Missy here. I'm so happy to introduce my friend Narelle Atkins to you today. Narelle is doing great on the contest circuit! I'll let her tell you her story. Welcome, Narelle!
Narelle Atkins writes contemporary inspirational romance. In 2008 she will be the Vice President of the Faith, Hope and Love Inspirational Chapter of RWA. She resides in Canberra, Australia with her husband and two children.
Thank you, Missy, for inviting me to be a guest on Seekerville. I’m glad to be here today with the Seekers.
Writing contests. Mention this phrase to writers and you’ll hear a diverse range of thoughts and opinions. Last week at my Canberra Romance Writers group meeting, we reflected on the year that had passed. A number of us had achieved success through contests. We heard of one member who was thinking about quitting romance writing, in part due to some disappointing contest feedback.
I entered my first contest back in 1999. An opening chapter contest through Romance Writers of Australia. I had only written about three or four chapters of my first ms. I discovered I had a long way to go and the feedback was helpful. One of the judges encouraged me to keep going and to learn my craft. Great advice for a newbie.
The arrival of my children and two interstate moves put my writing on the back burner for about five years. At the start of 2006 I became serious about my writing. I joined the Finish the Book loop through FHL and finished the first draft of my second ms in 2006.
In 2007 I took the plunge and started to enter writing contests again. I wanted constructive critiques on my first and second mss. I entered both mss in the FHL Touched By Love contest and the ACFW Genesis contest. I prayed that I would receive helpful and consistent feedback from the judges.
To my astonishment my first ms reached the final round (and eventually placed third) in the Touched By Love short contemporary category. The final round entries received five critiques from the published author final round judges. From both contests I ended up with eleven critiques of my first ms (due to the large range of scores in the Genesis contest I had a discretionary judge). God answered my prayers for critiques far beyond what I had expected. The feedback from the judges in both contests was excellent. My weaknesses were highlighted and I was given some direction in how to improve my mss. A wonderful blessing and I appreciate the time and effort put in by the judges. Thank you!
My first ms needed major revisions. Comments from the judges and my new critique partners helped me to redefine the direction of my story. I set a new goal: to finish my revisions in time to enter the Golden Heart. I wanted some additional feedback on my first three chapters and synopsis so I entered my ms in the inspirational categories of the Rose City Romance Writer’s Golden Rose Contest and The Golden Network’s Golden Pen Contest. Steeple Hill editors were the final round judges and I had hoped I might final in one of the contests.
I was thrilled to final in both contests. I spent five hectic days revising my first three chapters and synopsis for the Golden Rose final round. Again, the feedback from the judges in these two contests was great. I had been toying with the idea of a sequel with two of the minor characters and one of the Golden Rose judges said she could see this potential too. It’s wonderful when the judges share your enthusiasm for your story.
I placed second in the Golden Rose contest and any day now I hope to hear the Golden Pen contest placements. The final round judge of the Golden Rose contest requested my complete ms.
I started this year with the goal of entering writing contests for critique and I ended the year with three final round places and a full ms request. I’ve learned so much from my contest experiences. The quality of my ms has improved as I revised using the constructive comments from the judges.
To all the judges who scored and commented on my contest entries, thanks so much for helping me on my journey towards publication. I’m not there yet but I’m a lot closer than I was at the start of 2007.