Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Water's Fine. Take the Contest Plunge. Keep an Eye Out for the Sharks


Janet here. Between SpeedBo and the arrival of our kids for spring break, I found myself scrambling for my April post. I tromped through the Seekerville archives—always a good decision if you’re looking for inspiration—to a post I wrote before the release of my debut novel Courting Miss Adelaide. I dusted off and embellished my words, hoping that if any of you are hovering on the contest diving board, this post will give you the shove, ah nudge, you need to take the plunge.

In 1997, as green as a gourd in spring, I joined Romance Writers of America and immediately entered my first manuscript in a contest. When the entry came back, I ranked 38th out of 40. I was shocked. I’d expected to win. You’re probably laughing. But honestly, the years I knew nothing were the years I possessed the most confidence. Anyone relate? I could fill a page with the problems the judges saw in that chapter. Some quotes: “Very long and, I’m sorry to say, boring chapter.” Ouch. “Back story dump.” What? “Start the book here.” Ah. “Dialogue is stiff and formal.” Sigh. “POV switches.” Huh? No doubt those judges pulled out huge hanks of hair as they read my chapter. Thankfully, they found something positive to say. One even said I was a storyteller. I clung to those encouraging words and revised. And revised and revised.

I’m not admitting all this because I’m proud, at least not of the work. But looking back I am proud of my attitude. I didn’t whine. I didn’t give up. I didn’t believe the judges had awakened on the wrong side of the bed. Instead I was excited. If my writing wasn’t good enough, then at least I had specifics on what was wrong. True, those specifics were vague, at least for this newbie. So I studied craft. Found out POV stood for point of view. I became a POV purist, only switching heads at scene breaks, mainly because I couldn’t switch seamlessly for the life of me. I still like sticking to one POV per scene. I learned to sprinkle in back story and leave the reader guessing. I learned to read dialogue aloud. I learned readers can’t root for a hero and heroine without a strong goal. I learned strong motivations and conflict are vital. I reworked that book for a year. It never did final.

The lesson—move on. Write another book. But never toss one either.  

As I improved my craft and started to final and even win, I wanted more than feedback. I wanted a chance to get my manuscript in front of an editor. So I entered contests with editor judges I wanted to target. Then in 2005, I was an inspirational finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart, which gives no feedback, but by then, I needed the validation desperately. In 2006, I was an American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis finalist and a Golden Heart finalist. I didn’t know it at the time, but these were to be my last unpublished contests. I sold my book in 2006, nine years after I wrote the first one. I didn’t sell it because of a contest, but entering had educated me and proved I was serious about publication. Entering had given me name recognition with editors. And most importantly a shot in the arm. The contests I tanked in toughened my hide, a must before and after we sell.

After you say? Yes, published authors experience rejected proposals, revisions that fluctuate between minor and mindboggling, and reader reviews that leave us giddy to crestfallen. The hardest part of bad reviews—the book is in print. We can’t change a word if we wanted to. Not that all criticism is valid. Some readers have axes to grind and our books are handy whetstones. Still, most reviewers are sharing their heartfelt opinion, not trying to wound authors. Dealing with contests highs and lows over the years has helped me keep reviews in perspective.  Well, sort of. It helps to remember that not all reviews are written by our readership. Inspirational novels set some readers’ teeth on edge. But, in God’s hands our stories just might make a difference.   

My sixth novel The Bride Wore Spurs released April 2. I still have contest fever. I’ve
wondered if it’s a vanity issue. But really, how could it be when it’s much harder to final in published contests, at least for me. When I final, I’ve learned to let my editor know. The book is important to her too. When I don’t final, I’m disappointed, but I try to keep it in perspective. No matter what others say,  God has called me to write. With each book, with God’s help, I do the best I can. Often when my author copies arrive, I put off reading the book, afraid I’ll find errors or poorly written passages or some historical tidbit I got wrong. And you know what? I do. Authors are human. At least this one is. Though I do wonder about those who can write a book a month. LOL Color me green with envy. Not what God wants. Proof I'm not to compare myself and my journey to others. Once I’ve done my best, that’s all I can do. And it’s the same for you.

Earlier I told you to never toss out that book you’ve got hiding under your bed. That first book I told you about that never garnered a final was the impetus for The Bride Wore Spurs. Most of the story had to go, but I salvaged my hero and heroine, Matt and Hannah, two people I wanted to give a Happily After Ending in print and the setting, a cattle ranch in Texas, a way of life that has always intrigued me. Nothing is wasted in this journey. Whether we give those languishing stories life or not, they’ve taught us plenty.

We writers can’t play it safe and make it in the publishing world. So take the plunge and enter a contest. Open yourself and your books to criticism. The sharks are scary but they can’t hurt you if you don’t let them. The rewards far outweigh the cost.

To celebrate the release of The Bride Wore Spurs I’m giving away three copies. Leave a comment for a chance to win. Here’s the back cover blurb:

The cowgirl takes a husband!

To keep the Texas ranch she loves, Hannah Parrish will wed a man she doesn’t. Cowpokes won’t take orders from a young, single female. But while her exasperating neighbor Matt Walker jokes about her being a mere debutante, Hannah is a rancher to the core. Just like Matt.

“Will you marry me?” It’s a question widowed Matt never intended to ask again. Now spirited Hannah is asking him for a marriage of convenience! Yet whether she’s birthing a calf or caring for a young orphan, the tomboy next door is becoming the partner Matt always hope for. Now he must convince her the greatest strength comes in trusting your heart to another—and your future to God….

I brought scones and blintzes, tea, fruit, yogurt and juice, a light breakfast to keep us from sinking in contest waters.


Melissa Jagears said...

Please put me in the hat, I love marriage of conveniences, they make up more than half my plots! Or wait, not anymore, but for awhile I was heavy with those stories. :)

And contests are definitely worth it!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh, boy, Janet, can I relate. I am now realizing on a manuscript that I am revising that basically everything must go except the hero and the heroine and their back story.

Helen Gray said...

Hi Janet,

Another good post. Thanks.

I won a gift card and a copy of The Bride Wore Spurs back in January. You sent the Amazon gift card then and said you would mail a copy of The Bride Wore Spurs when you get your author copies. Looking forward to it.

Coffee aplenty is ready.


Carol Moncado said...

I LOVE marriage of convenience stories.

I try to work them into my contemps but it's SO MUCH HARDER to do :p.

Working on getting a couple Duel entries ready and waiting to hear back from the Laurie...

I hate waiting...

Marianne Barkman said...

Janet, your writing is inspired. I would love to win The Bride Wore Spurs!

Playground Monitor said...

I'm waiting to hear back from the Linda Howard Contest of Excellence, and just 10 minutes ago I emailed my revised novella (my SpeedBo project) to a pubbed friend who offered to read it. Once I am satisfied with it (or by May 30, whichever comes first) I'm entering it in a contest. But this one is based on popular vote so I'll have to promote, promote, promote.

Put me in the hat. I love MOC stories too. My Linda Howard entry is a MOC story.

And today is my XXth birthday!

Off to bed now. I have to get my teeth cleaned before work.


Debra E. Marvin said...

Happy Birthday Marilyn. I think I'm ready for an xxth Birthday too. The numbers mean nothing, right? I hope you have good news on that contest!

Thank you, Janet! I'm so happy to hear your hero and heroine came out of that first story to have their happy ending. Once we create them, we feel very responsible for their health and happiness, don't we?

I've never done a MOC plot. Yet. And I'd love to be in the drawing for The Bride Wore Spurs!

Lyndee H said...

Been waiting for this book to come out, Janet. Enjoyed your last one. Would love to win it, but I will buy it if I don't! Wouldn't miss it.

I just typed THE END and it's 5:14AM in Chi-town. Didn't mean to pull an all-nighter, but I was getting fed up and needed to take drastic measures to get these people to the HEA. Now I can sleep in peace for a few hours, because I wrote all those words during Speedbo then had four days of life - in the from of computer issues - that shut me down over this past weekend when I was in striking distance of the HEA. EEEK!

So I've officially completed my Speedbo challenge. Thanks again for the encouragement, Seekerville. I've finished my rough now on this WIP and during Speedbo I worked another 20,000 on a different one, so this was shy of 80,000 words in less than seven weeks. Wow. You people inspire me.

Jackie said...

Hi Janet,

I had decided that I'd avoid contests this year and focus on two stories. But I like your logic.

If I survive this month, I'll try to study May's contests and enter one.

Jackie L.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Marilyn, I'm taking the XXth to mean 20th, and I'm sticking to it!!!

Clean teeth and a birthday: Now that's a day to remember!!!!

Hey, I took part of my first book and actually used it in my upcoming book "The Lawman's Second Chance" because both touched on breast cancer survivors.

So the research I did then provided the backdrop for what I wrote now.

LYNDEE! I just saw that on Facebook! Congrats to you, so stinkin' proud of you!



Okay, must get ready for cute kids. Word count here will suffer next couple of days, family stuff going on and must submit taxes....

Dagnabbit. But once that's done I'm back at regular schedule and that makes me smile!!!!

Yes, I'm a ridiculous creature of habit.

Jenny Blake said...

would love to win this book (and would even have an US addy for a month).

I understand about reader reviews and how some dont even read the book. We have been discussing that on an email loop and I mentioned I actually find 3 star reviews often reveal more about a book and if I will like it than 4 or 5 star reviews. They often say what is good about the book and what they didn't like which offers more info than the 5 star great read. (except from reviewers i have gotten to know)
Happy Birthday Marilyn.

tomorrow is the day I get to have a steroid injection in my wrist so hopefully will be able to tell you how much better it is. (I wasn't worried before and not really but i guess cos its a different dr I am having a few doubts that it may not work. dont want them to creep in but they are.)

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Melissa! Thanks for your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs! I think a lot of readers enjoy marriage of convenience stories whether contemporary or historical.

I've had another marriage of convenience novel. The Substitute Bride was a mail order bride story. Can't imagine marrying someone I hadn't laid eyes on before, can you? LOL


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Tina! It's hard to toss our words when we've put our hearts on the page. Thankfully we writers are made of tough stuff.

The heroine in a rejected story is calling my name. LOL I'm going to plop her into another book one day.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Helen! Thanks for the coffee. And for the reminder! I haven't mailed that copy. Forgive me. Will get a copy in the mail to you ASAP. Hate it when I drop the ball. I can't find your address. Please send it through Thanks!!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Carol M! I agree that MOC stories are easier to write when they're set in the past.

Congratulations on entering the Duel and Laurie! You rock! Keep us posted. Waiting is hard. And such a huge part of publishing.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Marianne! Thanks for your sweet words and your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs!


Cindy Regnier said...

Oh for the days when I thought my writing was perfect, publishable and destined for the best seller list not to mention contest winning. Now - well lets just say not so much. I can relate Janet. It separates the "I'll keep trying and maybe I'll get there" writers from the "I'm no good so I guess I'll give up" writers. But, I'd rather be disillusioned with the truth than believe the lie. Gonna keep going for it.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Marilyn! Happy birthday!! You'll have shiny teeth for a great birthday smile! :-)

Fun to find another MOC fan! Keep us posted on your contest results. We love to celebrate in Seekerville!

Fun to see your SpeedBo baby will soon be taking the contest plunge.


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Debra!

You said: Once we create them, we feel very responsible for their health and happiness, don't we?

That's so true!!! Dust-covered characters deserve far better.

Thanks for your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs!


Janet Dean said...

Wow, hope you're catching some sleep, Lyndee, after that all-nighter! So sorry about your computer issues but you sure made up for that lost time!! Mega congratulations on those 80,000 words in seven weeks! You inspire me!!!!


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Jackie! You make a great point. A writer's main goal is to write. Two stories in one year is a great goal!

Still, it's fun to take the contest plunge and see if our stories are strong swimmers or need a few more lessons. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Hi Ruthy! Fun to see that part of your first book found a home in your upcoming release! Yay!! Can't wait to read The Lawman's Second Chance!

Have fun with the kiddies and your family! You'll come back energized!


Jeanne T said...

Loved this post, Janet. :) Contesting. After a couple finals last fall, I got the itch for another one. The biggest trick is figuring out how to move forward with writing, blogging and preparing contest entries. Sigh. Oh, and don't forget taking care of two littles and one big (my wonderful hubby). Sigh. I entered one contest this spring, but I've decided to really focus on revising one story and plotting the next.

I love the lessons you've shared and the places you've gone with your writing. :)

Please enter me in the drawing for your book. :)

MARILYN--Happy XX birthday! I hope it's a wonderful day for you!

Connie Queen said...

Oh, throw my name in the hat too. Love good westerns.

You're so right, contests are a great way to learn. When I first started entering, I thought I'd knock the socks off the judges. Got a lot of red pen marks (yes, this was before contests were on the computer)in return and was offered many great ideas to make my writing better.

I had a lot of growing to do, though, on how to take the comments. I didn't have to take every great suggestion, even if it was great. Too many changes make me forget where I was headed.

Something I thought was funny for my hero to do, a judge called downright silly and unheroic. What??? She missed the humor. But not every judge missed it.

Love the contests.

Janet Dean said...

Hello, Jenny! You make an excellent point about reviews. We authors cringe when we don't get four or five stars, but I can see how readers appreciate a balanced view.

It never occurred to me that someone would review a book she hadn't read. Why??

I've had a very successful steroid injection. Praying that you'll have the same experience with your wrist. Are you doing Physical Therapy? That helped me a lot!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Cindy R! "But, I'd rather be disillusioned with the truth than believe the lie. Gonna keep going for it."

You have said it all in a nutshell! Writers need feedback, especially when we're new. I thank God for judges who took the time to help me. And for the wisdom to see their criticism as positive. Our egos don't need massaged as much as our writing muscles.


Sherida Stewart said...

Good morning! Please pass the scones! YUM!

Janet, THE BRIDE WORE SPURS arrived from Amazon yesterday...along with Debby's The General's Secretary and Mary's Sophie's Daughters trilogy. I need to finish taxes and then READ! Fun to know that Hannah and Matt are from your first contest entry.

I entered the Fab Five this year thanks to Tina and Seekerville. I learned I need to know manuscript format, so I'm currently taking an online class (Word for Writers, through the Low Country RWA chapter) which is great. So, thanks , Janet, I WILL take the plunge with more contest entries for me. And I know I can visit Seekerville for condolences or cheers. My goal for the year is to be able to enter the Golden Heart....but the GH doesn't give feedback? :(

Marilyn, have a great birthday!

Lyndee, congrats on The End!

Jenny, praying that your shot goes well. (Recently, I had shots in both hips. During the injections, I focused on a peaceful place! All was fine and helpful.)

Good luck to all who entered or are entering contests!

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, JANET, I am sooooo glad you persevered, my friend, because your books are absolutely WONDERFUL reads that I cherish and ALL have a prime spot on my bookshelf.

I totally concur that contests played a HUGE role in my writing career as well, even though I didn't final in the first so many contests I entered. But like you, I utilized the invaluable input to hone my skills and my stories and again, like you, I started finaling more and more.

You said, "Published authors experience rejected proposals, revisions that fluctuate between minor and mindboggling, and reader reviews that leave us giddy to crestfallen."

Oh, AMEN to that!! Hard as it is to believe I feel like I have experienced more frustration and heartbreak AFTER publication than before, so I can't IMAGINE how wounded I would be by bad reviews if the contest circuit hadn't toughened me up!!

CanNOT wait to read about Hannah and Matt, Janet -- it sounds like another winner I'm going to LOVE!!


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Jeanne T! If you figure out a surefire way to get your writing done while taking care of family, entering contests, and blogging, let us know. LOL Setting priorities and finding that balance we all strive for is tricky. I remember hearing Nora Roberts speak at RWA. She said she's a juggler with lots of balls in the air. Some of the balls like family are made of glass. She dared not drop those.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Connie! You're right! We writers must decide what input to act on. There's little wiggle room with the basics. We have to know and use things like point of view correctly. But with the less clear-cut aspects of writing like humor and voice, we should ignore what doesn't fit or feels wrong.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Sherida! Thank you for ordering The Bride Wore Spurs. Know Mary and Debby will thank you too. I hope you enjoy our stories!

Proud of you for taking an online class to get the knowledge you need. There's a ton of things to learn. And even what we know, we can forget to do. Nothing easy about this journey.

I used to enter several contests and used their feedback to help me polish my manuscript before entering the Golden Heart and Genesis. That gave me the best chance of being a finalist.


Janet Dean said...

Bless you for your sweet words, Julie! You know I feel the same about your stories!

I truly believe that without contests I wouldn't be where I am--a published author. And, as you say, I'd really be struggling with the ups and downs of publishing without those contests toughening my hide. I try to remember that each review is just one person's opinion. And that an editor loved the story enough to buy it and spend hours overseeing it to publication. Don't we appreciate editors?!!


Kav said...

Thanks for the get me to take the plunge, Janet. I'm set to enter my first contests this month. Someone throw me a life preserver!!!!!

No need to enter me in the draw because I have your book and just love it!!! Hope you write more Western romances.

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks (I think!) for the encouragement to keep diving into the contest pool, Janet!

Your new book sounds wonderful--can't wait! After what you said about tossing a bunch of it but saving the H/H so you could still give them their happy ending, someday I just might take the challenge with an old ms. of mine. Maybe there's something still salvageable in that mess!

pol said...

Hi Janet, liked the post today. I am so glad that as a reader all I have to do is enjoy your hard work when it is finished and I get to read a great story..
love to be in the drawing as this is my kind of story.
Paula O

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Kav! Applauding your first dive into contest waters!! Yay!!! Hope you get great input! A final would be even nicer! Proud of you.

I'm thrilled you loved The Bride Wore Spurs! I'll return to the west, but my wip is set in Gnaw Bone, IN. Sigh. I'm a wanderer.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Myra! I met you through the Golden Heart. Julie and Tina too! Can't stop going for it, can we?

I thought Hannah and Matt would never see the light of day, but that proves that we've learned a lot and can save the salvageable. Of course it may be more work as starting new. But I'm going green and recycling. LOL


Fr. David Bryant said...

Hi Janet,

Love your posts! They are always so uplifting!

Your new book looks great. Would love to win a copy!

Thanks for the reminder of the other contest I want to enter.


Susan Anne Mason said...

URG. What is blogger doing? I had already signed out of my work account.

Thanks, Janet!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Paula O. Thank you for your encouraging words! I was amazed and grateful to receive reader letters and emails with the release of my debut.


Susan Anne Mason said...

Oh, and Happy birthday to Marilyn.

And big congrats to Lyndee! That's a great accomplishment!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Sue! Wishing you all the best with the contest you plan to enter! Keep us posted!

Thanks for your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs!


Janet Dean said...

Giggling Sue. Blogger likes to play.


CatMom said...

Very encouraging post, Janet--thank you! I am still considering another contest, but need to finish polishing my SpeedBo story first.
No need to enter me in your drawing, because I am presently reading THE BRIDE WORE SPURS (the copy I won from you not long ago) and LOVING it! (no surprise--I have genuinely loved ALL of your books). By the way, that cover is great too--makes me smile and *sigh*.

Please enjoy the Pecan Pralines and the Peach muffins I brought today (both are good for energy*wink*).
Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

Wendy Newcomb said...

I would love to add this book to my collection of your books that I have.


Elaine Manders said...

Great advice, Janet. After I finish my Speedbo and polish it, I'll send it out on the contest circuit.

Please put my name in the hat for The Bride Wore Spurs. Love the title. I'll read anything with a cowboy in it, or an English lord, or a Scottish lord, or an ex-confederate, or a settler, or...

Happy Birthday Marilyn, many more.


Mary Connealy said...

I had to google blintze but it looks great, so I'll have one. I should have just trusted you and grabbed it, Janet.
I've learned an important lesson about Janet and Food.

Boos Mum said...

So glad you kept up your writing. It's great that you were able to pull the positive from your first experience and learned from your mistakes. I would love to win your new book. Thanks.

sweetdarknectar at gmail dot com

Janet Dean said...

Hi Patti Jo! Your words are sweeter to me than your delicious peach muffins and pecan pralines! And that's saying plenty! I'm delighted you're enjoying the story and the cover. Thanks bunches!


Janet Dean said...

Oops forgot to say, Patti Jo, that once you get your SpeedBo story polished, I'm pulling for you to enter that contest you're considering. Will you enter the Speedbo story? Or another one?


Janet Dean said...

Hi Wendy, exciting to have enough stories in print to call it a collection. Yay! Now our Mary has enough books on the shelves to supply a small library.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Elaine, I'm sitting here at the computer chuckling at your witty comment. Obviously you love the heroes of romance novels! And why not? Heroes are one notch above the real deal. LOL I'm kidding!! My real life hero, the guy I share my life with, is a HEA man.

When it comes to story heroes, I love all seven of mine, but Matt is my first so he has a special place in my heart.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Mary! When it comes to eating, I'm very trustworthy. Now finding my way across country, across town...

We can't be good at everything.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Boos mum! I think we learn the most from our mistakes. Often that can be painful. Probably why we don't forget the lessons learned.

Thanks for your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs!


Vicki said...

You had me laughing at the beginning as I remembered my first contest. I so knew I was not only going to final but win and that the editor would surely see they had the next best seller. Yeah, not so much.

I loved your post!!!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Vicki! Nice to know I wasn't alone with my naïve expectations! Wishing you all the best with your writing!


mayrobinson said...

I entered Frasier this year with 2 entries. I thought I might as well get some good feedback. Your book looks great! I did just go back to a story I wrote a couple of years ago and decided that it wasn't that bad, just needed to be re-written and finished so I am working on that now. Would like to read one of your books! I like LI!

Joanne Sher said...

LOVE this post - gives me some wonderful hope for the stuff I'm working on now.

And the book sounds LOVELY. Please enter me :)

Jill Weatherholt said...

This is such an encouraging post, Janet! Thank you for sharing your experience in 1997, it gives me hope. :)

Jeanne T said...

JANET--Thanks for sharing Nora Roberts' words. What a great visual! :)

CatMom said...

p.s. Janet, to answer your earlier question to me--I would enter my SpeedBo story! I am really enjoying the tweaking and polishing, and have grown to really love these characters.

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Marilyn!!!

Janet Dean said...

Hi May Robinson! Love you LI readers! Thanks for your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs!

Congratulations on entering the Frasier! Twice! Yay! Wishing you all the best revising and finishing your story.


Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Joanne! Seekerville is all about sharing craft tips and inspiration that gives hope for the next story, the next contest. Glad you felt that!

Thanks for your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Jill! 1997 sounds like a long time ago, doesn't it? But, whatever year writers enter their first contest, they discover things to improve. Thanks to judges who give of their time and talent. So I'm raising my glass of water to judges everywhere. Cheers!


Janet Dean said...

Jeanne, I agree that juggling balls is how life feels. Especially a woman's life. Especially a woman writer's life! So here's to keeping those glass balls in the air!


Janet Dean said...

Wow, Patti Jo! Fun to see that you love these characters and they've become real in your mind. Isn't that so cool?

I think of so many characters I've loved in the books I've read and in my own stories. No reason to feel lonely when we can make up a friend. LOL That is kind of sick, isn't it? I promise that I do have real flesh and blood friends. Honest! But none of them make peach muffins as delicious as you do!


Jenny Blake said...

Hi Janet, I have a couple of exercises for the wrist to help strengthen it but have to be careful. Its not as bad as it was but its not as good as it could be. Its the ache thats there so much of the time that gets frustrating. just 6 more hours (unless hes late)

Debby Giusti said...

Janet, such great wisdom! It's worth saving and rereading numerous times.

Singing Happy Birthday to Marilyn! Bringing birthday cake and ice cream for the celebration. :)

Vince said...

Hi Janet:

I knew something was up with “The Bride Wore Spurs”! I’m 35% into the story on my Kindle and already I looked twice to verify that you were the author! (On a Kindle you can click the wrong book and wind up reading one book that you think is another book and sometimes you can do this for pages!!!)

“The Bride Wore Spurs” does not read like your other books. I’m amazed at how much historical detail there is. I also wonder how you know so much about running a ranch. Has Mary been helping you? All these little details that make it read so realistically remind me of what I liked best about Louis L’Amour. There are also more physical proxies than I can remember seeing in any novel. (These are where inner emotional states are revealed by body language alone.) So far this has been exceptionally fine writing (that's in addition to your signature 'crystal clear' prose). You have lots of good examples in this book that I can use in my Rewards Per Page book.

I must say that at 35% into the story I am flummoxed, (actually there is a Yiddish word that Ruth uses that better describes my inner state but I can’t remember it right now. Just being in that state makes it difficult to remember the name of that state.) I can’t figure out how you are going to finish the story.

As of now the hero and heroine are married, the whole town supports the wedding, both families think it is a wonderful marriage, the bride’s best girlfriend calls the husband the best catch in the county, the bride’s father knows the hero is a good man, the marriage will save the two family ranches, and it is obvious that both the hero and heroine love each other but are afraid to express their true feelings because it was a marriage of convenience. One slip up. One confession of his or her true feelings and it’s HEA time!

Where can you go from here? There is still two thirds of a book left to go! All I can think of right now is that the hero’s dead wife, Amy, did not really die. It was her unknown twin sister who died and now his real wife is going to come back and demand her husband! Of course, something tells me this is not really going to happen. I have not been this stumped since Julie’s ”Emma” book which I think has the best surprise ending I’ve read so far. This lack of apparent conflict has created greater ‘page turning’ motivation than any amount of conflict could have caused!

Everyone should read this book and when they get to 35% they should guess what you are going to do next. It would make a great contest! If this is a 'new' you, I really love it! If it is the 'old' you, welcome back. I still love it!

ABOUT CONTESTS: I plan on entering some more contests this year but they must require a synopsis! Last year I did much better when I was allowed to provide a synopsis because I write meta-romances and when judges know this, they ‘get’ what I am doing every time. If you have a great story, a synopsis is your friend. IMHO.


The last standing synopsis supporter.

Cara Lynn James said...

Janet, it's funny how we all have such similar comments from contests when we're first starting to write! I'm glad we persevered.

Janet Dean said...

Jenny, you're wise not to overdo. Praying the shot takes care of the ache. So you can feel good when you visit the U.S.

Hugs, Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Debby! Thanks bunches for your lovely words and the party! I'm lining up for cake. Where's the birthday girl? Oh, there's Marilyn with the gorgeous smile!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Vince! thank you for the lovely comments about The Bride Wore Spurs! I'll admit I'm surprised you wondered if my book was written by another author.

I do have more historical detail in this book. Perhaps because a western ranch isn't a setting this greenhorn is familiar with. I did a lot of research for this story. I read books and took copious notes, even made sketches. This is the first book I wrote. I fell in love with research and didn't even begin to put a fraction of what I read into the book. In this version with the new plot elements I talked to our Mary and Becky Turner, both cattle ranchers--I thanked them both in the dedication--to understand cattle and the birth of a calf. Mary suggested I watch births on You Tube. :-)

I grew up near a tiny Midwest town and visited my grandparents farm, a land grant parcel with a pump, windmill, outhouse, and animals and ponds, a fun place to explore. Perhaps I assumed my readers knew those settings as well as I did so didn't give as much detail as readers would like. I'll remember that in my next Midwest set story!

Your comment that has my stomach roiling is your uncertainty about how I'll end the story. I'm afraid the ending might not live up to your expectations. But whatever your reaction, I'm thrilled you've found rewards on the page and physical proxies, a new term for me, btw.

One thing I know, I did my best. And hoped you're pleased but whether you love the ending or not, you are a wonderful fan of romance and a huge encouragement to us writers. Thank you, Vince, from the bottom of my heart!

I agree with your thoughts about a story's synopsis. Editors need them. We need them. Writing them may be painful like getting an inoculation but they're important and keep us out of trouble. A poorly written story also shows in a synopsis. So it goes both ways.


Janet Dean said...

Cara, If we hadn't persevered, we'd have failed to find our dream and missed out being friends. Now that is a sad thought!

Hugs, Janet

Audra Harders said...

Janet, your post today takes me back to my first contest. I remember my shock when I received a 48% on the entry I was certain was going to win!! LOL!! Even though my writing didn't shine in that contest, I did garner some much needed feedback that kept me at it. I still remember the evening I got the call I'd finaled in my first contest.

Oh Happy Day!

You've got to pick yourself up, pop in a few Hershey's Kisses and get back to the keyboard. Good things come to those who persist. Honest. Of course it helps to have friends and family rally around you and lift your spirits, too.

Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom again, Janet. They are always timely.

And smart.

And oh so true.

Melanie Pike said...

Contests...haven't reached that point. Yet. Still dealing with the excitement--and fear--of having rewritten an old ms but this time for the Christian market. Have done one read-through thus far and need to do more. And more...

I honestly don't read much historical fiction any more, but lately I've been reading about all these LIHs and getting to know some of the authors, so I may have to increase my used-book-buying budget a bit. :)

Would love to have my name in the hat for the book! Thanks!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Janet! Great post! I am proud of your great attitude too, after that first contest! I can remember being that green. We were so optimistic, weren't we? I was certain I would get published in no time! But it took me a few years longer than I thought. It's probably a good thing I didn't know how long it would take. ;-)

Janet Dean said...

Hi Audra, thanks for your wise encouraging words for those dealing with low contests scores! I have a bowl of dark Hershey Kisses near my computer. Ready when I need them. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Hi Melanie P! Good for you for revising your story! You're wise to get it in the best shape you can then enter a contest. Wish you the best with it!

Hope you're able to increase that reading budget and maybe even win a few LIH novels!


Janet Dean said...

Good evening, Melanie D! Green and happy, that was us. :-) What are we now? Ripe and happy, all spotty like a banana about to go bad? LOL

When you write a comment, I can just hear you speaking in that soft, slow drawl. Miss you!


travelingstacey said...

Hi Janet~It's posts like this that really helped me when I entered my first contest...quite a while back now. I'm thankful that the folks at Seekerville help us to keep good perspective because when I got my feedback it was a little confusing for me. I had two different perspectives (judges) almost giving completely opposite feedback : ). But after looking the comments over it helped just to take it as a learning experience and go from there. Now I'm starting to get the fever again...I finally started typing out some things and I'm ready to learn. Maybe I'll enter a contest this year! : ) Thanks for the is motivating. Blessings~Stacey

Pam Hillman said...

Janet, I'm SO glad that Hannah and Matt's story is in print! And to think it was your first manuscript. That is too cool!

Missy Tippens said...

Janet, I loved hearing your story of your first contest! I don't feel so bad now (tied for 35th place out of 36 entries). :)

Fun post!! I'm sorry I didn't get by earlier., said...

Janet, I loved reading your article. I also love the cover of your book and would like a chance to win this book. I love listening to you gals on Seekerville. Keep up the good work. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

Mary Preston said...

It takes a great deal of courage to put yourself out there, but as a reader I certainly do appreciate it.

I would love a copy of THE BRIDE WORE SPURS thank you.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Stacey! Go for it! Maybe this time you'll get more consistent feedback. Or something will hit you that you just know is important to improve your craft. Or better yet, you could final. Now that is an idea I like!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Pam! It is fun to take an old story and slash the ugly, boost the good and come up with something new. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Hi there, Missy! You're never too late in Seekerville! Nice to see that so many of us survived those first contest scores and improved our craft.


Janet Dean said...

Thank you, Maude Maxine! And thank you for your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Mary P! Thanks for your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs! You've got three chances to win.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Janet, So sorry I missed out yesterday as we were on the move again. Sounds like you had a great day and your message was super duper.

Happy writing. And revising. And editing.....

Chill N said...

Janet, sorry I couldn't stop by yesterday -- what a wonderful post. And what insight about my first manuscript. I adore the hero and heroine and when I re-read it recently I loved the basic story. It's just all that technique that needs to be addressed :-) Good to know those first works can be salvageable.

Agreed on all points -- contests are definitely worth it!

Nancy C

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sandra! Good to see you whenever you arrive in Seekerville! Safe travels and happy writing!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Nancy C! Sounds like you've got a great bones of a story! Have fun polishing!


Amber Perry said...

You're post was just what I needed. Thank you!!! God bless!!!

Sarah said...

I would love to win,Enter me!!!
Thanks for the giveaway and God Bless!!!
Sarah Richmond

Crystal Benedict said...

Your book sounds fabulous, I would love to win a copy.

It sounds like you have been very busy.

MinDaf @