Monday, April 25, 2011

The Numbers Are In

First up today is some pirate squeeing. Our own Gunner Marnee has finaled in the Daphne Du Maurier contest in the Historical Romantic Mystery/Suspense category. So raise your glass with whatever you might be spiking with rum today (I love me some Mimosas) and give a great HUZZAH!!! for the Gunner!

Speaking of contests, I received my Golden Heart [insert registered trademark thingy here but I don't know how to do it] scores last night. For some reason, I thought they would come by snail mail. Why, I have no idea, but I received an email and then had to figure out what all the numbers meant.

The good news is, I scored in the top 25% of my category. The bad news is, one judge didn’t like my entry nearly as well as the other four, which looks to have cost me a chance to final. Then again, she’s (he’s?) entitled to her opinion and if my writing had been better, I would have finaled. In the end, I have no one to blame but myself.

One of the negatives tossed around regarding the Golden Heart is the lack of detailed feedback from the judges. I would definitely like to know what that judge didn’t like, but even without that information, there’s still a lot to learn from these numbers.

1) I’m not wasting my time – To be honest, I was close to this conclusion before, but these numbers pushed me over the edge. The highest score a judge can give is 9.0 and one judge gave me an 8.6. Not a perfect score, but better than I expected.

2) I can hold my own against the competition – I have no idea how many writers entered manuscripts in the Single Title Contemporary category, but I held my own against the top 25% of them. Which means I finished higher than more than 75% of the other entrants in the category.

3) This is worth doing again – I could be way off since I have no idea how anyone else scored, but in my mind, I came pretty close to getting one of those coveted phone calls on March 25. This means I could get even closer with the next one. Especially since I’ll hopefully have learned something from the first one that will make the second one ever better.

That, my pirate friends, is my positive spin on the situation. What could have easily gone terribly ugly turned out better than expected. No 1’s, thank goodness! And no wide array of numbers all over the place. I almost feel worse for any writer who gets that kind of score. How are you supposed to know where you are in that situation??

What was the last leap you took with your writing and how did it pay off? Any new authors you’ve taken a chance on lately? Turn into an autobuy, an A for effort, or a bad lesson learned? (No trashing authors, if you didn’t like it, we’ll keep names to ourselves.)


2nd Chance said...

Congrats to the finalist! And to the top 25%! As I was mentionin' to the Bo'sun last night...I think I was in the bottom 25% when I entered the GH... I might have been lower...

So, aye! Top 25% is great score! But it bugs me that you even thought of throwing in the towel. GRRRRR!

Wow, when did I last take a leap? I'm working on it right now...working on something a bit more strange than my norm and pushing it. (Don't ask!)

Mary Danielson said...

Congratulations, Marnee!! That is wonderful news!

Terri, this is a very well put and timely post. I too received my GH scores this afternoon and have been cursing Judge #5 ever since. My results were very similar to yours - all 8.7+, then one evil 6 to sour the whole thing. It's a good thing the judging is anonymous, or I'd probably terrify some poor woman (or man) at Nationals with my cries of, "A six!? But whyyyyy? How could you!?"

You're a better person than I am, being so mature about it already! You're exactly right, as well - there is indeed a lot to learn from this and even some positives to take away. Maybe tomorrow I'll take the high road and celebrate those two 9.0s instead. :D

Congratulations on your own top 25% finish, Terr. Contemporary is a tough category, which makes that number even more special. You're definitely the cream of the crop!

2nd Chance said...

Wow, that is so cool that you both did so well! How close I came to knowing two finalists!

Hee, hee. Yes, it's all about me!

Marnee said...

Thanks for the congrats, gals! I'm feeling good about it.

I think this is the perfect spin for the GH. If you think about it, I think there are like 5 scores, right? So, that means that 80% of your readers had a high opinion about your work. That's a really good percentage, I think. (Same goes to you too, Mer.) :) I think this is call for celebration. :)

And Mary - A six!? But whyyyyy? How could you!? hahahaha!!

I think this is EXACTLY why the results are anonymous. LOL!

Bosun said...

Doesn't every writer think about throwing in the towel at some point? LOL! Or at various points. Maybe monthly.

Mary, you got 9s??? Oh, now I'm jealous. *sigh* That 8.6 is the closest I got. And what is it with the 6-fiend? Her dog shit in her shoe that day, I just know. And she's taking it out on us!

You're right, Marn, five judges. Seems to me if they're giving 8 or better then that's a book they'd enjoy reading. Might not rave about far and wide, but they'd read to the end and give me a try on the next one. I'll take them odds!

And I could so use a Mimosa right now. Of course it's about you, Chance. LOL! It's always about you. (BTW, we've all learned NOT TO ASK.)

Hal said...

Woohoo to Ter and Marn!!! I'm raising my mug of extra-caffeinated coffee in both your honors!

Ter, the top 25% in the contemp category is awesome-ness. When I did GH, I was in that 50%-75%. Though I too was desperate for more info than just one number.

I think an 8 or better is definitely a sign they'd read to the end and enjoy it. And I'm with Marn - 4 out of 5 having that opinion is great. I have to remind myself regularly that not everyone will love what I write, and that's no reflection on my writing. It's just a matter of taste at that point, and I think a ratio of 80% liking it / 20% saying only "eh" is a *really* good ratio.

Hal said...

To answer your questions - my MIL brings me a bag of paperbacks from her library every time she comes to visit, so I end up getting to try new authors that way. These are the $.50 books (which she gets for half price as an employee), so I'm not really expecting to love them all, but I've stumbled upon a couple new authors I've really enjoyed. Cynthia Eden is one I found, gobbled up, and immediately went looking for the next in the series. Excellent romantic suspense if anyone else is late to hear of her as well!

Donna said...

Woo hoo, a celebration!

*throws confetti*

*scoops confetti out of my coffee*

Congrats, Marn, on finaling in the contest. I'm really excited for you. :) It's always nice to have that kind of validation, and it's doubly sweet since you were wondering recently about your characters. I've got my fingers crossed for you.

Terri, those are awesome results. :) It's a fierce competition and being in the top 25% is great. You've got a lot to celebrate this year. :)

Back in the old days the GH did have feedback, but somebody threatened to sue, so they quit doing that. :( It's unfortunate, because it would be nice to know--but the chapter contests are good for getting feedback, so maybe that would work for you.

Again, congrats on all your hard work and successes, pirates!

Bosun said...

That's so true, Marn, it's all in the perspective. We know, rationally, that not every reader will like our books. And four out of five liking it is great. But staying rational is often the hardest thing to accomplish. LOL!

I've heard of Ms. Eden but not gotten around to reading her yet. Which I can say about maybe a hundred other authors. LOL! I'll look her up again!

Bosun said...

Donna - WHAT could you sue for on feedback? It's all opinion, after all. How odd.

I was talking to Marn about other contests last night and I do plan to find a couple to enter. I haven't done it in years so maybe one or two entries could do me good.

Donna said...

Terri, it's been a long time so I can't remember exactly, but the entrant didn't agree that it was OPINION. LOL

I know it happened before I finaled in the GH, so I just got scores, and I wanted to know why the one judge gave a low score when the others didn't. LOL

It sounds like you're ready for other contests. :) It helps that you can look at the scoresheets online now--great info there--and you can pick ones where the low score is thrown out, or that has final judges you'd like to get in front of. Lots of opportunities.

Bosun said...

That reminds me, there was a note (that sounded like it was written by the IRS) about if your lowest score was outside an accepted range, then that low score was replaced by the average score toward your final score.

So, I have no idea if perhaps one judge gave me a 2 and that was replaced by an average that could have been the 7. Very vague explanation there and no way to know if it applied to my scores! LOL!

Yeah, I'll do some homework and find the one or two contests I think would do me the most good. Though all five of you who read it said the same thing, the second half is better than the beginning. LOL! Since most contests take the beginning, I'll have to think long and hard how to approach this.

Hellion said...

It doesn't surprise me someone would sue. If someone won a lawsuit about HOT COFFEE at McD's, then it's likely they could have won against RWA for crushing the soul of some poor struggling writer who didn't agree with a judge's opinion that she needed to give up writing and go back to working at McD's.

Congrats, Bo'sun!! Very awesome!! And I'm quite jealous because I would not be in the top 25%. I would definitely be one of those who would be all over the board.

I wish the numbers were assigned a value, a written value, like 9 meant: ready to publish; and 8 meant revise, polish, and try again; and 7 meant have your CPs help you figure out your plot holes; and 6 meant take a couple more classes, then have your CPs help you with your plot holes. Then you understood what the judges were says. The numbers wouldn't feel so arbitrary.

Bosun said...

I don't know, on a scale of 1 to 9, I'll take an 8. And I can feel good about it. Locking a specific definition for each number is impossible on this large a scale. Besides, it's still only opinion. One judge might find the work ready for an editor, while another thinks the writer has no idea how to sustain a plot.

Can't take the arbitrary out of it either way.

Marnee said...

Someone threatened to sue and that's why there's no feedback on the GH? Sheesh, thanks for ruining it for the rest of us, unnamed overly-sensitive idiot.

(Oh, did I say that outloud?)

Anywho, thanks all for the congrats! I appreciate your squees and huzzahs of support. :)

Hellion said...

Can’t take the arbitrary out of it either way.

Then why bother? And when you do do well, why be so excited if it's so arbitrary? *LOL*

Bosun said...

Did someone piss in your strawberry salad this morning? Do you have to take this away from me? Really?


FOUR out of FIVE arbitrarily liked it. I'll take those numbers!

Irisheyes said...

Congrats, Marn and Terri! That is totally awesome news. Nothing like a big boost to help you keep on keeping on.

That really stinks about the no feedback, though. Knowing why someone either likes (so you can do it again) or doesn't like (so you can improve) your work can help tremendously. The person suing cracks me up. It's like the parents of the kids playing sports who threaten the umpire for bad calls or the coach for not putting Suzie or Tommy in the position they like. People are definitely finding more and more ways to avoid hearing NO when it suits them.

I've been doing very well with new-to-me authors lately. Cheryl St. John and Suzanne Brockmann are the two that immediately come to mind. I'm trying to remember the last time I read an author's first book and was hooked. I'll have to ponder that.

Irisheyes said...

FOUR out of FIVE arbitrarily liked it. I’ll take those numbers!

You go!!!! I wanted to tell you that I'm very proud of the way you're looking at this and making it a positive. That's been my half-glass-empty self's goal for years now. I'm succeeding more and more (it's hard work *LOL*), but mostly I'm an Eeyore. Yay to you for staying positive! :)

Bosun said...

Thanks, Irish. *clinks glasses* My moods are so cranky these days, this could have gone either way, but I can live with these scores. Hate to think your mindset could teeter on a few numbers, but that's how it goes with me.

I've been practicing positive thinking for about six or seven years now and it gets easier the longer you do it. Doesn't always work, I'm not the Pollyanna 24/7, but it's easier to talk myself away from the gloom and doom "Universe is conspiring" stuff after a while.

2nd Chance said...

I'm interested in what Mary said about Contemp being such a hard field to enter and do well in. I think that should make the numbers count even more in your mind and make you feel even better!

I'm all about the better.

Sue? I got 3s and I didn't sue...I went out and got an agent! Hee, hee.

I think I got 3s. I know it was bad and sad. Maybe it was 5s. But 3s sound so much more dramatic!

P. Kirby said...

Back in the old days the GH did have feedback, but somebody threatened to sue, so they quit doing that. :( It’s unfortunate, because it would be nice to know–but the chapter contests are good for getting feedback, so maybe that would work for you.

That sucks. Sort of like people who submit to a market; get a rejection with feedback; and then write the editor a nasty letter defending their precious little flower of a manuscript. At which point, the editor stops giving feedback.

There's always some asshat, ruining it for the rest of us.

Anyhoo, congrats to all on the great scores!

Bosun said...

There’s always some asshat, ruining it for the rest of us.

I could have said it better myself, Pat. LOL! Thanks!

Hellion said...

I can't decide which of Pat's comments I love more.

The "defending their precious little flower of a manuscript" or "there's always some asshat, ruining it for the rest of us."

Bosun said...

It's a tough choice, Hellie.

Chance - I guess contemp is a tough category because the books can vary quite a bit? I know Single Title is the toughest to break into for a debut author, or at least that's what I've been told by authors and the occasional agent. Of the six authors I personally know who have all landed debut contracts in the last three years, they all write Historicals.

Contemp is just a hard nut to crack, for some reason.

Sin said...

Damn, I missed the asshat comment. That has to go in my top ten too.

Sin said...

Someone threatened to sue and that’s why there’s no feedback on the GH? Sheesh, thanks for ruining it for the rest of us, unnamed overly-sensitive idiot.

By far my top ten favorite comment ever. hahahaha Way to go Marn!

Congrats to everyone who entered the GH (and the fabulous scores because pirate and friends of pirates *FOP's* are the awesomest). And congrats to Marn on being a finalist!

2nd Chance said...

Pat does have a way wit' words, don't she? ;-)

Ah, so contemp is hard to crack because it can vary so wildly. I can see where that would leave such an open field that the judges/editors/agents would subject a contemp MS to a lot more personal tastes taste.


What can I say, it's being one of those days! ;-) I know what I mean.

Like there are less guidelines to go by, so it's all a matter of personal taste.

There, that was better!

Janga said...

Yay for both Terri's GH scores and Marn's contest final! Great news on both counts. Yay for Mary D.'s scores too! I look forward to more squee-worthy news from all of you in the future.

The new authors question is a timely one for me. I bought a stack of new releases today that included books by authors I've been reading for many years (MJP, Debbie Macomber), authors I've been reading for a few years (Anna Campbell, Rachel Gibson), and authors whose books I've recently become addicted to(Kris Kennedy, Sarah MacLean). Then I stopped by the library and picked up books by Elizabeth Cadell, whose books I first read when I began reading my mother's books the summer I turned 10, and Trisha Ahley, whom Anne Gracie recommended abd compared to Katie Fforde. I love the mix of continuity and discovery.

My latest inspiration to keep writing came from one of Donna's All About Writing blog posts: "I'm writing for the people who love my books. Even if I don't know who they are yet." I love that!

Hellion said...

Contemp is just a hard nut to crack, for some reason.

My theory is that contemporary doesn't usually have the crutch of "romantic suspense" to lend itself to your plot, so 1) you have to hope people are willing to go along with your small town/big city/anywhere between setting and possibly slower paced plot and 2) like your humor (since that seems to be given--humor will be somewhere.) And humor is subjective of all the subjectives.

Hellion said...

Like there are less guidelines to go by, so it’s all a matter of personal taste.

So 2nd is saying not everyone has your magnificent taste and you're going to have to roll with that.

2nd Chance said...

Sure, take that simple statement and turn it around, Cap'n...

No, it means you're more subject to the way the winds blow instead of steady currents.


Bosun said...

Great googily, I'm behind. Stupid day job!

I think Hellie and Chance are both right. I don't write movie stars or CEOs or any fabulously wealthy characters. I don't write jet-setters and that's where Contemps were for a long time. In fact, back when I first started writing I was informed I'd never sell unless one or both my characters were super rich.

It's the Duke thing in Contemporary terms. You don't see many Mr's in Historicals either.

But it's clearly a matter of taste because many Contemp authors aren't writing those CEOs and jet-setters anymore either. I loved McNaught's Contemps that had mega rich characters always attending some lavish affair, but I also loved LaVyrle Spencer's everyday characters who were as ordinary as you and me.

But I'd bet the majority of readers prefer one over the other.

Bosun said...

That's a wonderfully inspiring quote, Janga. Our Donna is good at that. And these scores tell me I still don't know who those readers are who like my stories, but by golly they're out there!

You're going to read all those books by the end of the week, aren't you? You put me to shame. Shame!

Hellion said...

LaVyrle Spencer’s everyday characters who were as ordinary as you and me.

Damn I miss her books. *sighs*

Bosun said...

I know, right! And she was never locked into a genre, she just wrote stories all over the blessed place. And was marvelous at them. Her books had humor and heart and angst and heat and why won't she write anymore?!

Hellion said...

Maybe the market got too hot for her and she didn't want to write in it anymore??

Marnee said...

Thanks again, ladies, for the congrats! :) We'll see how it goes. :)

I do think contemporary is a hard one.

I agree with Hells though, that its our culture, with its need for high action and exotic places.

Hellion said...

Don't you mean our culture with its short attention spans?