was overusing certain verbs and losing my interest. Writer Y had a problem formatting dialogue. Writer Z was making comments that didn’t make sense at all. And I started to notice something else, too…it was VERY easy to see who was a beginning writer and who was more experienced. It was odd. I never thought that reading a single chapter, a single page, could show whether the writer was green or not. But it did.

I also got a little insight into what agents go through on a daily basis. I told my husband, “If I were an agent reading the first page on manuscript 1, I would have declined it right away because of xyz. Was it a good submission? Yes. It earned one of my higher scores. But I wouldn’t be passionate enough about it to fight for it out of 500 others that came across my desk.” When he asked me why I didn’t really like it the only answer I could give was that it wasn’t my cup of tea. (And I don’t even drink tea!)

Judging these manuscripts taught me things I’m going to take with me as I continue my publishing journey.

If you want to be published, you have to continue to write and perfect your craft. It’s painstakingly obvious who is a newbie to writing romance. Then once you have a solid piece of work, you have to get it on the right desk at the right time. Those personal rejections that read “I just didn’t feel passionate enough about it,” shouldn’t be disheartening. They might actually like the writing, but just wouldn’t fight for it like the work deserves to be fought for. (I guess I need to find someone who doesn’t drink tea, either! Ha! Wouldn’t that be a hoot!)

As a side note, I got some good news on my Work In Progress. I sent out 50 pages to my friend/early reader/critique partner and the email she sent back simply read:

Wow.

I like that. Much better than a paragraph about what didn’t fit and what needs to be taken out, revisited, remastered, who didn’t connect with whom, etc, etc, etc.

Just Wow.

And with that, I’m back to the keyboard.

Good Dreams

I had a great dream last night. Must have been the monster storm rolling through California that lulled my logical mind into deep slumber.

In my dream, I got my Golden Heart Contest score sheets back. I don’t know a lick about the judging process, or how I’ll receive my scores. But in my dream the sheets came by mail in the form of about 20 small papers with random pencil scratchings. Yeah, I guess in my sleep I teleport back to the 1950’s.

Anyway, I flip through the sheets and see my manuscript received a solid 50 across the board with all judges. I didn’t win the contest, but I definitely finaled. I was ecstatic. So ecstatic in fact that I just kept flipping through the scoresheets over and over again to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me.

When I woke up, I was a little disappointed that my hands were clutching the pillows instead of small scraps of paper with an awesome score of 50 printed on all of them.

And I have to wait until March 31st for my scores? Bummer. Looks like this is the first of many anxiety dreams.

Golden Heart

I entered my baby, my time and hard work, my manuscript, into RWA’s Golden Heart Contest yesterday. It was like sending off my child to college, though I wouldn’t know what that’s like. At least not yet. But that’s how I imagine it would be.

Did I make it strong enough to survive first cuts?

Did I give it enough tools and depth to flow through the rounds to final judging?

I think I did. But I’m just a proud parent, aren’t I?

There’s something very personal about writing. You pour your heart into it. You ignore the chores another day, you let your refrigerator grumble from hunger pains, and you put every ounce of brainpower into creating this work. It consumes your thoughts. Everything you see, hear, read, could be twisted to fit into your story.

So to let a part of me go out into the world is just…scary. But I sent it off. Double, triple checked the package to make sure I was sending it to the right place. I paid the postage and the mail lady took three months worth of work to the back bins.

Now, what’s left you ask now that my nest is empty? I wait for judging score sheets to come out in March. Until then I query the hell out of my book and hopefully catch an agent who wants to buy it.

I’ll keep my fingers and toes crossed for good scores and hope my baby takes off to new heights!

This, That, and the Horrible In Between

I’m a writer. I’m not yet an author, but I’m working on it. Last month I entered the “Heart to Heart Contest” put on by the San Francisco Area Chapter of Romance Writers of America. The rules stated to enter the fifteen pages where your hero and heroine meet for the first time. Score sheets would be provided after finalists were chosen.

I thought, hey, I’ll get feedback either way, right? This is a win-win situation. If I win, I get my book in the hands of an editor or agent. If I lose, I get feedback from people in the biz to make my book better. Awesome.

I got my score sheets back tonight. The first one I opened killed my scene. She hated it. She said she didn’t understand my undertones, my heroine was unlikeable, and my motivations were shallow. Ouch. Yeah, that one hurt. But most of what she said stemmed from the fact that she didn’t read the first 20 pages of my book. She only read a small section from the middle. Okay, okay, my heroine needs to work on her likability. I’ll take the blame…I created her after all.

But the second one I opened lifted my spirits. The judge stated she’d “definitely read this WHEN it hits bookstore shelves”. She stated my conflicts were well-rooted, my characters popped off the page, and I painted a clear picture of my backdrop. Yeah, I’m patting myself on the back right about now.

But the problem is, the one horrible score sheet and the one fan-freakintastic score sheet made my average a sucky-not-winning one. My scene was not “stellar” and was not good enough to win.

The moral of the story? Take some negative, stir in some positive, and come out with some real average stew. So for the next month I’m going to be cooking up one hell of a feast to make this thing sell.

I wonder if I could get the name of Judge #2? 😉