Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Best of Seekerville from the Archives and First Five Pages Critique


First Chapter Statistic by Pam Hillman

Once I jokingly said to a friend who has finaled in the Golden Heart, like, 10 times and won 3 or 4 times, that I aspired to be her when I grew up. She replied, very sadly, that no, I did NOT want to be her. Yeah, put that way, I could see her point.

Over the last few months we’ve talked about getting up the nerve just to ENTER a contest, entering simply for feedback, then getting to the stage of entering because we’ve been consistently finaling and we’re pretty sure our current WIP can make the cut and land in front of an editor.

All of that is well and good, but what’s the ultimate POINT of entering unpublished contests? I mean, past the point of getting our work in front of an editor or an agent? The point is to become ineligible to enter contests. Right? Right!

And, dear heart, we don’t get to that point by working and reworking chapter one of a manuscript to enter in contests. I know of more than one aspiring author who fell by the wayside because she could never stop tweaking that first chapter and entering it in the next contest to see if it would final. After two or three years of this, she lost her zeal for the story and couldn’t even remember where she was headed with it in the first place. It was a hodgepodge of contest feedback and she completely gave up writing.

Hey, I’ve had my share of doing the same thing, so I know what I’m talking about! But I finally got past that and actually finished a manuscript, then another, and another. So, that’s the first step to kissing unpublished contests good-bye forever. (Hope I’m not driving AWAY our readership… .Well, when we’re all published, we can always talk about contests for published authors, can’t we?)

So, don’t be a first chapter statistic: Finish the manuscript.

And you know what? If you’ve never actually finished a manuscript, you’ll be surprised at all the things that will happen during the course of writing the story that will change the opening scene, or make the goals and motivations of your characters that much clearer as you write the closing scenes. It can be a real eye-opener, even if you had a detailed synopsis to go by.

At some point you’ll know you need to “retire” your current award winning manuscript from the contest circuit. Only you can decide when to do this, but I would say that if it’s been in front of most of the editors and agents who are judging, and if it’s won the Golden Heart, then it’s probably time to retire it. If you spot an editor or agent who’s judging that has never seen the manuscript, by all means enter it in that particular contest, but don’t just keep sending the first same chapter to the same final round judges over and over and over. (Someone else mentioned this a week or so ago). After an editor has seen it in contests 2 or 3 times, that’s probably enough.

I imagine at that point they’re ready to see something else from you, so write something else. Write the first chapter and a clear synopsis of the sequel to your first book or something totally new and enter that in a contest and get back to FINISHING your first award winning manuscript (which is a moot point if it won the Golden Heart, isn’t it?).

So, the goal is to start your manuscript, enter a few contests, FINISH the manuscript, and start something new. All this time keep entering contests, making connections, submitting to agents and editors, and somewhere down the road, something will click, and you’ll move one more step up the publishing ladder.

Keep working, keep moving forward to the goal, and publishing will happen.

Just don’t be a first chapter statistic.




Pam with her agent Steve Laube.


Pam Hillman has placed in dozens of writer’s contests with six different manuscripts in the last seven years, including winning the Golden Heart, one of America’s most prestigious contests for unpublished novelists and the ACFW Genesis.

A multi-published author in short fiction and non-fiction, Pam continues to stretch her wings as a writer of inspirational fiction set in the American West. The Code of the West has always resonated with the internal fabric on which Pam was raised: that of hard work, honesty, and just being a good neighbor to someone in need.



This post first appeared in Seekerville 2/25/08




Don't forget...

Today is the last day to be considered for our weekly critique.

OFFICIAL RULES HERE!


76 comments :

  1. Hi Pam:

    It would seem that winning a contest is not related to the marketability of the full manuscript.

    Do you have any ideas on what editors are looking for that contest judges do not factor in their choices?

    I’m willing to write something, I know not what, that has the highest marketability potential. Any ideas?

    Thanks

    Vince

    I'd like a shot at a critique before I enter it in a contest.
    vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

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  2. Here's a huge pot of coffee.

    Great advice, Pam. Thanks.

    Helen

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  3. Wow, Vince, you really started a good secondary discussion on Pam's post.

    Probably for most of us, we are entering a manuscript in a contest as we learn about writing, not about the market. So you either write a book that "laughs in the face of" the market, or you tweak it to fit.

    Or, better?? you put that contest success aside and start a new one, knowing where it will succeed, as Pam said. Thanks Pam!

    I hear Editors say they are looking for ' a great story' and a voice that stands out but maybe the pub boards are the hard sell, more cautious about what is or is not marketable.

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  4. Great Advice Tina! I've begun countless books, but only have about 4 or 5 of them that I have actually written all the way to the end.

    I'd love to win the 5-page critique - gearing up late for the Genesis and I could use some advice!! :-P lol

    ~ Katy
    legacy1992(at)gmail(dot)com

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  5. Thanks for the great advice, Pam. I'm struggling to bring my first WIP to an end. After reading your post, I'm determined. Have a great weekend!

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  6. Thanks Pam. BOS (because of Seekerville), I entered a contest at all!

    It was due to win, of COURSE, but *gasp* came in 5th from the bottom. HA!

    Still, it was a great experience and one of the judges was quite encouraging!

    Jillian mentioned trying to get to "the end" and that was a challenge for this Pantster. What? You mean everything has to wrap up nice and neat? LOL.

    After I thought it finally was finished, I hired a writing coach and found out there were still many holes.

    What a process! But now that it IS done, I'm determined to get the next one up and going.

    Vince, I'd postulate that it might be a "know it when you see it" type thing. Much like finding "The One" to whom you can give your heart forever. Lots of super contestants (and some, not so much) before, but when you DO find "The One" you DO know it at some point.

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  7. Vince, I am sure Pam has other thoughts, but my unsolicited opinion is that sometimes a sale is all about magic.

    The Right Editor
    The Right Book
    The Right Time

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  8. Pam & Tina,
    You guys posted this for me, right?
    Straight from God to my ears?
    Thought so.
    Sigh.
    I'm listening.

    With that said, I've love to be entered into the 5 page critique...and I've already set goals for myself once I sub to the Genesis (yes, I finally decided I'd try again)- that it's forward ho with both of my wips. (btw, I'm beyond chpt 1 in both of them, but I've been kind of stuck on the first chapters for the past month- editing)

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  9. PAM SAID:

    If you’ve never actually finished a manuscript, you’ll be surprised at all the things that will happen during the course of writing the story that will change the opening scene, or make the goals and motivations of your characters that much clearer as you write the closing scenes.

    Oh, man, AMEN TO THAT!!! GREAT advice, Pammy, to move on to new ms. and know when to quit with the contests. Kinda like a shark who always keeps moving ...

    VINCE SAID: It would seem that winning a contest is not related to the marketability of the full manuscript.

    You know what, Vince? That's what my agent thinks too, but I don't know -- I believe racking up contest wins can only help, ESPECIALLY if you get the ms. in front of an editor judge. But, what do I know?? I got rejected 45 times before my book saw the light of day with publication. :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  10. Pam, I suffered from the FCED(first chapter editing disease) the first five years I wrote. Figured if I nailed those first couple of chapters, the rest would be easy.

    HA HA HA HA HA HA!

    And Vince, you're right--winning a contest is not related to the marketablility of the full manuscript. But most editors know within the first couple of pages if the story is something they would even consider. When I won the Genesis a couple of years ago, I had one contest judge tell me to dump the WWII story I had entered--no one was buying them so why bother writing it? But one of the editors who judged it in the final round disagreed and later went on to buy the completed manuscript.

    I think editors are looking for something different but the same. An idea that is mainstream but has a hook that no one else has used. A niche no one else is doing.

    just my two cents, but that's what I've found.

    Patty

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  11. Every time I come here I learn something new to think about, chew on and use. Thanks for the great advice and insights! I'm moving forward on my first romance novel, and I'm still waffling about whether to submit it to Genesis. Enter me in the critiques drawing - I could really use the feedback!

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  12. oh-I forgot. I'd like to be in the drawing or Drarring for the five page Critique as well.

    Strangely enough, given this topic, I have a new WIP.

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  13. /waves/

    Is there food yet? I'm hungry.

    But I'm spending my day at Panera [once DH gets home from teaching] and [Dear God please!!!] getting close to 'the end' on this rough draft.

    This is my second full MS. I'm guessing there's about 15K left to write [before I go back through and chop TONS of it out]. I doubt highly that I'll finish it today [would have to be way off on my estimate], but I so need to make some good progress!!

    In the meantime, here's some donuts, muffins, bagels, eggs, bacon, cheese, sausage, breakfast quesadillas and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

    Lunch is hot sandwiches. Dinner is bread bowls with the soup of your choice [mine is baked potato].

    I'd love the critique :).

    carol at carolmoncado dot com

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  14. Oh - KC...

    Mine came in 3rd from last... Thought it was in good shape too...

    /sigh/ Still haven't looked at those sheets.

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  15. First, I love that Deb has a new WIP...

    Second, I second Tina.

    Right time, editor, publisher, manuscript. You only have to see how many times great things are rejected to know you should keep trying...

    BUT...

    keep writing other stuff too, Pepper.

    Oops.

    Did I use PEPPER'S NAME out loud????

    My bad.

    ;)

    Push through. Forge on. And have fun.

    Pam, I love your point about how the beginning changes as the book develops. Vince, we've talked about that a lot, you and I, that those opening chapters will end up different most often (for pantsers and plotters and plantsers) because you'll change that opening to tweak and foreshadow the middle and the end.

    Pam, awesome.

    Where's that Steve Laube??? I want to shake his hand for having the wonderful sense to sign you, dear girl!

    And there are lots of friends of Seekerville waiting to have the biggest launch party ever!

    (Tina, you got the balloons, right? And Glynna's bringing a pinata???)

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  16. What a GREAT post, Pam.

    Just a few weeks ago, I was realizing I was doing just that. I've decided to cut down on entering contests until I make more progress on my MS. Sooo easy to go back and fix the first chapter over and over, and not get any further.

    Thanks!

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  17. Regarding perceived marketability vs contest wins...i.e., winning entries that don't make the publishing cut...

    Contest judges don't that the week this contest winner arrives on an editor's desk that the editor had the previous day purchased a similar plot or premise.

    Judges don't know that the very editor who would LOVE to buy this book will be transferred to another line at the publishing house--or switch publishing houses altogether--by the time this book arrives on the publisher's doorstep.

    Judges don't know that when this winning manuscript hits an editor's desk that she will be coming down with the flu, that her sister just died, or that this is the 30th books she's looked at that day and she just wants to catch the bus home and get some sleep.

    Contest judges don't know that an editor will LOVE the book and be dying to publish it--but the pub board decides they've already taken on a number of new authors in recent years and can't take a chance on any more due to the shakiness of the economy.

    Judges don't know that the day the editor who loves the book is to present it to the pub board that due to a traffic snarl-up she won't make the meeting and another editor will slip her fave book into the only open slot.

    Contest judges don't know...

    Well, you get the picture! A winning novel can be highly marketable, even recognized as such by a savvy editor, and still not make the publishing cut. That's why it's so important not to give up.

    Like Tina said -- right book, right editor, right timing.

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  18. Vince, I'll take your questions one at a time...

    You're right, winning a contest (or lots of them) doesn't mean a sale.

    Whether that's because the manuscript is marketable or not is subjective, I suppose.

    In some cases, the manuscript is not ready, not marketable, but in others, it's just not the right fit for that house at that time.

    And that's a hard (impossible!) thing for an author to know unless an editor gives feedback or reasons for the rejection.

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  19. I think, too, that unless a contest judge is an editor or agent, they're not judging manuscripts for "marketability" nor are they qualified to do so.

    Contest judges for the most part, especially first round, are readers or fellow writers. They're there to tell you if the story captured their attention, if they enjoyed it and would like to read the rest of it--or not--and why, comment on how well the story is from the "craft" aspect, where there's room for improvement in characterization, plot, etc.

    I think when newbie writers enter unpubbed contests they are for the most part, seeking to better learn the craft, not get unqualified opinions on whether or not it is "marketable." I've heard WAY too often of judges who've made those statements on a book that has already been purchased by a respected publisher before scores and comments are even returned to the author by the contest coordinator.

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  20. Vince asked: Do you have any ideas on what editors are looking for that contest judges do not factor in their choices?

    Great question.

    Wish I knew the answer! lol

    Editors are looking for a great story that isn't too far outside what they're currently publishing, but just enough out there that it isn't a carbon copy of the other books in their publishing lineup.

    And, in this economy, some of them are also hesitate to take on unpublished authors who don't have a track record. I'm not saying they don't or won't, but we really have to be on top of our game and have something that the editor can convince marketing and accounting to go far.

    A manuscript can win a contest. It can win several. And it can be a great story, with tight plotting, great characters, and even in a genre that's hot, BUT the contest just makes final judges (editors and agents) sit up and take notice if an author's body of work keeps showing up on their desk time after time.

    Winning a contest is like passing the first or second level of a 4-part interview process!

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  21. Maybe I'd love to enter a contest, just because it seems like a fun thing to do. Lots of people do it, and discuss it, and I have nothing to add to that conversation because I've never entered a contest. How do you even find out when contest are held--and find out in time to polish up an entry for it? And how do you know whether a contest is worthwhile?

    Just some things I wonder about. Deeply.

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  22. Vince's third question: I’m willing to write something, I know not what, that has the highest marketability potential. Any ideas?

    Amish fiction
    Vampires
    Historical Romance

    These seem to be hot right now, but write your passion. Passion trumps hot every time.

    lol

    What is that, a mixed metaphor? Margie Lawson has a word for it.

    Oh, well.

    You know what I mean.

    But the thing is, say you do write something that has the highest marketability potential, and it sells. Are you willing to write that same thing again and again, and again?

    If that one book is successful in that genre, it's not as easy to switch genres as people would like to think. People do it all the time, but I wouldn't think it would be a good idea to go into a career with that in mind.

    I did this. I wrote a Romantic Suspense set in South America. RS was hot, historicals were dead. It finalled in the Golden Heart in 2004, along with my historical romance. The historical won over my RS.

    I enjoyed writing the story, and had some ideas for more in the series, but I felt I needed to pick a genre and stick to it.

    Every author might not feel that way, but advice I received from editors encouraged me to jump on one side of the fence or the other.

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  23. Debra, most of us go through stages in entering contests. Each stage can last up to a year or two, and encompass 5-20 contests each.

    Here are the stages I've been through during the last 15 years with over 60 contest entries and over 36+ finals/wins.

    I'm winging it with the stages, so I'm sure there could be more.

    Stage 1: Terrified, hoping for a kernal of encouragement that I MIGHT have a little talent for writing.

    Stage 2: Still terrified, but I've used every bit of advice from the first few contests, and am hoping to up my scores and that I've got the mechanics down pat. Also, had to research to find out what POV meant. Literally. POV??? What is THAT? Some kind of Prisoner of Vriting??? Knowing what it is, and how to fix it isn't the same thing though!

    Stage 3: Mechanics (punctuation/grammar) are much better, so now I'm concentrating on cliches and craft.

    Stage 4: Still don't know what makes a cliche for one person and not another, lol, but my scores are better (most of the time) and I think I've got a handle on POV. Trying again. Dreaming of a finalist slot, but still not sure if I'm there yet.

    ... more stages to come...

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  24. Completely agree on all counts. I don't want to be a one chapter wonder and have written two MS, one I'm editing and getting read to submit that first 1500 words to a contest this coming month. Need I say a 5 page critique would be REALLY helpful?? THanks for the chance...and the post! :)

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  25. Anonymous -- stick around Seekerville and once every month , Tina posts the current contests available for unpublished writers. Then you go to the link she provides, read the rules, etc. (If you're a member of RWA, their monthly journal provides an updated contest list, too.) Most of the contests make their announcements months in advance of the deadlines so you have time to work on your entry.

    As far as picking contests, first decide what you want to get out of them. And if you're a very beginning writer, don't get too hung up on picking one with an editor as judge. Ask other writers which contests they'd recommend for beginners and for the type of book you're writing.

    Also, go to the websites to see how long the contest has been held, who the judges are, if there are categories for the types of book you write, determine if you can afford the entry fee, etc.

    The 15 Seekers who started this blog met because of contests, so we have a number of posts in our archives about entering them and picking suitable ones for your level of writing.

    And ALWAYS feel free to ask questions here. Usually SOMEONE, Seeker or Friend of Seekerville, will know the answer or point you in the right direction to find it.

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  26. Great advice, Pam!! As someone who has never entered a writing contest (except for poetry) I have finally decided to enter the Genesis, and am looking forward to the feedback (even if some of it makes me cry, LOL). ~ Wanted to add that even though I didn't get to comment, I LOVED yesterday's post too--ALL the wonderful advice from Seekerville is a keeper! :) Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

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  27. Stages 5-8 (might as well keep breaking them up. There are going to be at least 12, probably 16!)

    Stage 5: Finally, a finalist slot!!! But was it a fluke? Can I do it again? Oh, and that first finalist slot, you’re just thrilled to final. If there are 4 finalists, you know you’re not ready to win (what would you DO if an editor asked for a complete????), but you don’t want to end up #4 either. 2nd or 3rd place would be perfect.

    Stage 6: I’m on my way. I finalled, I’m a star! I can write. It’s just a matter of weeks (or the next contest) where I’m discovered. Here is where one of your manuscripts that has already finalled and/or won in a couple of contests crashes and burns and comes in dead last in a field of 52. You’re a has-been before you’ve ever been. Sigh.

    Stage 7: This is the first time an aspiring author either fishes or cut bait. (There will be more than one time. Trust me.) Breaking in is too hard! I have too much to learn! I’ll never get good enough to satisfy. But there’s something there that makes you want to try for one more rung of the publishing ladder. So you do. After all, that manuscript just won 3 contests. By this time, you’ve developed some writing buddies who can help pull you through this stage.

    Stage 8: You pull up your big boy pants, grit your teeth and declare you’re going out there again. You’ve realized this is BUSINESS, not just fun-and-games, and that it’s subjective, and everyone isn’t going to like what you do, but you’ve got enough feedback under your belt to know that SOME people do, and that’s enough to keep you going.

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  28. Taking a break from listing the stages.

    KC, yes, that's what a lot of editors say, that they will know it when they see it.

    Our job is to study, write, grow in the craft, and basically...

    SHOW UP

    on the editor's desk over and over and over again.

    But not necessarily with the same manuscript! lol

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  29. Hi Pam:

    Actually, I wrote a Vampire novel, "Three of our Vampires are Missing". Then I got interested in a Time Travel story and I wrote that novel. Then I got really interested in my “Characters in a Romance” (a novel about the Romance genre) and I wrote that book – all 120,000 words! I love writing. What I hate is revising. I want to see what’s over the next hill. And writing entertains me.

    I can tell you this: writing and writing will not make you a writer any more than cooking and cooking will make you a chef!

    It’s not about writing! It’s about putting everything together and getting it right! You might say it’s about ‘Righting’ (Hey, I have to use that as one of my quotes! I’m SOTPing here and it’s working! I think Tina has moved me over to the dark side. : ) )

    Vince

    Please include me in the pot for the critique.

    vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

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  30. Pam -- love the way you've broken it down into stages!

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  31. Hi Julie:

    There just seems to be a disconnect that is unrelated to merit.

    Wasn’t your book, that was rejected 45 times, awarded the Book of the Year? “A Passion Most Pure” was clearly excellent. It was not even a close call.

    There may be another consideration.

    It may just be much harder to sell a very long first book. The publisher has a bigger investment in production. Also, I think readers are less likely to spend the added cost and invest the added time in a long book from an unknown and untried author. Perhaps having 5,000 friends on Facebook would carry more influence with a publisher than a contest win!

    Vince

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  32. Katy, you've finished 5 manuscripts?? That's awesome. It's amazing what you learn the more you write.

    Proud of you girl!

    Oooh...Carol, I saw that you brought food. We'll just all hang out at Panera's, and order as we need to....

    I'll have this: Bacon Turkey Bravo®
    Smoked turkey breast, bacon, smoked Gouda, lettuce, tomatoes & our signature dressing, on our Tomato Basil bread, AND the baked potato soup! Yum!!!

    http://www.panerabread.com/menu/cafe/

    Order when you're ready, guys!

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  33. Jillian, you can do it! We have faith in you. Just write to the end. You can always change it.

    I've even watched alternate endings to multi-million dollar movies where they spent tons of MONEY to FILM more than one ending.

    And novelists can do it for FREE!

    Isn't that cool???

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  34. Hi Pam:

    I’ve read a few Amish books and I am convinced that they are not about the Amish at all!

    They are really “Outsider” books. Vampire and Werewolf books are also “Outsider” books. The three books I read would have worked just as well if instead of Amish the community was of Navajo Indians on the Res.

    People who feel alienated are often very attracted to “Outsider” books. It is a very strong universal theme. It is extra strong with young adults.

    I don’t think it would be that hard to covert a book into an Amish novel. Perhaps if you did that to a contest winner (that is changed the full manuscript) it would be very marketable at once!

    Vince

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  35. Anonymous, here is the url for the February 4th contest update:

    http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2011/02/february-contest-update.html

    OR....

    Go to Google, type in Seekerville Contest Update and the first thing that comes up is Tina's February 4th update that gives you a list of current and upcoming contests for published and unpublished authors.

    And then you can go to their web pages and scout 'em out. See what fits.

    Panera?

    I'm in.

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  36. Carol, when I get really close (last 2 chapters) to the end of a manusript, I tend to

    CHEAT.

    Ahem.

    I write these really down-and-dirty scenes, and skip a lot of minor stuff, because at that point, I've already mapped out what is going to happen, and I want to write the ending.

    Then I go back and fix it!

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  37. If we keep talking about coming in 3rd from last, and #50 out of 52 entries, you know WHO is going to come on here talk about her ONE in the GH.

    I'm just giving everyone fair warning...

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  38. Hi Tina:

    I agree with what you wrote:

    “…sometimes a sale is all about magic.

    The Right Editor
    The Right Book
    The Right Time"


    But then, just as God is said to favor the ‘bigger battalions’, I’m sure ‘magic’ follows the course of least resistance.

    It is said a good marriage is more about being the ‘right person’ than finding the ‘right person’.

    I like the theme: “The Magic Starts Here”. (Here’s an author tag: “Where the Magic Starts”.)

    So now we need a post on making the magic happen! You could do it!

    Vince

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  39. Did I hear my name?
    Oh, it's Ruthy...
    And what's that behind your back?
    A big stick.

    And do you doubt I write other stuff?
    That's my problem. I have LOTS of things to write...and little time to do it.

    I'll modify Tina's words:
    right ms

    right editor
    God's timing.

    Add method to my madness

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  40. Good for you Joanne! Keep moving forward, and see where this ms. goes.

    And, if time allows and you feel the urge, start something else and enter it in contests, but don't abandon your first one completely.

    Sometimes having another wip to send to contests helped feed my need to DO something to push my writing forward while I worked on the ms. that was further down the road.

    You don't have the expectations out of that second (or third) new baby that you send out, and generally, you'll be surprised how well it's received.

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  41. Glynna's comments about what contest judges don't know:

    Yes, what Glynna said is the absolute gospel truth!

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  42. Pam and Carol M. are making me hungry! But I'm 12 miles from the nearest Panera....I'll just have what you're having, Pam. It sounds divine!

    But the subject is contests, right?

    Pepper said:

    "I'll modify Tina's words:
    right ms

    right editor
    God's timing."


    I'll trust His timing!

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  43. Anonymous, every Friday Tina posts an update of writing contests that are coming up.

    Start looking over those, and thinking about which ones you might want to enter.

    And speaking of NOT entering a contest.

    There have been times when I had to admit that I was not going to make a contest deadline for one reason or another.

    If that happens, don't beat yourself up. Just start looking for the next contest that meets the criteria you're looking for, and try to have your ms ready in time.

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  44. Oops, my bad.

    The contests are listed once a month on Friday's, not EVERY Friday.

    Sorry!

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  45. Vince said: I can tell you this: writing and writing will not make you a writer any more than cooking and cooking will make you a chef!

    Yes, this is true.

    But writing and writing might keep me from burning something!

    lol

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  46. Vince mentioned a disconnect unrelated to merit.

    There is some truth to that but is is so hard to put your finger on it.

    I know of an author (not a Seeker) who developed an amazing international intrique series. The plot, the stories, the concept, was spot on!

    And when I judged it in a contest I didn't know who the author was, but I knew it was GREAT and...BIG!

    Maybe marketing didn't know what to do with an up-and-coming author who could rival some of the established names for impact.

    I don't know. I just know it was wonderful and it didn't sell.

    Yet

    But it will!

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  47. Jan said 12 miles from nearest Panera.

    sniffle

    There are four about equidistant from here - 47 to 51 miles. Virtual is good at this point!

    Great discussion today!

    Will y'all have balloons for us self-pubbing too? We'll need dog treats too. HEY we can have a dog party!!!!!!

    Speaking of that - please check out this story. They are local and wonderful say our dogs! www.joshuaspettreatbakery.com/

    How's Cheryl's husband? Any word?

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  48. Stage 9: Now you develop a plan. You figure out which genres you’re most passionate about, you figure out what houses you’re best suited for, you figure out which of the half-dozen manuscripts you’re working on are the best you’ve got, and you run with that info. Here you start finalling and winning more and more contests.

    Stage 10: You’ve got a lot of contests under your belt, maybe even signed with an agent. Editors are requesting your stuff. Here, you’re likely to even cut down on the number of contests you enter, just entering the big ones like the Golden Heart and the Genesis, and maybe a couple for fun. If you have an agent to send your stuff out, entering lots and lots of contests isn’t as critical.

    Stage 11: You’re still in contest mode, but you’re very selective, and you only enter your absolute BEST work. It’s not exactly smart to enter a half-baked idea that MIGHT get in front of that editor who’s already got one of your best stories sitting on his or her desk.

    Stage 12: Well, since these stages were about entering CONTESTS, I guess this is the last stage. At some point, an editor is going to pick up the phone and call you or your agent and offer a contract, and when you accept, you are ineligible to enter contests for the unpublished. And you enter a whole new set of stages.

    Like the hero’s journey, these stages can be reversed, you can go through the same stage more than once, and you might even skip some of them, but for most of us, they’re probably much the same.

    And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you make it to stage 12, the odds of you seeing publication are pretty high.

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  49. KC, They released him from the hospital and he's doing well. The doctors are going to keep and eye on him to see if they need to do anything else.

    Keep praying, and Cheryl requested prayer on FB for the family of the man that was killed. He left behind small children.

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  50. Thanks for the encouragement, Pam. I do struggle with reworking the first three chapters, but have had to train myself to continue writing no matter what. It is hard to do sometimes.

    I would love to be entered in the critique drawing.

    Thanks Seekerville!

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  51. Thanks Pam. I'm loving your stages!
    I might be at 9, if I had a handful of hopefuls waiting in my desk drawer. I think I'll try one this year because of the final judge only.

    I love the term "righting"
    How true! thanks Tina and Vince.

    Hey, where's Renee SteelerGirl? She's my new best friend (she dug up a new Jane Eyre video or three and made my day)

    Eek, it's after 3. No wonder I'm so hungry. Did I miss the buffet, or did you move it?

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  52. Love this post and all the comments.

    May I jump in on the question of why a book wins a contest but doesn't get picked up by a publisher? So many good reasons have already been posted.

    Here's one more I hear often from editors. "The first three chapters were great, but chapter four was a let down that led to a sagging middle."

    Could be the writer perfected those first three submission chapter until they glistened like gold. But she/he didn't work as hard on the rest of the book that fell short in the editor's opinion.

    What's the takeaway? Ensure the entire manuscript is ready for an editor's review before you submit.

    Which, of course, all Seeker friends know because everyone who comments on this blog is savvy! :)

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  53. A lot of info to digest from your post, Pam, and all the comments. I've entered contests with one completed novel for the excellent feedback and yes I'd like to have finalled, too. But I'm still hopeful of that while working on another story. Great post. Wonderful weekend to everyone.

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  54. Panera's for lunch? Yum!

    I'll have a Caesar chicken salad. Hold the dressing. Balsamic on the side. Apple. Small drink.

    Thanks, Carol!

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  55. Another thought that dovetails with Pam's steps for contest entry.

    When you start to final, target houses to which you are interested in submitting. Then, when the editor makes a request, your manuscript is just where you want it to me.

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  56. Is Kathy Hurst out there?

    Saw your pic on the FB friends sidebar.

    Hope all is well, Kathy! We miss you in Seekerville!

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  57. Hi Pam:

    About burning the food: How about, “Cook less, Learn more.” Corollary: “Write less, learn more.”

    Sometimes I think the opposite of everything we believe is true.

    When they used to think the earth was flat, they should have tried to prove the earth was round. When they thought Euclid was right about geometry, they should have tried to prove space was curved. When they thought the earth was the center of the solar system, they should have tried to prove the sun was the center. When they thought Newton was right about gravity, they should have tried to prove relativity.

    There must be something to this. Maybe God likes to humble man. Maybe the opposite of all our writing rules is true and the best selling authors are keeping it a secret!

    Vince

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  58. Hi Debra:

    You wrote:

    “I hear Editors say they are looking for ' a great story' and a voice that stands out but maybe the pub boards are the hard sell, more cautious about what is or is not marketable.”

    This surely has to be the case at least some of the time. For example, what if the publishers already have bought three manuscripts on the same theme? Why if you would compete with one of their established authors because you write the same kind of story and their niche is only big enough for one author?

    I was at a Writer’s Conference last summer where editors and agents rejected as unacceptable the first page of all but one manuscript which were all written by best selling authors -- but which the panel thought were unpublished. The only one they got right was one the judge had actually recently read!

    Maybe publishing is more like Alice in Wonderland!

    Vince

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  59. Hi Debra:

    You wrote:

    “I hear Editors say they are looking for ' a great story' and a voice that stands out but maybe the pub boards are the hard sell, more cautious about what is or is not marketable.”

    This surely has to be the case at least some of the time. For example, what if the publishers already have bought three manuscripts on the same theme? What if you would compete with one of their established authors because you write the same kind of story and their niche is only big enough for one author?

    I was at a Writer’s Conference last summer where editors and agents rejected as unacceptable the first page of all but one manuscript which were all written by best selling authors -- but which the panel thought were unpublished. The only one they got right was one the judge had actually recently read!

    Maybe publishing is more like Alice in Wonderland!

    Vince

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  60. Hi KC:

    I love your quote:

    "I'd postulate that it might be a "know it when you see it" type thing. Much like finding "The One" to whom you can give your heart forever."

    This would be wonderful if they did know it when they saw it. But they often don’t. They pick losers and reject best sellers. They say “Love is Blind” and maybe it’s the same thing with editors and manuscripts.

    Vince

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  61. Hi KC:

    I love your quote:

    "I'd postulate that it might be a "know it when you see it" type thing. Much like finding "The One" to whom you can give your heart forever."

    This would be wonderful if they did know it when they saw it. But they often don’t. They pick losers and reject best sellers. They say “Love is Blind” and maybe it’s the same thing with editors and manuscripts.

    Vince

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  62. Hi Patty:

    You wrote:

    “I had one contest judge tell me to dump the WWII story I had entered--no one was buying them so why bother writing it? But one of the editors who judged it in the final round disagreed and later went on to buy the completed manuscript.”

    I think WWII may be the ‘next big thing’. The drama, the music, the dancing, the heroism, I just love it!

    Is your book out yet? I’d love to read it.

    Vince

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  63. Hi Debby:

    You wrote:

    “Here's one more I hear often from editors. "The first three chapters were great, but chapter four was a let down that led to a sagging middle."

    But they at least had to ask for a full to see Chapter IV.

    How about this: Make all contests require a full! The first three chapters will be graded plus a random 10 pages from anywhere in the manuscript.

    This is not out of the question now that most contests are going all electronic. I’d really be motivated with this kind of contest!

    Vince

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  64. I'm here.

    Here's a chocolate chip cookie to share. It's like the loaves and fishes. It's never ending.

    I'm only 2+ hours later than I'd hoped but DH stopped to get me something for Valentine's Day [we're not doing much since we're going on that trip to Denver next month - FOUR WEEKS! from TODAY!]

    I DID!!! WOOHOO!!! finish the partially finished chapter in the middle of the MS this morning.

    The other barely started [x4] chapter is gonna stay barely started for the moment. I have to figure out exactly what's going on with a back ground character who's getting her own story later. There's a 5 week break between the chapter before it and the chapter after it so... gotta figure it out exactly.

    So I'm off to the end and away I go.

    I'll leave updates. If for no other reason than I'll feel like I've accomplished something ;). I've got 5.5 hours...

    GO! =D

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  65. Hi Pam:

    Your 12 Stages are first rate! I think they should be a separate post. If you are not going to do it, would you let me post it on my blog with photos and all? Just think: “The 12 Step Contest Program”.

    “How Writing Contests Drove Me Into a 12-Step Program”.

    Vince

    P.S. I’m hyper today. I’ve been in the house for five days and this is my first day out! : )

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  66. Vince, the Golden Heart requires the submission of the entire manuscript.

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  67. So... you're sitting at Panera. At a booth nearby is a woman. Let's say she's mid-30s. More gray in her dark hair than she'd probably like. Laptop on the table. Earbuds in. Concentration completely on whatever it is she's typing.

    But she's dancing. Her feet are 'tapping' from their spot on the bench across from her. Her upper body sways and bops to some unheard melody in a solo Cliff and Claire Huxtable immitation. Her lips move with the words audible only to her.

    Do you think she's odd?

    Or into whatever it is she's doing?

    Like getting a manuscript ready for a contest [to attempt to keep this remotely on topic]?

    I won't tell you who this woman might represent...

    But...

    Chapter finished! Next six outlined. Then... DONE!

    Here's some cupcakes to celebrate with me :). Go ahead. Dance to the music in your head. You know you wanna.

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  68. Another chapter down!

    Thirty minutes or so until I have to pack up...

    How much can I get done in the meantime? While eating my potato soup/bread bowl?

    We'll see...

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  69. Go Carol, Go Carol, Go Carol!!!

    Thanks Pam - will continue to pray for that family...

    Vince - GOOD on ya! Out of the house, feeling better. :)

    Have a great rest of the evening y'all!

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  70. Heyyy,

    How was the book signing, Mary and friends???

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  71. Yes, Mary, et al. How'd it go?!

    Am back home now.

    Another 637 words in the next chapter!

    4.75 chapters to go. At least part of at least 2 of those is written but gotta see how much will work 'as is' [ish] or can be reworked... At least 2 chapters before I get to that though...

    EEP!

    Captcha is 'prods'. That's not good...

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  72. Good job, Carol! Plus, lunch was delicious!

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  73. Carol! Sounds like you had a wonderfully productive day!

    Good for you, girl!

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  74. For the very first year I entered a contest, actually 3 contests so far! I'm very excited but also in stage one- scared silly. I want to see the feedback but I'm afraid it's going to be along the lines of 'get back on the turnip truck'. :D But I love this site, and I love the books the Seekers have written and I want to beeee one, toooooo! (Ahem, sorry, went groupie there for a moment.)

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