One More Perspective On JudgingHello friends, I hope your day is going well.
Today we have a special guest blogger, Nina Bruhns. My apologies for getting the blog up a little later than normal. Nina sent her post to me, but I was already in a meeting, then on to a special luncheon.
She has some great insight to share with you, and is ready for your questions/comments, so let's get to the good stuff.
One More Perspective On Judging – from guest Nina Bruhns
Great to be here! Karen had some very good points yesterday about what a judge thinks about when reading an entry. I’ll see if I can come up with a few more.
First, and most important: To be a good contest entrant, you must ALSO be a judge. Seriously. The very best thing, bar none, you can do to improve your chances in the Golden Heart is to judge every contest you can get your hands on. Not qualified, you say? Wrong! If you’re a writer, you’re a reader. And ultimately, who are we writing to please? Readers! So who cares if you have written a total of 30 pages on your first manuscript? You have undoubtedly read about a million books in your lifetime, and you know what’s good and what isn’t. So you are a perfect judge. If you still feel uncomfortable, ask to see the judging sheet. If the questions are too picky and detailed, pass on that contest. But there are plenty of contests that have fairly general judging sheets. I’ll repeat, this is the BEST thing you can do to improve your chances in the Golden Heart, or any other contest. There is nothing more enlightening than reading an opening and hating it, or thinking a character is pretentious or a twist obvious, and then realizing you wrote the exact same thing in your ms! Yikes! When reading a bunch of mediocre contest entries, you will learn very quickly what works and what doesn’t. Now apply it to your own work!
Okay, what else? I agree with Karen that you must end on a hook or a high-impact moment. Not because you’ll be judged down if you don’t, but because you want to end with a bang to impress the judge and make her give you higher points.
Same deal with leaving out scenes or paragraphs that are not necessary, or will be confusing for someone only reading 40 pages of your ms. For instance, chop out that secondary POV. It might be necessary in the finished book (it better be!) but for a contest, it will just muddy the waters. Trust me, if an editor requests your ms, she will NOT remember that scene was left out. Same with flashbacks, extensive backstory, or anything else that keeps your entry from being clean and compelling. Play it in the NOW, focused on the hero and heroine. But don’t reduce or change your font to squish in more!!! That is a sure way to make a judge mad. Edit and cut instead. You can do it.
Enter everything you have. I know it’s expensive. But let’s face it, this contest (as are all contests) is a crapshoot. You never know when a certain ms will final, or get all 2s. Really. I always entered every book I had written, every year, unless it had already won the GH. The same book would final one year, the next year get nowhere close. It all depends on the judges. Every year your judges will be different. Don’t limit your chances. You just never know. Your books will never appeal to everyone, that’s a fact, but there are those out there who will love your work. You just need to keep trying until you luck into all the judges on your panel that particular year liking your work.
Here’s a tough one to understand: 2s are our friends. Yes, people, they are. As I just mentioned, not everyone is going to like your writing or your choice of stories. It’s a given. Accept it. Don’t write for those people. Write for the ones who will love you. When you do that, you will evoke emotion in your readers. That emotion will be good if they like what you do. It will be negative if they don’t. But the important point here is that you are evoking emotions in your readers. So, if you are getting a crazy point spread in your contest results, like all 9s and 2s, then you are definitely doing something right. Do not change. Don’t try to cater to those 2s to get them up. It won’t work. What will end up happening is you’ll get all 5s or 6s, and that’s far, far worse. Who wants to be average? Average will never get you published. So when you get those 8s and 9s and 2s and 3s, crack a bottle of champagne and celebrate! (of course, if you get ONLY 2s and 3s, that’s a different story...)
It’ a jungle out there in this biz. But entering the Golden Heart is one of the very best ways to become recognized and get your work in front of an editor or agent. Don’t be timid. Go for it!
Nina Bruhns (www.NinaBruhns.com) is a two-time RITA finalist, and before being published was a Golden Heart finalist four times, winning it twice. She has written 18+ books for Silhouette Romantic Suspense (the line formerly known as Intimate Moments ☺) and Silhouette Nocturne, and recently sold to Berkley Publishing. Her first single title, SHOOT TO THRILL, will be out in August 09.