Tina suggested we write about the benefits of entering the Golden Heart (RWA’s contest for unpublished writers) so we put our heads together and came up with this list. We should mention that besides being good friends and critique partners, we’re also cousins—second cousins, actually—who come from a long line of strong-willed Italian women with a tendency to speak their minds. If we seem a little opinionated, it’s the Bruseghini in us.
Here are our Top 10 Reasons to Enter the Golden Heart:
1. You’ll be forced to finish the manuscript.
Some goals are just easier if you have a built-in deadline. Without a deadline, weeks slide into months and months slide into years. You know how it’s easier to lose ten pounds when your high school reunion’s coming up? Well, you might be more motivated to finish a story when you see the Golden Heart deadline looming on the calendar. It’s a shot that only comes around once a year. Do you really want to be standing on the sidelines while everybody else is running onto the field? No? Then write your way to the happy ending and get in the game.
2. You’ll be forced to write a synopsis.
That’s right—the big, scary monster known as the synopsis. Only, it’s less Freddy Krueger and more Cookie Monster. Why should you fear writing a few pages outlining the journeys of characters you’ve come to know almost as well as your spouse? The nice thing about writing a synopsis is that it can help you boil your story down to its essence, and that’s really important for pitching—which, by the way, is TRULY scary. Way more terrifying than Freddy. But that’s another post.
3. You'll feel like a real writer -- for better or worse.
Powering through your manuscript under a deadline. Cranking out a synopsis when, let's face it, you may have NO IDEA how your story is going to end. These are the things real writers do every day, all while juggling job and family responsibilities, battling the constant urge to procrastinate, and trying to ignore that voice in their head that keeps asking them what made them think they're any good at this writing thing anyway. Sounds like fun, right? OK, maybe not fun, exactly. But it is definitely challenging, and on the day you send out your GH entry, you'll know the same feelings of accomplishment -- and angst -- all writers feel when they send their work out into the world.
4. It’s not like there’s a major holiday in the month of November . . . oh, wait.
We understand. You want to eat turkey, watch football, enjoy your family, and count your blessings. So here’s what you do. Mail your Golden Heart entry before Thanksgiving. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that it will arrive safely at RWA headquarters in Houston well before the December 2 deadline. Mmmm, can’t you just taste the creamy pumpkin pie and the mug of rich coffee?
5. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush from a mad dash to the Fed Ex drop-off.
If you’re the more adventurous sort (and do not heed our advice about mailing your entry before Thanksgiving) you will need to have a plan for getting your entry to RWA headquarters on time. The good news is that if you are an adrenaline junkie, the rush you get from the last minute scramble will be on par with sky-diving or snorkeling in shark-infested waters.
6. You can multi-purpose your entry.
So you've polished your first 50 pages till they shine, written a compelling synopsis, finished a draft of your manuscript, and sent the whole kit and caboodle off to RWA. Now what? Sit around and wait for March 26th? No way! Now you enter those brilliant opening pages in other contests -- it only takes a few minutes because they're all ready to go. And then you get to work on your query letter, hone it, polish it, then fire it off to your list of carefully-targeted agents and watch those partial requests roll in. No cause for stress when they do, because your opening pages are submission ready -- you can email them back to the requesting agent in under a minute
7. The judges' scores give you a measuring stick.
Each GH entry is judged by five judges, and you will get to see all of their scores. If you don't final, you'll also be told the percentile range your entry fell within. This information is incredibly useful because it reveals how your entry stacked up in comparison to entries by other writers who are seriously pursuing publication. A lower percentile could mean that your opening pages have major problems that you need to address, perhaps with the help of a critique partner or group, while a higher percentile could indicate that your entry came very close to finaling and just needs more polishing. And the range of your scores -- sometimes a very w-i-d-e range -- can indicate how broad the appeal of your work might be, and also remind you just how subjective the whole business of publishing is.
8. We all need a few battle scars.
March 26, 2012 will be a day of jubilation for some and a day of disappointment for others as the GH finalists are notified and posted on the RWA website. If you're fortunate enough to final, enjoy every minute of it (and see below)! If not -- and there are FAR more of us in this group -- treat yourself to something sweet, or watch Pride and Prejudice (the BBC version, of course), or read a Susan Elizabeth Phillips romance, or all of the above. Then get up on March 27 and get back to work! Persistence in the face of adversity, that's what will get you published. You're going to fail a lot on the way to success. Get used to it, get past it, and get on with it.
9. You can't win if you don't play.
Of course, no matter how many other benefits are to be had from entering the GH, ultimately everybody enters because they hope to final. And that's a worthy goal, one that comes with lots of perks. As a finalist, you're immediately invited to join a Yahoo group set up exclusively for that year's finalists, so you quickly make 60 new writing friends who are as serious about the business as you are. Your name and photo go up on the RWA website. You're invited to join the Golden Network, which is an RWA chapter open only to GH finalists. You get special treatment at Nationals -- a private reception, VIP seating at the Award Ceremony. And most of all, you have a chance to win...which is really the icing on the cake!
10. There are lots of ways to win.
We absolutely believe you should enter with the purpose of winning. Pour everything you have into your entry and dream big. But even if you don’t final this year, there are lots of good things that could come from entering the Golden Heart. You could bond with another writer who entered and end up with a treasured critique partner and friend. You could submit your GH manuscript to an agent who loves your work. You could discover your voice or grow as a writer.
In the end, you’re a winner no matter what.
Winning the GH together was pretty special, and that amazing night will be added to our stockpile of treasured cousin memories: playing hide and seek in the cornfield, eating Aunt Pauline’s pizza fritte, washing our hair in the creek, and, of course, dancing the electric slide at weddings. We’d love to hear your cousin memories, so break out the folding lawn chairs, grab the fried chicken, and let’s start gabbing. (Oh, and we’re happy to answer any GH questions as well!)
--Lisa and Anne
Lisa Connelly won the 2011 Golden Heart for Contemporary Single Title Romance. She’s represented by Jill Marsal of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
Anne Barton won the 2011 Golden Heart for Regency Historical Romance. Her debut novel, tentatively titled The Proper Miss’s Guide to Bad Behavior, sold to Grand Central Publishing and releases in early 2013. www.annebarton.com
In honor of these two Golden Heart divas, Seekerville is giving away one reimbursement of the GH entry fee to one commenter who enters the 2012 GH. This giveaway will remain open until the RWA GH deadline or the contest is closed due to reaching the maximum entries. All you have to do is submit a copy of the RWA confirmation email to us at our Seekerville contact email. One winner will be chosen from all the confirmations sent to us, and announced no later than December 2 2011.
Remember you can enter the GH now before the 1,200 entry slots are filled and send your msc to them by the deadline. Here are some of the rules from the GH website. Note the GH requires a completed manuscript.
The Golden Heart contest is open to writers who have not accepted a publishing offer for a work of original fictional narrative prose of 20,000 words or more by Nov. 15, 2011. Entrant must retain all rights to the entry and not have granted any of them to a publisher or any other party prior to or by Nov. 15, 2011.
Previously entered manuscripts may be entered again, but no previous Golden Heart-winning manuscript can be entered, even if revised.
Entrants must be 18 years of age by Nov. 15, 2011.
Neither employees of RWA nor members of their immediate families are eligible to enter any RWA contest. “Immediate family” is defined as spouse, parents and children. Adopted, foster and step members are included in this definition.
Completed entry forms and appropriate fees must be received at the RWA office no later than 5 p.m. CT, Nov. 15, 2011, for the Golden Heart. Forms and fees received after this deadline will be returned to the entrant.
The Golden Heart contest is limited to the first 1,200 paid entries. If entries in excess of 1,200 are received by Nov. 15, 2011, excess entries will first be returned to those who did not volunteer to judge, and second in reverse order of receipt.
Entries must be received by RWA at 14615 Benfer Road, Houston, TX 77069 no later than 5 p.m. CT, Dec. 2, 2011. Entrants who fail to meet this deadline will be disqualified, and the entry fee will be forfeited.
Now be sure to ask Anne and Lisa all your burning Golden Heart questions today, not only to you have experts here to assist you but your name goes in the drawing for our weekly and monthly birthday prizes!!