Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Kelly Irvin

I don't know if Kelly remembers this, I didn't until I got her picture, but I went up to her at ACFW and said, "So Christine what did you think about blah, blah, blah..." I talked until she finally made me shut up long enough to say, "My name isn't Christine."
So, now she's Kelly and we have this lovely relationship that I for one, will never forget. I hope. (Just as I'm sure she's hoping she WILL)
Remember that AT NO TIME in this exchange did Kelly slap me. So, since I do stuff like this all the time, I think I'll stick to conferences full of Christian people. Probably safest.
I thought she was Christine Lynxwiler and I'd sent to you Christine's website so you can see they do look somewhat alike.(C'mon, they're both blonde! My husband is also blonde. I often mistake him for Christine!) Except why would I send you to Christine's site? I'll send you to Kelly's instead. http://www.kellyirvin.com/

******************************************************************* ************************KELLY IRVIN********************************
After five years of writing fiction, I’ve come to an important realization: how I react to contests says more about me than it does about the contests. I’m talking about being able to accept constructive criticism. You would think I would be better at it, having been a newspaper reporter, but I’m not. Somehow my works of fiction are different, special creations like my children, whom I love and adore. Having recognized this nasty flaw in my character, I’ve adopted a multi-step process for dealing with contest results.

First I give myself time to accept the rankings, whatever they are. Celebrate being a finalist. Or growl, hiss, and boo over not make the grade. Maybe even quit . . . for a day or a week . . . long enough to get past the feeling of rejection. Next, I give myself time to accept the judges’ comments instead of wadding them up and shooting baskets into the trashcan with them. When I find myself in the right frame of mind, I tear open the envelope. My critique partners are critical at this point—they listen and support me as I go through the “can you believe this judge said that about my precious writing” phase.

As I analyze the comments, I remind myself the judges are complete strangers and they’re spending their valuable time helping me on my writing journey. How cool is that? I don’t always agree with them, but I pluck out the pieces I can use and respectfully set aside the rest.

Recently, my novel, “The Dead Parents Society,” finished second in the romantic suspense category of The Molly, sponsored by the Heart of Denver Romance Writers. The judges’ comments were thoughtful and detailed. I found it particularly helpful that a synopsis was required, although not judged. One, it forced me to write the dreaded document. Two, it saved my behind. The first three chapters of DPS don’t include a great deal of romance. Two of the three judges looked at the synopsis and recognized that romance was on the horizon and I had indeed entered the correct category. The third rejected my work out of hand because “it isn’t romantic suspense.” The system of going to a fourth judge when there’s a huge gap in scores brought me back from the abyss. This experience taught me to look very carefully at the category descriptions. The feedback I received on the synopsis (they mostly thought it stunk) was every bit as helpful as the comments on the manuscript itself. What did I learn? Spend more time on that synopsis. Judges need it to put your story in context and you need it for your proposal, anyway.

My advice to those struggling with the time, effort, and money that contests require is this: Be tenacious and have a teachable spirit. This was my third entry in The Molly. My writing is improving with each contest. Am I there yet? Probably not, but I’m encouraged and fired up to keep trying. And that’s the best medicine a contest can give you—a shot in the arm of encouragement that says keep going, keep trying, you’re almost there, and you’re not alone.
A little bit more about Kelly:
Kelly Irvin’s writing career in nonfiction and fiction spans the last twenty-five years. In the realm of fiction, most recently her romantic suspense manuscript, “Mine to Avenge,” was a finalist in the 2006 American Christian Fiction Writers national Genesis Contest. Other fiction-writing credentials include publication of the short story, “Fast Food,” in HiCall Sunday School Magazine. Her poem, “Twenty-Twenty Vision,” was recently published in the San Antonio Express-News.


Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Kelly. I don't know if you remember me from ACFW, I understand I leave a lot of traumtic amnesia in my wake. Just ask the other Seekers.
Anyway, I loved your post. You're right about those nasty synopsis. We really do need them and well, when you're writing with such grace and beauty, like me :), and every word is a gem, how oh how to your cut it down to five pages. (or even less!)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kelly, aka Christine, welcome to Seekerville.

Since Mary has already frightened you (that's why we keep her around, it's proved way better than a trained Doberman at the gate and we don't even have to feed her. Ivan does that.)you've survived the first test. Good job. Or, I could go Aussie in honor of Narelle's post and say: "Good on ya, mate!"

You cracked the Molly. I'm so impressed. Not an easy contest to shine in. Very nice. And I'm glad you brought up synopsis vs. no synopsis. I've had it go both ways, where an 'unjudged' synopsis pushed a judge to a lower score (and they admitted it... Hmmm.....)
and I've had experiences like yours where the judge can see the thread through the well-thought-out (well.... sometimes) minimized version of my oh-so-spectacular book and didn't give me a total smackdown.

Sometimes the difference lies between category romance and long romance or single title romance where you don't have to have the story jump off the first page with hero/heroine falling into each other and stumble around. LC and ST allow a little more plot-building time.

And synopsis writing can be a bear, can't it? I've gotten better because Mary, Audra, Sandra and Tina aren't afraid to slap me down, shore me up, and slice and dice when necessary. Also got better when I started viewing the snop as a technical writing document rather than creative. Huge help for me because then I could 'see' the book in a more linear fashion.

Thanks for dropping by, kid. Hope you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas.


Julie Lessman said...

Hi Kelly, it's always fun to meet new authors!

And, whoa, your comment about "how I react to contests says more about me than it does about the contests" really found its mark -- OUCH!! Was that nice? Seriously, you are so dead-on with that comment that I am actually repenting right now for several contests I was in over two years ago! :) Of course, I was off hormones at the time, so I think God takes that into consideration ... I hope!

Thanks for being our guest on the Seekers loop and have a blessed Christmas!

Mary Connealy said...

The only reason I'm not afraid to slap Ruthy down is because we live about 2000 miles apart. I'm sure I'd be terrified otherwise. As it is, I'm a little scared.
Having her a couple of years ago, finally be perfect has saved us all. I mean, she was always close.

Gina Welborn said...

After five years of writing fiction, I’ve come to an important realization: how I react to contests says more about me than it does about the contests.

Kelly, this is such an amzing quote, I'm going to blog about it today. :-)

Now regarding those dreaded synos...

I hate writing them. Maybe despise is a better word choice. But after seven years of writing synos, I've come to an important realization: how I react to synos tells me more about non-plotter of a writer I am than about synos.

A month or so ago, my CPs convinced--guilted--me into entering the GH again. This time with the early Victorian that I hadn't looked at in 3 years. They said "you've revised it 10 bajillion times; it can't need much work." I think they have me confused with Nora Roberts.

Anyhoo, when I was expanding the syno, I realized the entire last 100 (at least) pages of the story had to be deleted, erased, scratched. *sigh* But once I started thinking about it, odds are, when finally got to that point in the story to revise (again), I probably wouldn't have said, "Gee, let's cut this last 100-ish pages." Oh, I freelly admit I'm into taking the easy road. Of course, my CPs won't let me. They're cruel, I tell ya.

While I'd love to write a syno before I wrote a story, I doubt it'll ever happen, but I can totally see how writing one after the first draft benefits me. And I also think it's important for writers to write a syno at the time it helps her the most. While we'd all love to be plotters, we all aren't that blessed.

Now as a contest judge, I like judging when a syno (even a one-pager) is included and prefer when it's an unjudged one.

BTW, in case anyone didn't know: when entering the GH, you must DOUBLE-SPACE your synopsis or your entry will be disqualified. So no matter what contest you enter, ALWAYS check the submission guidelines 'cause I'd hate to hear anyone say...

After years of entering contests, I’ve come to an important realization: how I react to getting disquaified becuase I forgot to double-space my synopsis says more about me than it does about RWA's GH rule makers.

Missy Tippens said...

I also loved your opening quote, Kelly! Wow. That's a great attitude, too.

Thanks for visiting our blog today! Great post.


Mary Connealy said...

GINA!!! I got disqualified from the GH once because I forgot to double space my synopsis.
Honest though, I always believed they were just jealous.
Okay, oops, what does that say about me.

Gina Welborn said...

LOL, Mary. This just goes to prove GREAT minds think alike.

Once I got past feeling like an idiot (duh, I did read the submission rules, really, I did), I stopped seeing the disqualification as something unfair. While finaling in the GH again would have been cool, I entered the contest because I needed the incentive to start revising that ms.

Contrary to rumors, I'm pretty sluggish when it comes to doing pretty much everything...except getting to a movie on time. The previews are a must.

Entering the GH made me have to quit pondering how to solve the historical implausibility I'd written and just fix it because I didn't have time to ponder. And by getting back to work on that ms, I rediscovered my love for the story and characters.

Last night I wrote a new scene that enabled me to layer in a new backstory for the hero. What's so cool is I got to kill two brothers and birth a sister and a step-brother. What fun! I love a good death. I even got to throw in some research about vampires. And if that scene wasn't thrilling enough to write, it ended with the heroine learning something about the hero that has really ticked her off. Her behavior in the next scene, which is motivated to teach him a lesson, is cracking me up. Poor hero. I'd almost feel sorry for him if he hadn't had it coming.

Of course, now I have to figure out which servants are on which lead's side. SInce thinking is over-rated, I'll probably just put their names in a hat and draw. That works for me.


Susan Lohrer said...

Mary, you're hilarious. And you should know that when Kelly's husband saw a picture of blonde ol' me, he asked her if I was one of the relatives. We blondes really do all look alike. ;-p

As one of Kelly's crit partners, I know she's moving toward publication fast. Boy, can that girl write.

And I so hear all your synopsis agony, I really do. Dread writing them myself. But they're worth the work we put into them. I request them from clients all the time. Mwa-ha-ha-ha . . .

Kelly Irvin said...

Y'all are too funny. And I thank my CP Susan for her supportive promotional words. I agree with you Ruth on the synopsis helping judges when we meandering between categories, which I always do. My hero and heroine refuse to meet and fall in love in the first chapter. In fact, I'm struggling right now about whether to enter the ACFW Genesis contest again after I bombed last year (and yes that is a big fat whiny remnant of disappointment. I admit it. Remember, it says more about me than it does the contest. . . ). I'm thinking of changing categories from romantic suspense to suspense. Is it ridiculous to rewrite chapters in order to make them fit a preconceived notion of what a judge thinks should be in the first three chapters of a WIP??

Peg Brantley said...

Mary Connealy could do stand up. In fact, I think she should do something at the next ACFW conference. You are too funny, girlfriend. Throw in a few technology anecdotes and you'll have them rolling in the aisles!

Kelly, I'm beaming. You are insightful and pulled together, and . . . well, as Susan said, you are on the verge.

Do you remember "way back when" when we started our little crit group? I'm humbled.

When a mentor asked me for the synopsis on my current wip, I freaked. I had one--but I hadn't looked at it in . . . oh, 17 or so revisions. I'm pretty sure she forgave me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Peg, I do remember when we started, what was it like four years ago? I was so worried about hurting your feelings. Not so much now. LOL. But it is nice to know we can get the straight poop from our critique partners. Well, my laptop plug-in thingie jig has died so my laptop battery is about to die and tech support (read hubby) says he'll have to order a new plug-in thing. So signing off sad and computerless for who knows how long in SA. Sigh.

Mary Connealy said...

Me and stand up...yikes, maybe...if I could TYPE the stand up and do it hiding behind the podium.
No, not even then.
The killer on the GH Snop is, I entered two books and I did double space one of them. And I also realized I didn't double space the other one, so I redid it, but I must have switched them but mixed up the switch. Because, after that cntry was gone there was the double spaced snop laying on my desk.

Gina Welborn said...


I think its UTTERLY ridiculous that a hero and heroine have to meet in the first chapter. Shoot, who says they have to meet in the second chapter either. Shouldn't the story dictate?

Granted, I can understand having them meet in chapter 1 if you're writing a novella or a shorter novel, like Heartsong or Barbour. But for a single-title length novel, I'm all for having them meet when it's the right time.

And I don't buy the excuse "if they can't meet in chapter one, then you're begging your story too soon."

Sometimes I think the author is cheating the reader of natural tension from wondering how these to characters are going to react when they finally meet.

BTW, I doubt I'll ever enter Genesis because my stories don't fit the preconceived idea that for a story to be a romance, the leads must meet in the first 10 pages.

Of course, on one of my inspy loops, two gals volunteered to read my WIP where the leads don't meet until page 50 (freak out, I did say 50),although the hero does see the heroine by page 23.

Gee, reading what I wrote makes me wonder if I should simplify my plots. No wonder an editor hasn't recognized my brilliance yet.

Eileen said...

Kelly rocks! She's the VP of our local ACFW group and shines in the position. So much so, I think she should move up a notch. Hmmm, Kelly?

Her writing deserves publication, IMHO.

Pam Hillman said...

There are so many factors involved in finalling and winning contests that it ain't even funny.

Great writing, ms. fits category, snop explains story sufficiently, then drawing judges who understand your voice.

Some wonderful published authors say they never did well in contests and simply didn't enter many.

The bottom line is that each author needs to understand when her story does have a chance of finalling in a particular category and when it doesn't.

And if it doesn't, and you're past the point of simply looking for feedback, you might have to pass on that contest or..if you're just itching to enter, enter a ms. that does fit. lol

Pam Hillman said...

Oh, sorry, Kelly. Great to have you here, and you DO favor Christine a bit! lol

Mary Connealy said...

In Petticoat Ranch I kept stumbling against this hero and heroine meeting problem because my hero is unconscious for the first about three pages of the book.
So how could anyone judge the hero. I mean he's right there... out like a light, true, but he's obviously in the book.
Anyway, I finally had him regain consciousness briefly just to give him a scene early on. If you read the book you can find him swimming to the surface, having a weird (but charming and endearing and heroic and funny) scene, then passing out again.
When he comes to later, that's when he really started being in the book originally. But you know what? I like that little scene when he wakes up.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary can't do stand-up, girls. Trust me. I won't go into details, but envision shaking, caterwalling, whining, sleeplessness and knee-knocking, butt-jiggling nerve attacks and you'll understand.

Sit down? A better choice, especially if there's a dark wall between you, like a Catholic confessional. She'd be fine then.

Well. As fine as she gets.

The greatest thing about her is her total, absolute honesty in humor. She's been a blessing since the first day I met her, when for some unknown, or God-only-knows reason, I sputtered out things I'd never said to anyone.

I think she slipped something into my lemonade. She does live on a farm, you know, with easy access to all kinds of animal treatments.

Who knew?

And that whole remembering when we got started thing?

Only adds wrinkles to your foreheads, girls. I've got some special anti-wrinkle cream that's just the cat's pajamas for when you realize that thinking of how many years you've been slugging along adds deepening creases (laugh lines... umm.... right) to your face en masse.



Julie Lessman said...

GINA SAID: I think it's UTTERLY ridiculous that a hero and heroine have to meet in the first chapter.

Oh my, Gina, I'm sooo with you on this point! I can't tell you how many judges marked me down because my hero and heroine didn't "meet" in A PASSION MOST PURE until chapter 3. They also nailed me for multiple POVs, as did one editor who shall remain unnamed. Oh, well, all water under the bridge now ... the book is out in ... uh, TEN DAYS!!! YIKES ... deep breath ...

Julie Lessman said...

RUTHY SAID: (Mary's) been a blessing since the first day I met her, when for some unknown, or God-only-knows reason, I sputtered out things I'd never said to anyone.

You're right, Ruthy, Mary DOES have this effect on you ... somewhere between a priest in a confessional and a kindly old grandma who just wants to soothe ... suddenly you're spilling your guts. Not only could she have been a stand-up -- this woman could have been a private eye too.

RUTHY SAID: I think she slipped something into my lemonade. She does live on a farm, you know, with easy access to all kinds of animal treatments.

LOL, Ruthy, maybe THAT's what it is ... :)

Pam Hillman said...

Ruthy said: She's been a blessing since the first day I met her

Julie said: somewhere between a priest in a confessional and a kindly old grandma

Pam says: I can't tell if this has turned into a praise Mary fest, or a roast Mary fest!

A kindly old grandma? ROFLOL

Melanie Dickerson said...

Mary's great, but if you ever embarrass yourself in a really big way, she will bring it up everywhere, in front of everyone, and you'll never live it down, no matter how much you wish it would just all blow over and everyone would just forget about it. Mary. Will. Bring. It. Back. Up.

LOL But I love her anyway.

Gina Welborn said...

Regarding that "rule" that the H/H meet early...

Several years ago...lemme think. Okay about 5 years ago, I queried a Christian agent. S/he loved my story and characters and said I had a strong voice, but said s/he then went on to say that s/he couldn't sell the story unless the H/H met within the first 10 pages.

I really really tried to figure out a way to make that happen, but I couldn't think of anything because my plot needed more pages prior to their meeting so the reader wouldn't be wondering what all was going on.

I'm okay with rules.

I'm okay with guidelines.

I'm not okay with continuing to do something one way because we've always done it that way.

Last weekend I read Micheal Crichton's latest novel, NEXT. The story opens with a bounty hunter tracking a guy, and the scene eventually turns into a chase. Next scene was a lawyer and her dad in court. I think all that took place in the first 32 pages. Now I can't remember how many pages the book had (my son has it with him in OK), but for the sake of my ramblings, let's say it had 500 pages. That bounty hunter and the lawyer don't show back up in the book until, say, page 400.

If an unpublished Christian fiction author wrote a book like that, I doubt any inspirational publisher would buy it.

Granted, if I were the book's editor, I would have cut 100 or so pages from the story and streamlined the subplots (especially the ones that only seemed there to convey the whole gene-patenting platform). Doing so would have made the story easier to understand for a reader like me and increased the pace. But I can't I'm Crichton's target reader. (Yes, when I read JURASSIC PARK, I skipped the scientificky talk and went right to the dinosaurs eating another person.)

IMHO, it all goes down to what works for each particular story.

I'm not a big prologue fan, but if it fits with the story, I'm good with it. What bothers me is when judges knock down an entry because it begins with a prologue. I figure you can't effectively evaluate the merit/necessity of the prologue until you've read the entire novel. Guess I think the best person to decide if the prologue is needed is the book's editor.