Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Going For The Golden

I entered the Golden Heart!

This isn’t my first time entering the Golden Heart, but I’m still twisted up over it.  My first go at the Golden Heart was with my first MS, a mix of Regency comedy of error and witchy hijinx.  It got mixed reviews.

I’d like to blame the mixed bag scores on readers who weren’t accustomed to that sort of genre inbreeding.  If I’m honest, it was more that the manuscript just wasn’t up to par.  Character motivation problems, plotting problems, just generally a manuscript that didn’t sparkle.  Now, I read that hero and think he sounds like Darren from Bewitched.  And who liked that guy?

I was going to enter my second manuscript but I waited until the last second to enter, hemming and hawing over whether I should or not, and when the last day arrived, I spent the day at the animal hospital and ended up having to put the family kitty to sleep.  The deadline passed.

Last year, well, I wasn’t really writing last year.  So, now we’ve come to this year.  I entered well in advance.  This manuscript has had some good feedback.  And it’s seconds from being “done” or rather, “done for now.”  So I have some time to get my first fifty all clean and shiny.  We'll see how it goes.

So, I thought I’d talk a little about why we enter this contest, why we wouldn’t, and what the judges are looking for.

The Golden Heart is different than other contests, in my eyes.  With other contests, you usually get feedback.  This, none, just scores.  You have no idea who read your story.

In general, though, more readers score your story than in an “ordinary” contest.  In other contests, it’s usually three preliminary judges.  I believe there are six readers here.  Double the readers is a bigger slice of your potential market.

I think what you end up with is a more general feel of how your audience will feel about your story, or an indication of what the market looks like.

This doesn’t favor manuscripts that are outside the box, though.  Because if the MS doesn’t fit the reader’s expectations, there’s a higher chance that it won’t overcome that bias.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying that it’s harder.

This contest is more expensive, in general, than the others.  Fifty bucks, plus the cost to print and mail all the materials.  Pricey.

But, the benefits of finaling are there.  In the Regency Historical category—the one I entered—of the five finalists (one had two MS’s final), four have sold to NY houses.  Whether that would have happened without the GH, who knows.  But thems the facts.

As to what they’re looking for, the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, the blog of the 2009 finalists, is doing a series about what the GH is looking for.  Check it out.  What I look for when I’m judging is that thing that keeps me reading.  That thing that makes me not put down a book.  That’s everything from plot development to character motivation.  It’s language that’s appealing and suspense.  It’s that elusive “Good Writing.”

I have no idea if I have that.  I have no idea what judges will read my story and no idea if they’ll like my story.

So, anyone else entering the Golden Heart?  If so, why, if not, why not?  What do you think are the benefits or disadvantages of this contest?  What do you think the judges are looking for when they’re reading?


Bosun said...

The plan right now is to enter. As my car is back in the shop, we'll see. That $50 may have to go elsewhere. But I'm going to think positive and say I WILL enter the GH this year.

I entered last year and was happy with my scores. There always seems to be that one dissenting judge who scores lower than the rest. But then there will always be that one (or one thousand) reader who doesn't like the book as well. Good for building up that thick skin.

I'll be honest, I enter because I want to final. I want the attention that brings as well as the credentials. But I know several writers who have finaled multiple times and have yet to sign a contract. I'm realistic enough to know a final is no guarantee of publication.

Hellion said...

I am not entering the Golden Heart, but being I'm about 300 pages shy of an entry, you understand. And I do have my other two finished manuscripts, but the first manuscript is so...practice I wouldn't send it off. I read it now and realize it was a learning experience. I like the characters, I'd like to work with them again, but differently--but I wouldn't enter this book. As for the second manuscript, one it's not polished or had the problems worked out; secondly, it's way outside the box. I think I'd do okay on formatting and writing--but content? I'd be slammed. Getting a bunch of zeroes or ones would be completely demoralizing.

I think judges are looking for what readers look for when they read: something that enthralls them, where they forget they're reading. When reading is a struggle due to poor characterization or writing, it's too tempting to put down. When the writing is great and the characters sparkle like the best actors on a stage--you forget yourself. I think we all want to be enchanted.

And possibly we all secretly want to judge a work that's worse than ours so we can go, "Ha, here's another person I write better than!" Whatever. *LOL*

Bosun said...

That reminds me, I signed up to judge the GH this year. I've never done that before. Not sure what possessed me. And I'm finding in my reading lately that I need to care about the characters. If I reach the mid-point and really don't care what happens to them, or how they end up together, then I put the book down.

Once upon a time, I never put down a book. Putting lots down so far this year.

Hellion said...

I have to post off topic!

This lion and lion tamer outfit is so darned cute!!

Donna said...

I don't think I'll be entering the GH. Since I don't belong to RWA, the entry fee is doubled, so I'd rather spend that on something else. Maybe an e-reader.

I've had three people read one of my manuscripts recently, and it was intriguing how each person focused on different aspects they liked or had a question about. I think as readers we have certain ways of viewing a story, based on our inherent likes/dislikes, and how the writer is able to tap into that.

When I finalled in the GH long ago, they had just started the "scores only" thing, but we could still write thank you notes to the judges, and I got a nice letter back from one of them. She wanted to read the rest of the manuscript, and it was great getting to talk to her about it afterwards. I guess that can still happen nowadays -- it just would require some internet sleuthing first. LOL

Anyway, good luck to everyone who enters!

Hellion said...

I don’t think I’ll be entering the GH. Since I don’t belong to RWA, the entry fee is doubled, so I’d rather spend that on something else. Maybe an e-reader.

Or vodka and a couple hotties to rub your feet...or elsewhere. There are a lot of ways spending a $100 would be more useful. *LOL*

Bosun said...

It's double?! I didn't know that. I doubt I'd enter if it cost that much. In fact, I know I wouldn't.

hal said...

Ahh, cute little lion! I love it.

I let my RWA membership lapse, so it'd be double for me too. I have a polished book I could send in, but it's *really* dark, and I doubt would do well with those judges. But mostly, I just don't want to shell out the hundred + bucks, only to get back a mixed bag of 4s and 6s again. lol.

2nd Chance said...

Well, my one foray into the GH was pretty funny...horrible scores. But I get! Starting in Nov/Dec that MS is undergoing some editing, it's already been rewritten, and then heading for my agent. Because it's still a good story, damn it!

I'm actually putting copies of The Kraken's mirror together to enter the RITAs. I don't expect to do well, but I figure five books to five people around the country...and one of them might be a good contact...WTH. I figure it's good promo.

I'm so outside the box I totally don't expect to do well... I can also double enter with first book as well as paranormal romance...

Bosun said...

Go for it, Chanceroo!

Marnee said...

I'm back! We hung out at a working farm all morning. What that means is that my eldest pronounced cows both "cool" and "smelly" and my youngest found dirt and smells like an animal pooped on him.

On to the comments.

Ter - I’ll be honest, I enter because I want to final. I want the attention that brings as well as the credentials. But I know several writers who have finaled multiple times and have yet to sign a contract. I’m realistic enough to know a final is no guarantee of publication.

This is exactly why I entered. I think the 50 bucks is worth it for the perks of finaling. It seems like there's a lot of fuss over the finalists at Nationals. And it does seem to interest agents and editors. But you're right; it's no guarantee. But it can't hurt.

Hells - I think judges are looking for what readers look for when they read: something that enthralls them, where they forget they’re reading

This is how I judge my entries too. The criteria to judge is so bleh. Give it a number based on how you feel about it overall. But then they give you the option to give it a decimal point. With requirements that general, how could you? I never got that.

Marnee said...

Ter - I'm judging again this year. It's fun, to read other people's stuff. At least I think.

I think, as a judge, something I can put out as a suggestion. SHORT synopsis. As short as possible and still get the story in there. Put it behind the entry.

Because let's face it: the entry is going to be more interesting than the synopsis. Nothing makes me want to put an entry down like picking it up and finding a synopsis upward toward ten pages.

I also love the lion outfit. I've got to get going on Halloween costumes. Ugh. I dislike Halloween.

Donna and Hal! it's 100 bucks!?!? Good grief. I can see why people wouldn't enter if they weren't in RWA then.

Donna - I'm not sure if I like it better just scores or would prefer feedback. I think both ways have their benefits. Scores are very black and white. It is what it is. Feedback can be confusing. But so can just black and white scores. Dunno.

Hal - I can understand not wanting to shell out 100 bucks if you're worried about the reception. I think 50 bucks is a lot.


Chance - Good luck with the RITA! And getting it out there is good, you're right. :)

So you're revising an older MS? Good luck with that too. My first one won't ever see the light of day again. It was a learner. Parts of the story were ok. I'm going to use them elsewhere, though, I think.

2nd Chance said...

Marn - A Caribbean Spell is the story my heart longs to see in print. I've tweaked it a lot since that GH entry...done revision in classes... It's a good story, I just had to learn how to write better and I want this one in print, desperately.

I mean, how else will I get the following 29 books out if I don't start with the first? ;-)

I think when I entered it in the GH it was still dancing between third person POV and first...for example. One major thing I fixed!

Marnee said...

Chance - I'm exhausted just thinking of writing a 30 book super saga. Exhausted like I got when I read yesterday about the woman who gave birth hours after finishing a marathon.

Good luck though! That's the one with Miranda, yes?

P. Kirby said...

100$ to enter (for non-RWA folk)!? Wowee-zowees. I guess that's supposed to be an inducement to join RWA.

My idea of romance is too out of the box--heck it can't even see the box--to do well in this kind of contest. So it would be a waste of $50-$100 bucks.

Good luck to everyone who is entering! Hope you final.

Marnee said...

Pat - I think there are some categories of the GH that allow for being out of the box (I think paranormal and historical are pretty generous), but I think it's still within the parameters of reader expectation.

So far, it's just Terri and I jumping in to the GH this year then? No other takers?

Bosun said...

Pat - There's always the "Novel with Romantic Elements" category.

Looks like it's just us, Marn. I bet no one else will have the cool pirate cheerleaders we'll have. That's a leg up right there. Literally. LOL!

Marnee said...

Looks like it’s just us, Marn. I bet no one else will have the cool pirate cheerleaders we’ll have. That’s a leg up right there. Literally. LOL!

*high fives Terri* Right on girl. We'll bring the piratitude to the GH. And Chance is bringing it to the RITA. If any of us makes it to that podium next summer (boy wouldn't that be awesome), we need to make a pact to give our pirate sisters a shout out. Perhaps even an ahoy or such.

Bosun said...

Of course we will! And since we're in different categories, I say we both win. (We can dream, right??) I'd love to see Chance win. Especially with a digital first book. Talk about breaking barriers.

Marnee said...

I agree! A triple pirate win at Nationals!

Ahoy. Avast me Hearties! Shiver me timbers and etc!

Hellion said...

Dude, if you guys all finaled, I might have to actually make myself buy a ticket to the conference to shout out when your names are called. And since I would be there, it would be like snowing in July and you'd definitely win. I'd be like a good luck charm. *snorts*

Donna said...

You know I'll bring the Hotties along to cheer.

We're gonna need a few more tables for all of them though. . .

2nd Chance said...

Sounds like a plan..then we all walk over to Disneyland and take over Pirates of the Caribbean... (Yes, the hotel is within walking distance of the original mouseland.)

Yup,'s the monster long series... ;-)

Pat, unconventional romance is a specialty...

JK Coi said...

Good luck in the GH, Marn and Terri!
And Chance in the Ritas!

Bosun said...

Thanks, JK! I'm going to need all the luck I can get!