Sunday, December 9, 2007
When Mary Connealy invited me to write about my contest experience, my first thought was what experience? Then I thought about my writing journey, compared it to others in my writing group and realized I do have experience.
Like many of you, I’ve wanted to be a writer most of my life. I used to have a 1 hour commute, which gave me loads of time to spin yarns in my head. Finally a friend gave me a couple of Dee Henderson books and I was hooked on Inspirational Romance.
My first three works were historical – westerns. Naturally I thought they were the best books ever written. Not! I’ve learned a great deal about this craft since starting that first MS. The most important and hardest lesson is this: when they tell you edit, edit, edit they aren’t being mean! I finished my first novel, did a little copy editing and pronounced it complete. Wrong! But I had to enter a few contests to find out how wrong.
Early in my journey I discovered RWA – something else I thank Dee Henderson for (I’d been given Danger In The Shadows, a RITA winner). I joined and entered the Golden Heart contest. I entered other contests, too. I didn’t agree with the judges, until much later. I wrote three stories, getting better with each. In my first there’s multiple POV’s, which is okay except I head hop. By book three I’d kept to just 2 POV’s but was still head hopping. In my current MS there are only 2 POV’s and no head hopping. Finally! And it made it to the final round in a contest, too. There’s no stopping me now!
Another thing I learned was to only enter contests with Inspirational categories. I may be prejudiced, but it’s my feeling that people looking for hot steamy romance are just plain turned off by even the mention of God. Can’t wow a turned off judge, no matter how good the writing.
This year I joined FHL. I’ve definitely benefited immensely from that membership. Their Touched By Love contest is my favorite, for one reason – the judge critique sheets get returned to the author. I know, other contests do that too, but TBL was the first one I got constructive feedback from. Occasionally I disagree with a judge, but overall they’ve been extremely helpful.
Recently I’ve begun entering other contests, for short work. I stink at short, so it’s really good exercise. I wrote a 250 word bit for a blog contest with Steeple Hill – and won! Talk about inspiring. This week I’m entering a Writer’s Digest short story contest. My entry is completely different from my romance writing. It should be interesting to see how I do.
Lately I can’t read a book without critiquing it (sorry, Mary, I even did that with Petticoat Ranch!). Maybe I’m ready to become a contest judge
1st Place ‘Great Moody Pumpkin’ Contest
2006 1st Place, 2007 3rd Place Hardwick Community Fair
She’s Mine – 2007 TBL finalist
Self-publishing gives you instant gratification. But in some ways it's more difficult than going the "regular" route. You're the editor & there's nothing harder than cutting up your baby. If you're thinking about self-publishing, get some (brutally) honest critiques and make the tough decisions first. And don't trust spell check!
My first 3 novels have great potential and a fairly loyal, if small, fan base. They're early works and show it (my skill growth is evident in book 3). They're enjoyable to read, so don't be put off. However, if any of you reading this just happen to be an agent or editor please be assured I've learned to edit-edit-edit!
All three novels are published by Xulon Press, and are available at http://xulonpress.com/bookstore.php. They are also available from Amazon.com and many other on-line booksellers.