Friday, February 22, 2008

Thoughts from the Genesis contest coordinator, part two

I have a mystery/suspense manuscript, but the crime is not mentioned in the first 20 pages. Should I still enter it in the mystery/suspense category or some other category?

In general, the crime should be at least hinted at or foreshadowed in the first 20 pages of a mystery/suspense manuscript. If it’s not, is the manuscript only half mystery/suspense and half some other genre like romance or women’s fiction?

If it’s half mystery, half some other genre AND the crime isn’t hinted at in the first 20 pages, it might be better to submit the entry into another category. The reason is that a mystery/suspense judge might get the manuscript and think it’s entered in the wrong category, scoring you lower than you might have gotten in another category.

If it’s not a half/half manuscript, then my suggestion is to add some kind of foreshadowing or hint of the crime in the early pages, for the reason stated above about the mystery/suspense judge’s score.

I use Word Perfect and not Microsoft Word. How do I save a .rtf file to enter into an electronic copy contest?

I had to ask Audra Harders for this answer:
1. When saving the document, there is an icon on the toolbar that allows you to save as a .doc file. Just click that and you'll have the file saved in WordPerfect and as a .doc.


2. Click Save As
Go to File Type at the bottom of the box
Go to Rich Text File
Click that
Click save

Thanks, Audra!

My manuscript isn’t quite finished yet. Can I enter it into a contest?

Sure, as long as you only have to enter the first X number of pages and not the entire manuscript. Contests like the Golden Heart require a copy of the entire manuscript, so in that case, you wouldn’t be able to enter one not yet completed. But for any other contest, there’s no stopping you!

One thing to consider is that if you make it into the finals, the final round judge might request the full manuscript.

Wonderful, right? Well, it doesn’t look so good for you if you take 9-12 months to get that manuscript to the editor.

Sometimes, an editor asks for a particular manuscript because the character’s issues or overall story premise is exactly what she’s looking for at that particular moment—but if you don’t submit your manuscript until several months down the line, she might have found another manuscript that fits her purposes and won’t be interested in yours anymore.

Timing is everything.

So if you do submit an unfinished manuscript, try to have it done by the time the winners of the contest are announced. The Genesis deadline is March 1st, but the winners aren’t announced until September, so entrants have more than 6 months to finish their manuscripts.

Well, those are the main questions I’ve received as Genesis coordinator. I hope many of you will enter the Genesis this year!


  1. Camy, these are great posts with good, timely advice for the Genesis and contests in general.

    You rock.

    Picking a category SHOULD be hard the majority of the time unless you're writing straight category. Even then lines cross-genre. Several HQ lines publish romantic suspense stories even though they have a specific line for RS. Generally it comes down to percentages and how you evaluate your story in the marketplace. Where would you shelve it?

    But even that's indecisive as many of our guests have pointed out. Didn't Kathy mention that they shifted her books around from mystery to romance, etc. because they cross murky lines? And Andrea Wilder, who guest-blogged last week, wrote a delightfully fun historical with paranormal elements...

    Fairies. Adorable. Troublesome. Perfect.

    And Mary can get tossed into the Inspy shelving unit, or she could be romance, comedy, or RS, depending on the work involved.

    Whatever happened to plain, old fiction and alphabetical order????

    Ah, the good old days!

    When I first read Julie's A Passion Most Pure, it was in the romance category of a contest. I remember that I wrote across the top of her opening page, "This is a delightfully put together story, but it isn't a romance. Definitely more of an Irish family saga, Maeve Binchy style..."

    Is "Passion" a romance? Most assuredly. Are ya' kiddin' me, with smokin' hot Collin??????

    Be still my aging heart because my nitro prescription is fresh out.

    But it wasn't strictly romance, and some contests are set up to score that way, like Camy said.

    Camster, good job. Lots of good info.


  2. My brain hurts just thinking of all you have to go through just to enter. like working out what catagory etc.
    Its bad enough for me when i go to the city and get to Koorong (big christian bookshop here) and look at all the books (in alphabetical order) and try to decide which ones i want (and can afford).
    but if i was then told i had to just pick from one catagory well my 1 hour trip may take several!
    Good luck to all entering. I really do appreciate more what a writer goes through to be published.

  3. i wish i had read that computer tip on word perfect in college! i did a paper on word perfect on a friend's computer and did NOT know how to change it to a word doc and was supposedly to hand it in was a messy situation! oh well. its over.

  4. Camy, excellent advice! How many years have you coordnated the Genesis, Camy?

    Entering a contest like the Genesis with an unfinished manuscript is the perfect incentive to get the book written. And prepares writers to meet deadlines.


  5. Camster -- We are sooo lucky to have you as the Genesis coordinator!!! Great info, girl!

    And, Ruthy, I don't know if I ever told you this, but you were amazingly astute about that Maeve Binchy comment. My agent told me after the pub board on A Passion Most Pure that the editors were brainstorming taglines for me and came up with "A Christian Maeve Binchy." You have an incredible eye and talent for getting to the heart of things, my friend, and I totally credit YOU for steering me toward the family-saga genre rather than just straight romance. THANK YOU!!!


  6. I've been told my book is an inspirational, historical western, romantic comedy, suspense with a chick lit voice.

    So, put THAT on the shelf and smoke it, right?

    I think seriously they should just put five or ten copies of Petticoat Ranch in EACH section, but try as I might, the book stores aren't playing along.

  7. Camy,
    Thanks so much for all the work you're doing to coordinate the Genesis.

    I have a question. I received the automatic email confirmation message after I submitted, but I never got a message from the category coordinator, and I thought I read somewhere that I should get an email from that person (Mindy Oberhaus) within three days of submitting. (I submitted Sunday.) Did I imagine that?

  8. What Camy said about entering a book in suspense but there's no suspense in the first 20 pages.

    This is a mistake for the author. If you're writing a suspense and 20 pages in you can't yet identify it, then you need to revise. In this way entering a contest is a golden opportunity for you. Because an editor is going to think the same thing, "Where's the suspense?"

    So this is a great example of how entering contests can really help you as an author. Those judges sheets aren't just someone (Ruthy comes to mind) thinking up rules to torture poor unsuspecting entrants. They are a good look at what editors are searching for in a manuscript.
    So if it's suspense with no suspense, fix it.
    If your hero is unconscious, wake him up.
    If your hero and heroine in a romance haven't met...MEET THEM.

  9. Just found this blog - great stuff!

    I'd like to comment on the mystery/suspense question. Mystery/suspense/thriller is the primary genre I review for The mystery/suspense needs to be on page one. Yes, page one. go to the library, or even a bookstore and read first pages of top authors. Someone dies, or there is a serious problem unfolding.

    Also, be cunning in your twists and red herrings. Great mysteries stump those of us who read them with obsession. Good luck!

  10. Mary, you are right to the point on that answer. A book should be somewhat identifiable within the first twenty pages unless it's a single title (more leeway given because of the greater page length)...

    But you should still have a hint of what's happening through the author's voice.

    In my RS Tome final, you know instantly that there's a killer out there because his voice is the first thing you read, then it flips to the police department and the hunka-hunka burnin' love police captain...

    In the one I'm revising for the straight Long contemp category, it's more subtle in the beginning (going with a higher ratio of romance to suspense in this one), but it's still evident that someone's missing, lots of suspects, and a cop that's mad at the world.

    There's a fine line between 'outing' your entire story in the first pages, and threading things along to take the reader on a roller coaster ride.

    Ruthy (who actually does sit home and ponder ways to torture new authors because it's FUN!!!!!!!!)

  11. Great info, Camy!

    My two cents? Mail early and attach some type of tracking form, such as a delivery confirmation receipt the US Postal Service uses. (BUT remember don't rely on anything that requires a signature on the receiving end.)

    I mailed copies of NOWHERE TO HIDE and SCARED TO DEATH for the published ACFW contest by priority mail last week to the contest coordinator's address in Texas. Today the tracking system told me they've arrived in Spokane, Washington. Go figure! Fingers crossed they eventually make it to Texas!

  12. Just discovered this site. Thank you, Camy, for all the helpful answers and suggestions for entering the Genesis contest. And thanks to all the ladies who have commented here, too. I plan to enter my historical inspirational. Nice to see familiar names from the ACFW book club here as well.

  13. Pat, welcome aboard!

    You too, D. We think alike and I liked your candid advice about mysteries/suspense, etc. Right on target.

    Nice to have you guys stop by. Grab a donut on your way out, and come back soon. We're doing Hot Cross buns next week, in honor of Lent.



  14. I just got my entry off today. I knew how to change to an rtf. file but when I went back and looked at it--a page had shifted leaving my Chapter One at the bottom of my prologue page--oops! Do the judges take a lot of points off for technical difficulties?

  15. Donna, make sure your original entry had page breaks between the chapters. I had a few entries with formatting problems, but it was because the writer inserted only carriage returns and not a page break.

    If you do have page breaks and the formatting is still off, feel free to email it to me at and I'll help you reformat it.