Friday, March 20, 2009

Pimp Your Contest Entry

This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed pimping your manuscript here in Seekerville. Be sure to check out some past articles, as I won’t be covering what has been already mentioned in these archived posts.

11/7/07 Staging Your Manuscript by Tina Russo
5/8/08 Pimp Your Prose by Ruth Logan Herne


Reading further indicates you agree with the following disclaimer.
If not, please click on the escape icon, displayed by an X in the right upper corner.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other Seekers. The actual facts expressed here belong to everybody. The distinction is yours to draw. This post is meant for educational purposes only. Any resemblance to real manuscripts, living or dead is purely coincidental. Furthermore, the individual letters, words, and punctuation marks involved in the making of this article had no options, and should not be held accountable for the writer's statements. No contest score sheets were harmed or named during the making of this disclaimer. Still further, the author is not accountable for any damage caused by the application of this information to any manuscript existing or nonexistent. All contest score sheets used in the production were strictly borrowed without permission. This space (____________) intentionally left blank.

Should you pimp your manuscript for a contest? Is the Pope Ca--I mean, yes, ask any diva. There are tricks to the trade,all's fair in love and romance writing, and today we share a few of those tricks, which really are simple common sense. The mistake many writers make is thinking that entering a contest is just that. No, it involves strategy. Pimping your manuscript is strategizing.

Can you afford to throw away a contest entry fee? Neither can I. In any given contest you've got more than the final judge to impress. You first must pass the inspection of the contest coordinator. Then you must dazzle up to as many as five first round judges and with some contests, second round judges. Then you have one chance to make a good first impression on the final editor or agent judge.

Pimping For Beginners:

1. Read the rules. All contests are not created equal.

  • at least 1 inch margins on all four sides
  • 12 point Courier New, 12 or 14 point Times New Roman
  • 25 lines per page
  • header with title and contest category in upper left (no font mentioned)
  • 24-25 lines per page--with the exception of the last page of a chapter or the first page of each chapter which MUST start one-third way down a new page
  • Unjustified text, aligned left
  • 1 inch margins (doesn't mention top or bottom)
  • The chapter may be printed or typed in either standard manuscript format or faux galley format
  • Manuscripts should have unjustified right margins
  • Typed in an easily read font that is acceptable for submission to publishing houses
Notes from contest coordinators:

Entrants who do not comply with the above rules of XX contest will be contacted and given until the contest deadline to correct the infraction. (Off with their heads!)

Manuscript format is not a judged component of the XX contest. Judges may or may not point out formatting issues to an entrant, but no points are deducted for perceived infractions. (Dude, I'm not your mother!)

Obviously if you need to pimp your manuscript you want to find a contest that is pimping friendly. Pimping friendly means they use words like: industry standard or publishing standard without the tedious details. With these contests unless you really make your pimping noticeable you are going to be able to fly under the radar.

If you simply cannot cut or trim your contest entry to meet the guidelines and you need all the available space you can get then try changing your format or your font enough to get the space you need but not enough to cause an INFRACTION!

Warning. Save a copy of your manuscript pages before you dabbled as a back up.

Then go into the format area and the page set up area of your document and play with everything until your finished product stays within the rules and gets you the space you need.

You can play with space between letters, space between sentences, gutters, and point size. Be bold, mess with everything. Don't forget to play with the font and spacing on your header too. If you don't know where these areas are in your version of Word then use the handy dandy help tool. Mac users you are on your own.

2. Read the score sheets.

If you think you don't need to read them, you are wrong.

By the way, if score sheets are not available on the contest web site, ask the coordinator to send you a copy.

One caveat-there are several contests out there which do not release score sheets and/or do not use them. Often these contests utilize strictly published authors and are comparable to being published and having a reader review you. Don't enter these contests unless you are consistently finaling in other contests. You will be frustrated as you will receive little or no feedback.

That said, do not wait until you get your manuscript back to find out you just wasted your time and money on a contest with a score sheet Nora Roberts couldn't have pleased.

Are the questions broad based or are they intended to assist the judge and the entrant?

For example, this section of scoring from a contest for category romances (remember category romances vary from Harlequin Romance to Supers) gives the opportunity to score from 1 to 5 in these areas . The total for this section is 20 points. That is huge. Can you pimp your manuscript to get those twenty points? Sure, this one is very pimpable.

  • Do the heroine & hero meet early in the book and is the attraction between the two believable?
  • Can you determine the internal conflict for both H & H?
  • Can you determine the external conflict for both H & H?
  • Is there sufficient ground work to support their physical attraction and emotional relationship?
In this next contest it might be very difficult to get the entire five points in this category question as it is so broad. And five points can make you a finalist...or not.

Is there believable Internal conflict?
Is there believable External conflict?
Is the plot original or told with skill and a fresh twist?

It is much more difficult to pimp your manuscript in contests with broad or vague questions. This is about as vague, broad and subjective as you can get.

Evaluate the Subjectivity of a Contest.

One popular contest bases 30% of their judging on subjective items. They list the section this way: Emotional Reader Reaction: (30%)

So if you write a book with a topic that is sensitive or your hero starts out as really unlikable, the best you can hope for if you get the wrong judge is a 70. That won't put you on a final judges desk.

Points, Points, Points!!

It is not just the questions on the score sheet that are important. The points allocated for each section is hugely important. Check out how many areas are lumped into one scoring area.

Look at this contest which gives a large portion of points to a section they call 'Style' which is basically five points for each bullet. The topics lean toward the subjective.

Style: 30 points:
  • Shows rather than tells.
  • Style is easy-to-read with a rhythm created by varied sentence length and structure and smooth transitions.
  • Descriptions are vivid and give reader a sense of time and place.
  • Information is fed in naturally, as needed—not too much or too little at a time.
  • Narrative, dialogue, action and introspection interwoven and balanced and viewpoint is handled well.
  • Grammar, punctuation and spelling do not detract from the story.
It's going to be more difficult to pimp this contest. Not impossible. And remember, you may not want to change your voice to suit this contest. If you are willing to pimp then you have to go through each bullet item and do a hard evaluation of your manuscript.
  • Check for words like felt that show.
  • Evaluate your sentence length. Read your entry aloud for smooth transitions.
  • If a stranger picked up your pages would they be grounded in time and place?
  • Go through and use different colored marker to evaluate your narrative dialogue and action. Is it balanced? (Maybe you don't actually want it balanced as this is not your voice-but know it will weigh against you.)
  • Never send anything but your best work out to a contest. Have someone check for errors.

This next contest is even tougher with fifty points in this section. That is half of the contest's total points. Again, some are subjective-it is a contest after all.

STORY – 50 POINTS (1-5 points each)

Does the story hold your interest to the end of the entry?

Is the point of view consistent? Are POV changes smooth and logical?

Do sensory details (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) enhance each scene?

Does the setting support the story? Is the story well-grounded in the setting?

Do inspirational elements grow organically out of character or plot?

Do scenes flow smoothly, giving a sense of movement?

Is there an opening line or paragraph that immediately hooks the reader into the story?

Is the writing fresh and original, avoiding clichés?

Does the writer utilize showing and telling skillfully?

Is the author’s voice distinct and unique?

You can pimp this contest too and get the maximum points allowed by pimping the highlighted areas. You can't do a thing about a judge who doesn't love your style and voice so work on other areas until they are perfect.

The following contest leans heavily subjective with ten questions worth ten points each. Ten being the highest and one the lowest. There are suggestions in each judging question but no set checklists. This will be one tough contest to ace, since it depends so heavily on whether the judge likes your story and it is very broad.


Plot : Appropriate for genre? Believable/logical? Complex enough for length?

Wow, and that is for TEN BIG HUGE POINTS!!

Another contest with similar scoring uses only 2-4-6-8-10 for those big tipping point categories. While subjectively based it gives clear guidance to the judge.


Plot and Conflict: Does the story start at a good point with a strong sense of movement? Does at least one main character have clear external conflict and at least a hint of internal conflict? Is point of view consistent with the character whose head you are in? Will the conflict sustain the plot? Does the plot seem contrived? Do the scenes flow with effective transitions?

You can easily pimp your entry to meet the judging criteria of the above example. Add a line to hint at your hero's conflict. Cut that internal passage the heroine has while waiting for a plane. Check your POV carefully. Would the heroine say that if you are in her POV? What keeps your H & H apart? Can you show the conflict or hint at it?

Bonus points/Penalty points:

I personally don't like these types of questions because if you are a strong writer readers love you or hate you. You can't pimp a thing here. Others would argue however that if you are a writer who can template a story (technically perfect but the story has no spark) then these questions are very effective.

OVERALL APPEAL –Would you want to finish this book if it were published, and would you
recommend it to a friend? (Score 0 through 5)



Is your interest piqued? Did these pages reel you in? Are you wondering what will happen next? Would you buy this book to find out how it ends?

Synopsis : If you write a lousy synopsis you are shooting yourself in the foot by entering a contest that judges them. That translates to five points or more that are keeping you from finaling. You cannot afford five points. In some competitions you cannot afford .5 points.

Pimp your entry by learning how to write a synopsis.

Hooks & Grabbers

A grabber pulls them in and a hook makes them want more.

A contest is a great place to test your grabbers. Sometimes the contest will specifically judge them. It's an easy way to chalk up points.

Read your first line out loud. Is it something that would make the contest judge want to keep reading? If you don't understand grabbers, open up any book on your TBR pile and read the first line or the first few lines.

Hooks are a trickier because while contest divas know what a hook is, they often have a hard time breaking their own preconceived rules and regulations for contests. They are pimping shy.

Time to break out. Pimp your hook!

Don't even think about ending mid-sentence, mid-paragraph or mid-- anything. If you haven't made that contest judge scramble through your entry to find more pages, you have failed.

This is not a hook:

Don’t even.” Angel said. “I have a full-time job too.”

“You do?” Sophie queried.

“Angel hasn’t shared her news?” Dora asked, a pinched expression on her face.

No room for the last few lines. So what will I do? I'm going to shift my font and my formatting, ruthlessly cut words to get that hook right where it belongs. Usually what I discover is that my story is better for the pruning.

Now here is a hook:

“Don’t even.” Angel said. “I have a full-time job too.”

“You do?” Sophie queried.

“Angel hasn’t shared her news?” Dora asked, a pinched expression on her face.


“What news?” Sophie glanced at her sister.

“Ma.” Angel repeated the warning.

“Your sister is now a stripper.”

After you have done a basic review of the contest score sheet go through and judge your manuscript.

Go ahead and write down the scores you would give if you had to use the contest score sheet as a judge. This is not an evaluation of the quality of your manuscript but a check list assessment of whether the factors they judge are evident in your first pages. Often a judge is bound by an inflexible score sheet.

Is the contest too objective? Too subjective? How does your manuscript fare?

And finally, can you pimp your manuscript to make it work with the score sheet and the contest rules? Or will you be totally changing your voice and style.

Only you can decide.

3. Last, utilize a checklist much like you do before sending your manuscript off into the world. Here a nice self-editing list in no particular order of importance. Feel free to share those editing points you think should be added to this list.

1. Use the word find tool and scan for overuse of: going-it-and-but-just-only-that-would-as. Replace or eliminate.

2. Have I introduced too many characters at once, detracting from the H&H conflict and requiring a scorecard?

3. Avoid cliches.

4. Have I used strong action verbs or did I rely on vanilla verbs such as went, came, started, found herself, made, feel/felt?

5. Check:
  • Toward not towards
  • Backward not backwards
6. Its is possessive and it's is a contraction of it is.

7. How many exclamation points do I have? Two is one too many.

8. Check for redundancy: too, always, ever, never.

9. Read pages aloud to see if you skipped/left out a word. This also eliminates sentences that have an 'off' tempo.

10. Have I overused the em-dash or ellipsis as a technique?

11. Do a word check for words ending in 'ing' preceded by was. Can I create a stronger more active sentence?

12. Check for unnecessary commas.

13. Can I make a stonger sentence by eliminating 'ly' words? She ran quickly to the goal line.
or instead try, She raced to the goal line.

14. Have I over used the attributive clause? "You want to start over," Mary said with a frown.

Change to:

Mary frowned. "You want to start over?"

15. Do all my sentences start the same?

Mary said...
Mary went...
Mary got up...
Mary felt...

16. Use your tool option to highlight: his/her, she/he. Have you overdone it?

17. Evaluate for action then reaction. Additionally, do your characters react, respond?

18. Is there emotion on every page?

19. Avoid over use of ending sentences with prepositions (-0f-to-in-with-for-on) or the pronoun--it. This isn't a rule, simply a warning to avoid overuse.

20. Read aloud to eliminate dangling modifiers.

So what do you think? Are you read to give it a try?

Go ahead.

Pimp your contest entry for stellar results!


  1. I left a little surprise for you on my blog! Have a wonderful day!

  2. You're scaring me Rachael, my cats say the same thing on occasion, but I am going to see anyhow because you have a nice smile.

  3. Well, a blog award. I shall notify Camy immediately!!!!

  4. Tina,

    Wow! I guess this means I should stop just closing my eyes and sending in my entry! Ha. It is so wise to strategize like this, the way I would match job skills on a resume to what an employer is looking for in an applicant.

    By the way, in your last comment here, in just one sentence you used three more exclamation points than you recommend for an entire contest entry. Better watch it LOL

    How do you feel about the number of pages a contest allows you to enter? Is longer better?

    I guess it goes without saying that if the contest asks for 20 pages, you give them all 20?

    And finally, although I've heard it's acceptable not to have a completed manuscript, do you get burned if someone asks for a full?


  5. Great post! I really love the suggestion of judging your own manuscript. I've never thought to do it before.
    Whew. THese contest waters are murky. I'm afraid to wade in.

  6. Yeah, I try to get all my exclamation points out in the rest of my life.

    Well, If my story naturally ended on page 17 and it had a great hook, to tell you the truth, I wouldn't mess with adding three pages.

  7. Oh come on Jessica, this post is for a perfect world. I have just mailed off plenty of times without looking at the contest score sheet. I was young then of course.

    I haven't even mentioned judging systems. That would take a whole other post. But don't you just LOVE it when they drop the lowest score?

  8. Finally the coffee is made. Dag Boz Sumatra today. We have triple play Danish, cheese, cherry and blueberry.

    It's Friday so I get to sing my Friday song. Friday, Friday, Friday is my favorite day!

  9. I have to admit this pimping idea is new to me. I've always tried to make my entry the best it can be--for my long-term purposes--and have never thought of changing something for that contest per the scoresheet. hmmmm. Interesting.
    (and naive?)

    As for dropping that lowest score? Not necessarily because I've found (being both an entrant and a coordinator a few years back) that often the lower score is the tougher judge (with the best suggestions)and it gets your attention.
    I've also seen a case recently where someone received a score that was half the points of the other two. YES! that should have raised some issues and been thrown out and replaced.

    Thanks Tina!
    You Seekers are all so clever.

  10. Ah, Tina, I'm impressed! Your list of ways to pimp your contest entry is awesome! And over-whelming. LOL

    But your suggestions could make all the difference between being a finalist, even winning, and dismal scores.

    Great stuff here. Using your self-editing checklist is excellent practice toward pleasing an editor.

    I'll help myself to the cheese danish. Thanks!

    Oh, and thanks for the doggie fashion show. :-) Divas come in small packages.


  11. Wow Tina, What a complete analysis of a contest entry. All I can say is its a good thing I didn't know that before i started entering contests or I would never have done it. I would have been terrified. Ha.

    But it is great advice. Better believe the editors are looking at the same thing.

    I agree with Janet. The pup was too funny.

  12. Dear Lord, Tina, I laughed at so many spots in your post that my husband came in to see what was so funny!! You are a true hoot, kiddo!

    And a true contest diva!! No wonder I never beat you out in contests, at least I don't think I ever did! EXCELLENT advice that if I were entering contests with my ms., I would print this off and paste it in the box with all my binder clips (and I have a ton, let me tell you, in every color ... gold (for the GH), silver and black!


  13. I had no idea I was funny. I thought I was simply irreverent.

    There is some sort of magic in putting the same color paperclips or binder clips on an entry and slipping in the oh so important colored sheet of paper dividing your msc and synopsis.

    Electronic entries simply are not the same.

  14. Up until a few weeks ago, I thought you copied and pasted the first xx pages of your manuscript in new Word document and deleted a few lines, tightened a few paragraphs, etc, so you ended the last line on the last page on a hook.

    But there's so much more to pimping.

    I've never done as detailed as Tina suggested comparison of my potential entry to a contest scoresheet. Yet I have skipped entering if I didn't feel my entry would do well against the scoresheet.

    The Dixie (closed this week for entering) stated pretty clearly on the scoresheet that you ought to have your hero and heroine meet in the entry pages.

    My plan had been to cut the first scene (hero's pov) and tighten the second scene (heroine's pov) so that the second half of the entry is their initial confrontation (ending in the hero's pov). Unfortunately I didn't get around to doing the pimping in time to enter the story.

    I am, however, determined to do this trial pimp to see the end results. Just gotta find the right contest and scoresheet.

    As a judge, I don't mind if the h/h don't meet in the entry pages even if a question or two asks about. I try to see the big picture. But not all judges are as fabulous as moi. Except for mainstream with romantic elements, if your entry doesn't have a strong interaction between the h/h, then I highly suggest you find that first meeting and tweak that into your entry.

    As a contest coordinator, I've seen some of the most...okay, if you don't have a crit partner and haven't had anybody besides your friends and family read your manuscript, DO NOT ENTER A CONTEST.

    Yikes! Gotta go change the toddler's poppy diaper.

  15. Did you all read that long, long, long post?
    You need to do all that stuff.

    I did, however, once end a submission mid sentence and place thrid...but man oh man was it a great mid-sentence. I fiddled with that a long time so the end of my allowed 25 pages came right in the middle of that sentence.

    Entertained myself if no one else.

    It was for the book Montana Rose, by the way, which is coming from Barbour in July.

  16. What is a Poppy diaper?

    Mary, Happy Birthday you little ole get the PR for your next book (MONTANA ROSE) in there person you.

  17. Totally the best advice I've ever seen.

    Speaking as a contest judge, ninety percent of my comments are suggestions that the entrant do exactly as advised here.

    Ten percent are "great" and "good job" alongside top scores because the entrant has followed this advice.

  18. And don't I just love the cover of your book, Mary Margaret.(had to go to your web site to see it in living, heart pulsing full size color). Thanks for the comments and for visiting Seekerville.

    Cheese danish?

  19. Holy cow, what a post to kick off Friday! I'm glad I treated the kids to apple fritters this morning and that DD didn't want hers so I have some extra sugar to survive this. :-)

    I should've waited until reading this before I sent my Genesis entry. Oh well, I guess that means I'll have to be brave enough to put some of this advice into play and fork out the bucks for another contest. If so, that would make 3 for me this year -- a record.

    Great stuff, Tina. Shows me once again how much you ladies at Seekerville know and how much I still have to learn.

    Happy weekend!

  20. THREE FOR LEIGH!!! Wooohooo!!! Way to go Diva!

  21. Oops I never answered Cathy's question about getting burned if they ask for a full.

    We discuss this often in Seekerville.

    The answer is always: TYPE FASTER.

  22. Cat surprises generally consist of non-tasty internal organs.


    Rachael, thank you!




    Greatest post ever on pimping or 'styling' your entry. Oh my stars, you so outdid me that even I (and I never grovel) am taking a step back to your excellence.


    Seriously, if people don't save this post, print it and post it above their computers, realizing that a contest is NOT an editor, then I give up.

    Well, not really because I Nevah, Nevah, Nevah give up. Too Churchillian.

    You go, girl. Wonderful stuff.

  23. Tina, Yes I LOVE it when they drop the lowest score. That was how I finaled in a contest. LOL

  24. Thank you! My first contest I was clueless. My second? Thanks to the hints and tips from Seekers, I did several things right. The next one I enter? I'll be even more prepared.

    Thanks for such an informative post that was a fun read!

  25. Hi Tina:

    I think you are an absolute genius. I believe you would make an excellent analytic philosopher.

    What I would love to see you do (and you are fully qualified to do) is take five current RITA winners and score them using various contest score sheets. If these RITA winners score high on a particular contest, then I would assume the contest is reliable but if the RITA winners score low, then I would be inclined to think that particular contest is suspect. Has anyone ever done this? After all, in science tests are verified against known quantities. Why not test the contests against known excellence?

    How do you think the current RITA winners would fare if their first 20 to 30 pages were entered in the most popular contests? I just wonder.



  26. Ha ha Vince. I am so not an analyst. I get dizzy when I read Cheryl's plotting stuff.

    The RITA is judged by peers so right away there is a flaw. And of all the books published in a year, all of them do not even enter the RITA.

    Art is so subjective.

    All pimping your manuscript hopes to do is give you a better shot of finaling..then guess what? The editor or agent doesn't have a score sheet.

  27. A "poppy" diaper is one that doesn't smell bad like a "poopy" one does.

    Then again, maybe you should pay attention to what I mean and not what I say. Like if I said, "Tina, you're an irreverent snippit," what I mean is "Tina, darling, you rock!"

    Am I the only one impressed that Julie has binder clips in assorted colors? I thought they only came in black and rust-covered. Hmm. Gold, who knew.

    COngrats, Leigh, on the three contest entries. I might have that many out there. Maybe. My list of contests entered seems to have blended in with the one labeled contests I'm considering but tend to be to cowardly to enter. Or cheap.

    Ruthy, you're weird. And I like it.

    Vince, excellent question about RITA finalists and unpublished contest scoresheets. I say we pick a book from 1990s, all read it, then score the first 15 or 25 pages using...well, let's use the Genesis scoresheet, only omitting the spiritual thread question if the book we choose isn't an inspy.

    Or for the sake of not blasting one book, we all pick any random book, use the same scoresheet and page lenght, and score the book. Then share the results without giving the name of the book.

    Hmm. Then again, maybe an unpublished contest scoresheet isn't about selecting the books that are best ready to be published.

    Maybe they're about helping writers understand how the different componants of writing work together to create an engaging piece of fiction. In a sense, it's a sieve, separating the lumpy stories from the smooth ones.

    Yes, my word verification today looks like hot chicka (hothita). And who am I to argue?

  28. I don't think I spelled sieve right. Seive, no that's not it.

  29. Dernit . . . Tina,

    You put a bunch of good stuff in that there blog today and I already sent my entry out.

    Can we take a moment here and just consider how to pimp mine now that it's already there . . .

    Like if you're a judge and you happen to read my story, ya know it's called .......

    Can you put on your fur coats?

    To warm you while you read my chillin words.

    Your platforms,
    To wade through my lingo

    Your dark shades.
    To overlook all the problems and send my entry along with 5's across the board?

    (5's being the best score of course, if it's tens by all means put ten)

    Maybe it will be okay. I think I got the formatting right. LOL

  30. Tina, have you considered multiple entries?

  31. Awesome!!!!!!!!!! This is so helpful :-)

    Oh, and I didn't use that many exclamation points in my contest entries... **smle**

  32. The idea of multiple entering a contest kinda scares me. For the Genesis, that's $70, 105, 140. Eeks!

    Now I suppose I could justify it if I were entering more than one genre/category. Didn't Erica do this last year and finaled in both?

  33. Question: I was just on the Genesis page and saw they recommend entering by the 15th. Is there a problem with entering on the 30th? (realizing they take only the first 100 entries in each categories)

  34. If you mean multiple by I entered two in the Genesis, well then I've done my duty.

    If you mean by sending that same story out to multiple contests. I was just thinking whether I should send these on to another one. I'm not always so sure about that though.

  35. Tina, great stuff!!! You rock, honey!

    When I was shopping NOWHERE TO HIDE and submitting to contests, I started the story with a mother racing across a deserted playground (during a storm) to save her son from being snatched. She and son escape to an island off the coast of Georgia. At the end of chapter three -- think last page, last line of submission -- a dead body is discovered.

    Lesson? Start with a bang, end with a bang. For contests, cut some of the middle and keep the explosive bookends.

    BTW, it worked. The book won contests and I received "The Call."

  36. Yeah, there are a lot of people who hang around here who multiple enter in one contest and multiple final.

    I did mean multiple enter the Genesis, Tina and I see you did.

    But what is wrong with multiple entering in several contests? Of course I am much older than you and getting older waiting for contest entries to return. Nixon was in office when I started and some of those entries still have not come back.

  37. I wouldn't wait until the 30th unless I was mailing overnight and my cousin was the mailman. But electronic entries can disappear into the black hole.

    It's the 20th. You and I are both rebels without a cause at this point.

  38. For one, multiple contests means more putting myself out there. Although I'm getting much better about that.
    And yes there is the cost.

    My biggest question on it is if I place in one someone likes, offers me a contract for it then I have to pull my story from the contest.

    Maybe I'm thinking big . . . but I did sprinkle some "Judge B Blown Away" dust on my entries.

    Really I've been thinking about sending them onto the Touched by Love contest.

  39. LoL--I'm dense, Tina, and need a translation.

    Do I fold and wait until next year? or get my butt in gear and tidy up what needs tidying and submit it so if the black hole strikes I have a couple days to hustle again?

  40. Actually, Gina, if you need to pay dues it is 85 for one and then 120 and 155 and hold on to your Ramen Noodles...ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY DOLLARS.

    But I have been meaning to diet anyhow.

  41. So out of do you pay for the Genesis? Is it Paypal or do you have to mail your check? That would make it tough to get your check in on time if you did it on the 30th.

  42. Thanks, Debby. I am now evaluating my manuscript to see who I can kill.

    He he he..but this is actually very encouraging news. Thanks for sharing.

  43. Patty, you are not dense.

    I took off work today to get my Genesis entries ready. Normally I would not divulge this information, but in the spirit of sisterhood...

    We can share Ramen Noodle recipes.

    Get your kester in gear, girl.

    Now I see I may have oopsted up. I thought all contests that were electronic were Paypal. So someone please put me out of my misery and tell me.

  44. Tina,

    I use paypal and get mine in right away.

    As far as you're being older. Well now. Judging from my picture and yours.

    I'm the cute little blonde a writing prodigy, So I suppose you are probably older than me.

    But then again only my hairdresser knows for sure.

    oh wait . . . I am my hairdresser.

  45. Okay I just read this.

    "My biggest question on it is if I place in one someone likes, offers me a contract for it then I have to pull my story from the contest. "

    A spew alert would have been nice.

    I recommend you worry about other things such as how to spend your advance check, or whether or not you should autograph your books with red ink or blue, or what you will wear when you do The Tonight Show.

  46. A SPEW ALERT . . .

    I was deadly serious.

    But seriously, I couldn't do the Tonight Show. Leno won't be there by the time my book is out.

  47. With the Genesis, you can send a check or pay using PayPal or a credit card.

    The Genesis is all electronic electronic, so no worries with the PO sending your entry to Alaska instead. Although I've judged entries before that I wish would have been lost in the frigid Yukon.

    I wouldn't wait until the last minute to enter....BUT if you haven't received a confirmation e-mail within an hour from the contest that your entry was received, then e-mail the coordinator. Camy loves to hear from panicked entrants. Hahaha.

    Yes, things do get lost in cyber space, but the real benefit to entering earlier than last minute is you don't add stress to the coordinator. She's got to check each entry to be sure it conforms to format rules.

    Which leads me to: ALWAYS DOUBLE-CHECK FORMAT RULES before you send in your entry. Seems we tend to do this more on paper entries than electronic ones.

    Now while I highly encourage entering the Genesis even at this late though fine Spring day, if you just can't get things together, then consider the Touched by Love.

    I'm the LC and SC coordinator, BTW.

    We've made some changes to the contest, which I think Tina will explain tomorrow in the Weekend Update. Right, Tina-kins?

    Unlike the Genesis, we only have 3 categories, and ideally your entry ought to be a romance. Or at least have romantic elements. If the latter, then please use the header to clarify your genre, such as mainstream with romantic elements.

    Still, though, if your entry isn't a romance, then odds are it might not score well on the hero questions (I'm assuming your lead is girl).

    Lemme double-check to see who our final round judge is.

  48. TBL first round: three judges with one guaranteed to be published or a RWA-Pro.

    Second and sorta-final round: five published authors.

    Third and really-final round (winning entry from each category): Ami McConnell, editor Thomas Nelson

    Thomas Nelson is one of those CBA publishers who pretty much only take agented manuscripts, unless it's requested at a conference. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. Since finaling could be a quick trip to a TN editor's desk, I highly anticipate more entries than last year. And we had almost double the entries last year as the year before.

    Gotta tell you a cute story about one of my adorable chitlins. I took my kindergartener out of school today for a lunch date to Chick-fil-A.

    As we were eating, she said, "Mommy, Chick-fil-A is my second favorite place of all."

    So I'm thinking I wonder what her favorite place is. First thought was anthor restaurant, although I couldn't think of a place she liked to eat better than Chick-fil-A. My next thought was Disneyworld.

    Needless to say, I asked her what her favorite place was.

    "Heaven. There's no place better than Heaven."

    I'm such an amazing mom.

  49. Hi Tina & Gina:

    Tina: An analytic philosopher takes a concept like ‘love’ and analyzes all the ingredients that are imbedded in that concept as C. S. Lewis did in his book, “The Four Loves”. This philosophic skill requires creativity far more than it does logic. The way you have delineated the factors going into increasing one’s odds of winning a writing contest is a sure demonstration of this talent. I was being serious.

    Gina: How about instead of using RITA winners, the best romance books of the year are selected based on consensus? The writing contests that awarded these ‘best books’ with high scores might be a lot better to enter than ones that don’t. If this experiment were done scientifically, it might make a great article for RT or the RWA magazine.

    I don’t think most writing contests should be divorced from book excellence or commercial success. There is just something wrong if ‘excellence’ scores low. Besides, these contests could serve two purposes: writing skill enhancement and as predictors of future excellent either in quality or sales and perhaps both.

    In any event, there just seems to be a perfect symmetry in having writing contests being graded. “Judge not, least ye be judged.’


  50. That is an adorable story. You know you need to write those cute things down and save them for manuscripts.

    I will let you have it this time, but next time, whoever claims it gets first dibs.

  51. Well, Vince. I think I will just say, THANK YOU.

    Are you entering any contests in the near future? What did you think of your Marlene feedback?

    Arrgh, I still have thank you notes to get out.

  52. Tina, feel free to use my cute stories of my kids.

    Although, you are right. I should be writing all these things in someplace special. Oh, like a memory book. Curse you evil scrapbook paper piled up on my office table.

    I think I'll go shopping now.

  53. This is SO fabulous! Great information.

    Thanks for being so thorough.


  54. Yes, well I am the most thoroughly unpublished novelist you will ever meet, missy. I mean Cheryly.

  55. Tina, I'm impressed. The comments you've made and illustrated could truly make the difference between finaling and simply sacrificing an entry fee.

    I did the free-falls through contests until I discovered the posted scoresheets. Makes me look twice at what contest I enter. Really scrutinize the objective of the criteria. Not all scoresheets are across-the-board entry friendly.

    Thanks for all the work you put into collecting this material. You are truly a wonder!!

    Hmm, I've had dinner and everything. Maybe a danish wouldn't hurt too much : )

    Thanks, Tina!!

  56. Hello Tina:

    I am trying to enter the Great Beginnings Contest in two categories. I don’t know if I’ll make it however. The contest is only 5 pages which I think is good for a beginner. It also has what I feel is an outstanding score sheet. I think RITA winners would do exceptionally well on the Great Beginnings criteria.

    I had mixed results with the Marlene contest. One judge got it and was very encouraging and made a great deal of comments. Far more comments than I ever expected. The second judge was polite but neutral and also made a great many corrections and suggestions. These two judges annotated my entry and color coded areas that needed work. I feel like I got well over $100 in value for my entry fee. This contest is well worth the entry fee! The third judge didn’t get it, didn’t like it, and didn’t have much to say about it either.

    All in all, I am very encouraged and will try to enter next year. After I learn all your tricks, which you so kindly share with everyone, I plan to really do better next year.

    I have already sent an email to thank the judges. I hope an email is proper.

    BTW, I can’t get 25 lines on a page with Word at double spacing with 12 pt. Courier type, if I have 1” margins on all sides. It takes me 1” on right and left and .8” on top and bottom.

    Also, and this might be a guy thing, but why do you say ‘pimp’? Don’t you mean ‘primp’ – as in dress up? I’ve been reading it as ‘primp’ all this time. Do you really mean ‘pimp’? What am I missing here?



  57. Vince, welcome to the world of contest ambiguity.

    Well I had to use TNR to get 25 lines and go into my paragraph and where it says double put EXACTLY and where it says 12 pt I typed in 25. That did it.

    Pimp is a modern term whose meaning is similar to primp. Have you seen the TV show Pimp My Ride? It is the same play on words. Google it.

    Vince, dude, you rock. Email is good. Remembering in fact is astonishing.

  58. I'm a day late, Tina, but great post! So much info!!

    I have to say that as a judge, I've seen a few of those score sheets. And they can be a killer! A lot of territory to cover.


  59. Wow, I have to thank Julie Lessman for sending to me this Bday party shindig... I am learning so much. Thank you for sharing your tips on things too, I am hoping to make a binder full of tips and keep it for future reference.
    this was wonderful and I so hope to read your books and review them someday.
    Linda Finn
    Faithful Acres Books