"Finish the book before you submit," editors say over and over again.
When I started out on my writing journey, I thought the same rule applied to contest submissions. I'd complete the manuscript before I submitted to contests only to find the story didn't work -- saggy middle, unrealistic premise, limp conflict -- according to the feedback from the judges. Of course, I'd wasted time trying to perfect something that had started out flawed.
Then I had a Eureka Moment! I heard a multi-published author say she grew weary of writing complete manuscripts and having them rejected by the editors. Being a daringly adventurous person, she decided to write three chapters and a synopsis and submit the partial to publishing houses, hoping she could complete the manuscript in a timely manner if she received a request. Her strategy paid off and got me thinking. Why not use the same approach with contests?
From then on while I was completing one manuscript, I'd pull together the beginning chapters and synopsis for a new story and send it out on the contest circuit. In a relatively short time, I'd have feedback from knowledgeable judges, which helped me gauge whether the beginning hook drew the reader into the story, whether the plot was well-defined and could sustain a full-length manuscript and whether the characters were compelling. Using the judges' comments and suggestions, I eventually shaped the story into a polished manuscript.
Eventually, I submitted to contests where the final round judge was an editor in a house where I felt my story could find a home. I had always written suspense, but when Steeple Hill senior editor Krista Stroever came to my Georgia Romance Writers chapter and talked about expanding the Love Inspired Suspense line, I decided to weave an inspirational thread through a manuscript I had originally targeted for Harlequin Intrigue. Almost immediately after including a faith element, I knew I'd found my niche. But I still had to catch the editor's eye.
Using my Savvy Submission Strategy, I entered three contests judged by three different Steeple Hill editors, including Krista Stroever and executive editor Joan Marlow Golan. I won the contests and received requests from the judges. Not long after that, Krista called to tell me Steeple Hill wanted to publish one of the winning manuscripts. My debut novel, NOWHERE TO HIDE, was released in May 2007, and the other winning story, SCARED TO DEATH, came out in August.
Did contests help me along the road to publication? You bet! The feedback from judges allowed me to identify problems and their suggestions often provided solutions that turned weaknesses into strengths. For me, the road to publication was paved with contests.
I hope my Savvy Submission Strategy helps you on your writing journey!
Wishing you abundant blessings!
This post first appeared in Seekerville October 25, 2007.
Debby Giusti is a medical technologist who loves working with test tubes and petri dishes almost as much as she loves to write. Growing up as an Army Brat, Debby met and married her husband--then a captain in the Army--at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Together they traveled the world, raised three Army Brats of their own and have now settled in Atlanta, Georgia, where Debby spins tales of suspense that touch the heart and soul.
Debby’s work has won numerous awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award for Inspirational Suspense, the National Readers’ Choice Award, the Golden Quill, the Beacon, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence and the Write Touch. In addition to full-length fiction, Debby has written magazine articles for Southern Lady, Woman’s World, Our Sunday Visitor, Army and Family, and served for over twelve years on the editorial advisory board of ADVANCE for Administrators of the Laboratory. Visit Debby online at www.DebbyGiusti.com and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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