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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Friday, October 31, 2008


Happy Halloween!!!!

We're having a farewell party for a co-worker in my office today, so on top of all the Halloween candy hanging around, there's a table full of good food right outside my office door!!

The pecan treat Robin had at Panera Bread on Wednesday is probably nothing compared to all the calories calling my name right now. :-)

It's Q&A day again on the Posse blog. We've had a week full of interesting advice and fun stories.

Is there a burning question you forgot to ask? Something that kept you up at night niggling at your brain? Any final comments you'd care to share?

We're at the end of GH Month on the blog so don't be shy.

I'll be back to check in the a little while. I think I hear a tasty treat calling my name. :-)


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Does Accuracy Count in the Golden Heart?

Oh, goody. This morning my blogger account is in German. Previously Google was re-setting me in Spanish, which at least I could read to change back to English, but my German is really poor.

I would like for today's blog topic to be more of a discussion instead of passing on information, since there is no right or wrong answer to the question.

We usually think of accuracy as something historical writers have to worry about most, but accuracy is a problem for all writers. It's not just historical details we have to get right.

We all know we can write in a fictional street in Chicago which is right between two real streets and if we do it well, readers will accept it even if they live right where that non-existent street claims to be. On the other hand, when Nora Roberts had a character in a book set in Oregon pumping his own gas at a gas station, she found out almost immediately after publication that Oregon is one of very few states where self-service gas is illegal. What's the difference?

Historical writers have to worry about more than historical accuracy. They have to know enough to capture the historical ambiance of their era. If they have their hero in a conversation with King George III, they can't have Hero say, "Now George, you know we can't..." Readers of the Regency or Georgian period will dent their walls with the book because no one outside the royal family, not even the king's closest advisor, would have addressed the king by his name. Yet we all know Hero isn't real and therefore he can't be accurate, and we're squeezing this non-existent man into reality in a way that surely would have split the fabric of time if it could actually have been done. What's the difference? Why do the nuances of dialogue and tiny details matter?

If we're writing fantasy, science fiction, or paranormal, we're writing about big impossibilities. This is world-building on a grand scale. We have to carefully construct our fictional world, then make sure we keep it consistent through the entire story. If the reader know Hero has the ability to fly, we know we'd better make sure we substantiate why in chapter twenty-three he suddenly can't get off the ground.

There are thousands of details authors have to worry about when writing fiction. Grammar, spelling, paragraphing, writing techniques- all also count when we're talkng accuracy. Story structure. When the sun sets. Can Hero and Heroine waltz to the Blue Danube in 1847? Does Hero's voice sound consistent throughout the story? Getting it accurate is a major problem from the first word to the last.

Yet we're writing fiction. By definition, fiction is a story that isn't true. Not only that, when we throw in too many factual details, we create other problems. Some things may be completely true but readers have great trouble accepting them. Waltzing and Electricity in Regency England come to mind. Both were known, but not in quite the ways they are today. Adding lots of detail sometimes actually makes the stories less believable.

So how much does accuracy count in your Golden Heart entry? Will your judges rip your manuscript to shreds because you as an author haven't been around long enough to know everything you need to know? Don't you have to actually write before you learn some things? How do you know when you've got it right? Or wrong?

I'll admit that, as a judge, I'm able to spot a lot of errors in Regency and Medieval stories, but if I'm judging non-historical categories things can get by me. But even in my chosen categories I'm not one to count big on little historical details. On the other hand, if the historical verisimilitude is fractured like a shattered drinking glass with things that throw me out of the story, I have to consider the ambience lost. I want to feel like I'm back in time, participatng in the story, and if I don't get that feeling, my score for the story will go down.

I'll also admit some things like bad grammar and meandering plot can really push my buttons. As a judge, I have to work at deciding how much these difficuties really mean to story quality and how much my personal distastes are involved.

All Golden Heart judges are pretty much like that. I'm guessing about half of the judges in any category are not judging their primary writing category since they can't judge a category they enter. But many of them read very widely, and they're likely to have pretty good knowledge of the category they are judging. Some of them have a lot of false knowledge, like the one who told me in a different contest, "They didn't have newspapers in 1804".

But even setting aside the luck of the draw in judges, there's still the problem of how much fact you need to make a story take on the sense of reality it needs to capture the reader and hold her? Or how much is too much?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Guest blogger Robin Kaye

Independent businesswoman, Rosalie Ronaldi’s life would be perfect if she could just figure out how to keep her nosy, pushy, Italian family from trying to marry her off.

Nick Romeo, Brooklyn’s Donald Trump without the comb over, thinks independent women are an urban myth, until he meets Rosalie and realizes they’re no myth, just a pain in the ass. He’s finally met a woman who is looking for the same thing he is, a commitment free relationship and is shocked to discover that all he wants to do is take care of her... Before too long, he's moved in, cleaned her apartment, stocked her refrigerator, and adopted her dog

I just want to thank Janet Mullany for inviting me to visit the Wet Noodle Posse. What a great group! Thanks for having me.

Since it’s time to enter the Golden Heart, I thought I’d blog about my call story, though, to be honest, it’s more like an email story.

When people ask what it was like submitting my manuscript, I have to tell them I only made one submission to a publisher, and that was because I won a contest and the final judge requested the full. I’d sent the manuscript out to a few agents and started my collection of rejection letters. But when it comes down to it, I’m one of those published authors most unpublished authors hate. I’m not saying I didn’t work hard, because anyone who has written a manuscript knows it’s a whole lot of work. But I’m one of those authors whose stars lined up perfectly and allowed me to stumble into publication.

When I entered Romeo, Romeo in the Golden Heart, my only goal was to score in the top 50%. I entered and promptly forgot about it. I figured I’d get my scores in the mail when they showed up. I had no idea when they were going to announce the finalists, because in my mind, I had about as much chance of finaling as I had of showing up on the cover of Playboy. And if you’ve ever met me, or seen my picture, you know that would never happen.

You can imagine my surprise when poor Trish Milburn called to tell me I’d finaled. I think it was a Sunday morning, and it had been a horrible week—my husband, a true Domestic God, was out of town on business, and I was stuck home alone wrangling my three kids, two dogs, three-legged cat (who insists on being fed at 4:30 AM) and Puff the magic bearded dragon. I saw a call coming in from Tennessee and immediately thought someone had died. The only people I know in Tennessee are my brother-in-law and his family, and the only day he ever calls is June 3, his and my husband’s birthday. Since it wasn’t June 3, I figured someone must have died.

You can imagine how thrilled I was to be wrong! I won’t bore you with the conversation. Suffice it to say, it was terribly embarrassing on my part, and for Trish, I’m sure it’s something she’s worked hard to block from her memory. It would be inhumane to make her relive it.

The call/email came when I arrived in Dallas for Nationals, and I will forever be grateful to Steve Jobs for coming up with the iPhone. I’d waited in line for four hours the month before to get my greedy little hands on one. Because of that, I was able to receive the email from Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks saying that she’d read Romeo, Romeo and “LOVED it.” She asked if I would be attending the conference and if we could meet.

I had never heard of Soucebooks. They were new to romance, so I had no idea what to expect. Deb and I sat down at the restaurant and she immediately began quoting her favorite lines from Romeo, Romeo verbatim. I remember wondering about her sanity. I mean, what editor does that? Now that I know Deb very well, I can attest to her sanity and to the fact that she has an amazing memory. I wasn’t aware that she’d requested the manuscript from RWA. When I entered, I’d been in the process of rewriting the manuscript. I’d entered a rewritten synopsis and first 50 pages, and spent the time since then rewriting the balance of the manuscript. When I mentioned this to Deb, all the blood drained from her face. “What did you do to it?” she asked. When I explained the changes I’d made, she smiled and called me a genius. That’s when I handed her my phone and asked if she’d call my mother-in-law and inform her—she was so unaware.

By the time we finished our meeting, Deb had assured me an offer would be forthcoming. We got up to leave and she gave me a hug and a kiss goodbye. I spent the rest of the conference with my head in the clouds. I ‘knew’ I didn’t have a prayer of winning, and that was fine with me, because, hey, I’d already sold Romeo, Romeo. When I went on to win the Golden Heart, I figured that conference was the best on record. Every other conference would pale in comparison. Not only because I won, but because of the friendships I’d made with the rest of the GH finalist.

I encourage everyone to enter the Golden Heart. Even if you’re like me and think you don’t have a prayer of winning…enter anyway. It’s the best $50 I ever spent, that’s for sure.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A golden trip down memory lane

by Terry McLaughlin

Do you remember the first sentence of your first serious attempt at writing a manuscript? How about the first scene you ever wrote? I remember. My heroine was named Sarah, and she was strolling down a boulevard in Paris, frightened by the strange man walking beside her.

Click to the comments section to discover what happened to Sarah and to my first manuscript. (Hint: the story has a happy ending.)

You'll also discover that today the Noodlers are reminiscing about their first Golden Heart entries. Feel free to share memories of your own writing firsts--I'll toss the names of our visitors into a jar and randomly select one to win a $10 gift certificate to an online bookstore.

Here's to looking back--and to moving forward!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Let the Reader Get to Know Your Characters

Okay, so we've talked about hooking the reader and avoiding info/backstory dump in your first chapter. But another item I wanted to bring up is the necessity for you to allow your readers to get to know your characters in the opening pages of your book.

I've read too many chapter contest entries where the entire neighborhood is introduced, and far too much unnecessary info thrown into the opening chapters of a book, that I start to wonder who the book is about. Or, if too many characters are in the opening scenes, then they take up room (dialogue, action, inner thought, everything!) that belongs to your hero and heroine.

By the end of your contest entry pages, you want the reader to have a good idea of who the book is about (meaning, your hero and heroine). What are they like? What is their goal, motivation, conflict? Now, this goal may change, and I don't need to know the nitty gritty details (especially not all dumped into chapter one), but I want an idea of what the character is aiming for. And why it's important to him/her.

I want to feel like I've just been introduced to someone and their personality/dilema/situation/goal has me intrigued. Wanting to find out more. Wanting to go along on their journey with them.

Here's a quick example taken from Diane Gaston's historical romance novel Scandalizing the Ton. First we'll see the opening paragraphs in the hero's point of view (pov), followed by the opening paragraphs in the heroine's pov:

Leave me this instant!”

A woman’s voice.
Adrian Pomroy, the new Viscount Cavanley, barely heard her as he rounded the corner onto John Street. Not even halfway down the block he saw the woman stride away from a man. The man hurried after her. They were mere silhouettes in the waning light of this November evening and they took no heed of him.

Adrian paused to make sense of this little drama. It was most likely a lover’s quarrel, and, if so, he’d backtrack to avoid landing in the middle of it.

“One moment.” The man kept his voice down, as if fearing to be overheard. “Please!” He seized her arm.

“Release me!” The woman struggled frantically to pull away.

Lover’s quarrel or not, Adrian could not allow a woman to be treated so roughly. He sprinted forward. “Unhand her! What is this?”

[several pages later, we move into the heroine's pov]

Lydia’s heart raced at the feel of his large masculine hand enveloping hers. His grip was strong, the sort of grip that assured he was a man who could handle any trial. She now knew better than to make judgments based on such trivialities as a touch, but she could not deny he had been gentle with her. And kind.

It seemed so long since she’d felt kindness from anyone but her servants.

And even longer since she’d felt a man’s touch, since her husband left for Scotland, in fact. It shocked her how affected she was by Adrian Pomroy’s hand on hers. He warmed her all over, making her body pine for what only should exist between a husband and wife.

She took a breath. She’d always loved that part of marriage, the physical part, the part that was supposed to lead to babies...but she could not think of that. It was too painful.

It was almost easier to think of her husband. The Earl of Wexin.

The newspapers wrote that her husband killed Lord Corland so Wexin could marry her. Lord Corland’s death had been her fault.

She gripped Adrian’s hand even more tightly, sick that Wexin’s hands had ever touched her, hands that cut a man’s throat.

She thought she’d loved Wexin. She’d trusted him with everything--the finances, the decisions, everything. But she had not known him at all. He’d betrayed her and left her with nothing but shame and guilt.

Her happiness had been an illusion, something that could not last, like the baby that had been growing inside her the day Wexin left.

From these short passages I've already gotten a feel for both characters. Personally, I want to learn more about them.
Adrian is a gentleman with a caring streak. He is willing to stand up for what's right, protect the innocent and stand up to someone who is a bully. I like this guy!!

Lydia has a passionate side that has been taken for granted and hurt. She wants to believe in love, yet life and her husband have betrayed her. She's a loving woman, mourning the loss of her child, yet whose passion still simmers. I'd like to believe she's a fighter, and I want to find out.

Notice that I've gleaned all of this just in the opening passages of Diane's book. If you're uncertain about packing a punch in your opening chapters, take moment to dissect some of your favorite authors, or some of your favorite books and see how they do it.

You'll find a variety of writing styles in the Posse stables, and of course we're all willing to let you know what works for us, or what we try to do regarding our characters in the opening chapters of our books. If you have any questions, let us know.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on getting the right amount of info (balancing tween info dump and not enough) in your opening pages. How do you do it? Is there an author you feel does it amazingly well? Any concerns you might have about your opening chapters?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

This week on the Posse blog

Howdy folks! Here's what's cookin' on the Posse blog this week as we countdown to the GH entry deadline.

Monday: Pris (yep, I'll be back!): talking about letting us get to know your characters

Tuesday: Terry McLaughlin—Noodlers reminisce about their first entry

Wednesday: Guest blogger—Robin Kaye, thanks to Janet Mullany

Thursday: Does Accuracy Count?

Friday: our final Q&A of the month (Happy Halloween!!!!)

We'll see you back here tomorrow (later today,depending on when you're reading this)!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Q&A Friday!

Too often, we focus on the negative--especially when it comes to our writing. Pinpointing what we need to work on has its place. After all, working to improve your writing is never a bad thing. However, today, in the spirit of the Wet Noodle Posse motto ("Be Good to Yourself or Else") I'd like you to share with us what you do well.
What is the best aspect of your Golden Heart (or Rita, for those entering the published RWA contest) entry? Premise, Voice, Hooks?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Still on the Fence?

Okay, so we're mid-way through the month of October, and we've had some wonderfully informative blog entries and comments. Have you made your decision yet?

If not, what's holding you back?

Money? Gosh, wish I could help you with that. Unfortunately, only you know what your budget can or can't handle. But earlier this week several Posse members shared some good pointers for making the monetary decision. If you missed it, go back and take a look at Theresa's blog. Maybe it will help.

Time? Oh, if I could save time in a bottle...Wait that's a song, isn't it? If only it were possible. If I could have any superhero power, it would be to stop time (like Hiro Nakamoro on "Heros"). That way I'd be able to get my entire "to do" list taken care of, then I'd lie down for a much needed nap. :-)

But seriously, Esri passed along some time organization tips for getting work done, along with a couple fun ways to reward yourself. Go back and re-read her post if you didn't write down her tips.

You have a few more weeks to make your decision. Hopefully you've been able to get some work done on your manuscript lately. Or you've entrusted your baby to the eyes and opinions of someone knowledgeable about the romance genre for a last minute critique.

If you can swing the entry fee, and your manuscript has the potential to be finished by the entry deadline, you may wanna do like Nina Bruhns suggested last week, enter that puppy in the granddaddy of all unpublished contests. As much as I hate to say this, it's kinda a crapshoot anyway. It's all based on the opinions of the select few (I believe it's 5) who receive your manuscript. It's subjective. We have to get used to that because this entire business is subjective.

All you can do is put your best foot forward, then hope it doesn't get trampled. Even better, hope that a friendly editor comes by and offers you a Manolo Blahnik (aka a contract). :-)

Something worrying you? Something getting you excited? Some niggling doubt or question been eating away at you? Get it all out in the open. Share with us, and we'll gladly share our thoughts, experience and advice.

What's on your mind today? (well, concerning the GH anyway )


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shine on the First Page- The Real Post

Sorry that was a problem. Hopefully I've outwitted it this time.

In one of my earliest stories (a long time ago) I had both a wonderful, wacky plot perfectly suitable for a Regency Romp, and two of the most endearing characters I've ever created. I loved writing that story from the first page to the last. But for some reason it was a complete dud in every contest I entered. Then I entered it in the Golden Heart- my first time. I was so sure everyone would see my genius and fall in love with my characters as much as I did. They didn't. In fact I got a very confusing array of scores: 9,8,7,6,4.

Of course I figured the lower scores came from judges who didn't know what they were doing. But I soon began to realize it was the high-scoring judges who were wrong. I did have wonderful characters and a terrific plot. But I'd buried them under a lot of muck.

The muck, I discovered, was in the early chapters. Once I finally got going, the writing really was good. But the part I was presenting to the world- the partial, the contest entry, was muck and not much else.

Like a lot of new authors, I wanted to "ease into" the story. Three pages worth, telling my reader all about my heroine's scintillating and quirky personality, and all about how she so ably managed the estate her father so badly neglected. I thought it was wonderful prose, marvelous words. I was probably the only person in the world who wasn't bored by them. Then one contest judge drew a line through those three pages and pencilled in an arrow on the fourth page with the comment: "Your story starts here."

She was right, but it took me a full week to accept it. I tried and tried to re-construct a beginning that didn't sound so abrupt, and finally I gave up and started it just as it was. It eventually was re-entered and finalled in the Golden Heart, and was published as THE MUDLARK. Why? Because instead of telling my readers all about my heroine, I let her jump right in and show them who she was by what she did. And she was as bg a hit with my readers as she was with me.

Starting in the right place is probably the most important thing you can do for your story because if you don't, your readers feel something wrong, and likely within three pages they will put your story down. So from my experience with that manuscript, I developed a rule I still follow to this day. In the first two to three pages (the first one being only half a page long) I must:
1. Set the stage- time, place and mood.
2. Introduce at least one major character.
3. Give him a problem.
4. Then before he has a chance to solve the problem, give it a twist. This is the inciting incident, the point at which your story begins.

That's a lot to cram in. The only way to do it is to start the story at the very latest point I can, and finding that point is a vital but very difficult task. Most of the time I want to start in a scene that sort of begins to set the stage. But then I get that funny, uncomfortable feeling, so I ask myself when do I get to the real story. Almost always I've missed the mark with the first try, and all of that scene has to be discarded.

The beginning I like best is in HIS MAJESTY, THE PRINCE OF TOADS, which begins at the very moment Sophie feels the tension in the ballroom stiffen. Something has just changed and it's all aimed at her. Then as she turns around, in walks her estranged husband, who hasn't seen her in six years. And he walks straight up to her and asks his best friend to introduce him to the beautiful lady. In two pages, Sophie has gone from being a happy guest to realizing her long-absent husband doesn't even recognize her. And the conflict is off to a roaring start.

Often in contest entries I see a clever first line, often of dialogue, standing alone. This can be an excellent way to start your story- sometimes. But so many times the line is so manipulative that its shock value is limited. Sometimes it appears the author has come upon a very clever shocker that doesn't really fit her story, so she has gone to all kinds of manipulations to warp her story to fit the line. This doesn't work. If you can't find a shocker, then don't shock. Find strong, vivid, succinct words that bring just the right connotations with them to paint your opening picture quickly.

I'm sorry to say, an frequently opening line is grammatically awkward, or has a clumsy rhythm to it. It may have an intriguing gem of an opening in it but somehow it feels like it's stumbling around. I can't understand why a writer would insist on an opening line that is confusing or grammatically incorrect. But I see it a lot. If your line continues to feel awkward to you, it probably is to readers, too. Maybe you should cast about for a completely different way to say the same thing.

Dialogue lines as openers can be very good. Unfortunately they're also often gimmicky. I think authors see a certain shock value in an opening dialogue line with no attribution. But I see this gimmick used so often, it is coming to seem trite to me. I really think a single dialogue line without even a tag to indicate something about the speaker creates confusion in the reader, who needs something to ground her in the scene visually before something spoken comes at her. A vivid visual picture doesn't require a lot of words. People form mental images very quickly, from very few words. Try this example from my current WIP:

"That one," said the crone. Her long, bony finger emerged from a sleeve of deep green to point into the courtyard beyond the shadowed colonnade. Tall, gaunt, old, and ashen of face, she was everything Rufus was not.

If I were following the gimmicky rule, I would have said simply, "That one." That's not intriguing. It's confusing. And it leaves the reader nothing to create the mental image she needs in order to begin entering my story. But all my word choices, beginning with crone, point to two characters, a setting, and even allude to the medieval time period and the paranormal aspect. Subsequent paragraphs tell those who haven't figured it out that Rufus is the king and the crone has strange powers, especially when she leaves by walking through the wall. Every word is chosen for at least one purpose, and many of them accomplish several purposes. But notice what I didn't do.

You don't see the king meeting the crone and passing greetings back and forth. He doesn't offer her a seat, or ask her what she wants from him. She doesn't remark at the spiral ropelike design of the columns. Beginning where it does, any reader will assume the introductory stuff happened. But the reader won't care because she's already pulled into the story at the point of action. It begins exactly where it needs to begin, with the crone pointing her finger (at the hero). And very quickly the reader learns the crone has some kind of hold on the king, so that he realizes he must comply. But the king himself shows his personality as he quickly schemes just how this will be useful to him.

Now, a word about prologues. I almost never do them, but in the above story, this is the prologue. Romances in particular are often hurt by prologues because the writers use the prologues to tell what is setting up the main story. In a romance, often you want to start where the romance begins, and prologue by its very nature starts before that. Sometimes prologues tell the story of some time long in the past, even several generations before. And sometimes authors practically tell their whole story premise in the prologue. If you've just told me all about your story, why would I need to read it? So I'd like to encourage you to be very cautious about using prologues. They can be very useful, but they can hurt if they're not done well.

Boiling all this down to essentials: my advice is start your story by throwing your characters into the middle of the inciting incident. Begin with the story, not its background.

Shine on the First Page

Dear Everyone: I have lost my post for the third time. Somehow it just vanishes before I can post it. I'll be back after I re-do it in Word and cut and paste. So sorry! {Posting this now before Blogger attacks again!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Making the GH a Priority - Esri Rose

Time flies like an arrow.
Fruit flies like a banana.

- Groucho Marx

My last post was about how to take a more relaxed attitude toward your contest entry, but I don't want you to be too relaxed. Your entry fee has to be in by Nov. 17th. Your partial has to be there by Dec 2. How are you doing on time?

Figure out what you still need to do and how long you think it will take you to do it -- just your best guess. Get a calendar, subtract the mailing time for your preferred method, and do some division.
If you can build in a week safety margin, that would be good. Kids get sick, you get sick, and plot problems bubble to the top. How much do you need to accomplish each day?

Don't become paralyzed.

If deadlines freak you out, then adopt an attitude of "What's the worst that can happen?" The worst that can happen is that you miss all deadlines and lose fifty bucks. Not the end of the world, and it rolls around every year. Just give it your best shot, realizing that the more you divvy it into small chunks, the more relaxed you can be during the process.

Do become inspired.

Here's a fun exercise. Take five minutes before your GH work for the day, and do a little work on your acceptance speech. Add to your list of what you can do with a Golden Heart final or win under your belt, in terms of agents and editors. Plan what you'll wear at the ceremony. All this becomes possible when you get that entry polished and in on time.

Make it a priority.

You're always busy, but some things can be let go a little, just for the next month or so. Let the house get a little dirty. Ask your husband and kids to pick up some of the slack. Buy more frozen food. Make your fun time-wasters a reward. I have a system that works particularly well. I get up, write five pages, and don't allow myself to get online until that's done. Not only do I accomplish more, but I enjoy my online time more because I don't feel guilty. After lunch, I get back to writing and don't get online until evening. Don't feel intimidated. I don't this every day, but when I do
do it, it works like a charm.

Now go. Do it. I'll look forward to seeing your picture on that big screen!

Esri Rose's 2003 GH finalist was her first published book, Bound to Love Her. More information can be found at

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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Golden Heart – You Have Nothing to Lose but Money

It’s only money! I’m teasing, of course. Believe me, you’re not the only one feeling the recent economy crunch. I haven’t entered the 2009 Golden Heart yet because I am still pinching pennies and saving up. But if you can manage and you really think your book is ready for the big time then you don’t want to miss entering the RWA Golden Heart.

Finaling in the Golden Heart is a lot of fun. If you get really lucky you could make a sale! That’s just a rumor I heard. It took me FIVE attempts before I finaled for the first time in 2003. Since then I have finaled six times. I’ve been writing without selling for so long, I need all the motivation I can get.

Once you’ve made the decision to spend the money, you need to decide how many books you’re going to send in. If you’re like me and you’ve been writing for a while, deciding which book(s) to enter won’t be easy. IMO, you should send in ANY and ALL finished manuscripts that you think are ready to be published. If you have a manuscript that finaled already, keep entering it! Unless you WIN the Golden Heart, the rules state that you can enter the same manuscript again and again. Some people have a problem with this, stating we need to make room for others. I say forgettaboutit. Until I sell, I’m going to keep on entering. You never know when an editor might finally take notice and you need to take advantage of all opportunities out there. I have a friend who won the Golden Heart in 1999 and just last week she sold that book! That’s almost 10 years later. Most people would have told her to shove it under the bed, but she believed in her book. It was just a matter of timing and luck. If we don’t believe in ourselves, who will?

If you have ANY questions at all about the Golden Heart, please ask! The Noodlers are here to help you!

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse

I'm still out-of-town at an adult-only, mostly female family reunion. We talked a lot, ate and drank a little too much, and made over 90 dozen tamales. In case you're wondering, that's 1090 tamales!--Pris

This week we'll continue our month-long discussion of all things Golden Heart.

Monday, October 20th: Theresa Ragan "Nothing to Lose Except Money"

Tuesday, October 21st: Esri Rose "Making the Golden Heart a Priority"

Wednesday, October 22nd: Delle Jacobs "Shine on the First Page"

Thursday, October 23rd: Priscilla Kissinger "The Entry Deadline Is Looming; Are You Still on the Fence?"

Friday, October 24th: Q& A (Readers Ask Questions; Noodlers Answer)

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A day in Boulder

If you want to see how an elf-writing chick spends her day in Boulder, Colorado, here's yesterday's blog post, with a ton of photos and even some video.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Q&A Friday!

It's Friday, and that means questions. Post your most pressing Golden Heart questions, and we'll answer them.
We spent some time this week focusing on judging, so I'd like to know from my fellow noodlers and readers alike about one of the most positive aspects of judging--reading an entry that scores a 9. If you've had that experience as a judge, tell us about it. What made that entry a 9? What excited you so much about that entry?

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

One More Perspective On Judging

Hello 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

Nina's Post:

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 ( 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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

From a Judge’s Point of View

I frequently judge contests (my own chapter’s Touch of Magic contest and the unpublished Maggies come to mind) and enjoy doing so. It’s a way to give back to those who judged the contests I entered before I made my first sale. If I may, I’d like to shout out a belated “thank you” to all of them.

It’s important to note that when writers volunteer to judge a contest it’s almost always because they want to. If they don’t, they do a crappy job and will probably not be asked to judge again. Hopefully you won’t get the reluctant judge on their (or your) first time out. As a whole, judges are predisposed to like your work. They are hoping for a new spin on an old idea, a fresh voice, something fun to read. They want to help you in your climb up the writing career ladder. They are not planning to score you down so that their critique partner, sister, chapter mate, etc., will win instead of you. There are not interested in stealing your great idea.

So relax. Contests are good for you.

Here are a few things I tend to notice when judging contest entries.

Font. I mention font a lot when I talk about contests. I prefer Courier New because I find it easy to read, but mostly when I mention font I’m talking about using a font that allows the entrant to squish more and more words on the page for the specific intent of putting additional text in front of the judge, to the detriment of other entrants. Please note that no one is fooled by this ploy.

Having the POV character describe her/himself. Butch the Bounty Hunter scanned the crowded room for criminals. He allowed his warm, chocolate brown eyes to peer into every corner. He brushed his long, wavy hair off his shoulders, thankful his expensive black Resistol cowboy hat shaded his craggy face from the harsh overhead lights. I mean, honestly, what self-respecting hero would think of himself in those terms? Same with heroines. Do you really want to read a book about a woman who constantly describes herself? P.S. Describing what a character sees in the mirror is cheating, too, unless your character is the wicked stepmother in Snow White.

Incomplete sentences that lack punch. It was dark. And cold. How about
The night was dark and cold.

Abrupt changes of point of view within a scene. When changing POV, give the new POV character a movement, or better yet, a facial expression, before he/she delivers dialog or leaves the room or thinks about shooting someone, etc. Don’t head hop, and don’t let your scene be hijacked by someone who is not integral to said scene.

Not ending with a hook. We talked about his one last week when Maureen Hardegree blogged about hooks. It’s important enough to repeat. Make every effort to end each scene and chapter with a strong hook. If the contest entry is 50 pages and you have a great scene ending hook on page 45 or 46 or 47, etc, stop there. End on a high note, a strong note. Never, ever end mid-paragraph or mid-sentence.

You may be thinking, picky, picky, picky, but actually, you want me to judge your entry. I’m predisposed to like your work. I want to help you in your climb up the writing career ladder. I really want you to win!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Imperfection is Okay - How not to lose your mind when entering the Golden Heart. - Esri Rose

During Golden Heart preparation month, we spend a lot of time answering questions about picky rules, encouraging you to be picky about your writing, and offering critiques. This is all valuable. But for those of us whose pickiness might lead to paralysis, now is a good time to remind ourselves of the following:

There is no such thing as a perfect synopsis, a perfect partial, a perfect contest entry, a perfect completed manuscript, or a perfect book.

If you find yourself shaking your head in denial at this suggestion, then this blog is aimed directly at you, and I’m the one to deliver it.

Hello. My name is Esri Rose, and I’m a perfectionist.

Here are my credentials. Although I compulsively edit my emails and am the first person to straighten brochures at a check-out counter, I sometimes ignore an easily corrected problem on purpose (a crooked placemat, for example). Why? Because perfectionism is a flaw. So I consciously cultivate imperfect moments in my quest to become a more perfect individual. Wrap your head around that.

Am I suggesting that you leave out a paragraph in your GH submission? Of course not. But in the interest of preventing you from breaking into sobs at two in the morning because your caffeine-addled hand can’t properly fill out Federal Express forms, I offer the following list of acceptable imperfections.

Things You Can Let Go.

1) You can’t come up with a title that perfectly encapsulates your story, and you know the judges will hate what you have. You loathe and despise it.

You will find something to dislike about all of your titles, the titles suggested by your friends, and the title eventually pressed on you by your publisher. Now is a good time to get over it.

2) You realize you’ve used the passive tense in your opening paragraph, but try as you might, you can’t come up with a better way to say what you want.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.

If Charles Dickens could start his masterpiece with an entire paragraph of passive tense (not to mention repeated words), you can get away with the occasional use. Anyway, by the time the judges finish your entry, they won’t remember the first paragraph.

3) Your office-supply store is out of 60-lb. linen paper.

For every judge pleased by the white opaqueness of premium paper, there will be another who thinks you are an environmentally irresponsible poser. Plain old printer/copy paper goes unremarked by everyone.

4) You don’t have a colored piece of paper to separate your synopsis from your chapters. You don’t even have a sticky note!

The judges can tell where your synopsis ends and your manuscript begins. Really. No entry will be close enough to yours in every other respect that having to shuffle a few pages will make them subconsciously mark you down.

5) You ran out of binder clips. Not only won't the pages stay as square with your big paperclips, but the only ones you have left are old and oxidized and leave a little gray mark at the top of the page.

The judges with carpal tunnel syndrome will be pleased that they don’t have to squeeze a binder clip. Any metal smudges will soon be unnoticeable beneath chocolate smears, pet hair and coffee-cup rings.

6) You forgot to enter online, and now your Internet is broken. You’re mailing your submission and payment together, only you made a mistake in the written amount of your check and it’s your last one. You corrected and initialed it, but what if RWA thinks you’re a forger and won’t take the check?

They’ll take it. Even if a new strain of ink-eating bacteria gets inside your envelope and consumes every trace of the writing, RWA will call you and ask for some other form of payment. Same goes for if you forget to sign the check, which is a lot more likely.

7) After sealing your contest package, you turn around and find the entry form on the floor. That was your last big envelope, so you slit open the bottom with a craft knife and insert the missing piece, then neatly tape up the slit. Only now it kind of looks like terrorists tampered with it, making you worry that the post office will hold your envelope to check for anthrax spores, and you’ll miss the contest deadline.

The government is too broke to check for anthrax spores anymore.

So relax, and good luck!

P.S. I’m guest blogging at Yankee Romance Reviewers today, asking what kind of paranormal heroine you'd like to be and why. You also can read the first-ever excerpt of Stolen Magic (May 2009), the second in my series of urban-fantasy, romantic-suspense comedies. One randomly selected commenter will win a copy of Bound to Love Her and some minor swag. You can always find me at

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Polishing Your Entry by Diane Gaston

You want to polish your Golden Heart entry so that it sparkles like a precious jewel? What should you look for to make your best effort even better?

Here are a few tips.

1. Show don’t Tell

Look for places in the manuscript where you are explaining to the reader what is going on instead of just jumping right into the what the point of view character is thinking or feeling or seeing.

(Telling) Mary wondered who that very attractive man could be.

(Showing her thought) Who was that man?

(Showing what she sees) He stood at least a head taller than anyone else with hair black as night and eyes the vivid blue of a tropical sky. Broad shoulders and rippling muscles were barely contained by his shirt. Every gesture exuded power and strength.

(Telling what she feels) Mary felt very attracted to him. She thought he was the most handsome man she’d ever seen in her life.

(Showing what she feels) Mary’s senses flared like never before. Blood surged through her veins and her breath quickened.

Also look for places where you’ve shown what the character sees, thinks, feels, and then you go on to explain it.

Mary’s senses flared like never before. She’d never seen such a handsome man before and never had she felt that instant attraction toward a man. It was unusual for her to react so immediately to a man especially one who was merely standing across the room.

The reader “gets” it from Mary’s senses flared like never before.

Once you catch on to how you (how we all) lapse into explaining, you’ll intensify the reader’s identification with the character, because then the reader is right in the character’s head and body. At the same time you’ll improve the pace by eliminating unnecessary sentences.

3. Use vivid and specific verbs instead of vague verbs.

By vague verbs, I mean verbs like: go/went, get, be/was/were, do, have

These are so interchangeable, they can be used in lots of different ways, so they don’t paint a specific picture for the reader.

(Vague) He went to the store.
(Vivid) He drove to the store; He ran to the store; He sprinted to the store; He sped to the store; He ambled to the store; He crept to the store.

The more vivid the verb, the more vivid the picture in the reader’s mind and the more the reader feels she is "in" the story.

(Vague) He went to get the glove.
(Vivid) He ambled over to the table and picked up the glove; He crossed the room and snatched the glove from her hand; He drove to the store to buy the glove.

Are you getting the idea? Think of a specific picture you want to convey in the reader’s mind and find a specific verb to use, but don’t overdo it. Every time your characters move they don’t have to sprint, hop, slide, stride, crawl, skip, but they can do more than go.

4. Avoid using too many adverbs

I happen to like adverbs sometimes, so I’d never say eliminate them, but look to see if using a vivid verb will give the reader the same vivid image. If an adverb is modifying a vague verb, it can probably be eliminated by substituting a vivid verb.

He went quickly to the next station.
He ran to the next station.

5. Use vivid and specific nouns instead of vague ones.

Check to see if you are using a vague noun when a more vivid one could be used. And look to see if judicious use of adjectives helps make the image even more compelling.

(Vague) She smelled the flower.
(Vivid) She smelled the pale pink rose.

Again, don’t go overboard with this. Don’t bog down your poor rose with too many adjectives so that the pace of your sentence slows down.

6. Avoid unnecessary words

Like just, so, as

Just rarely adds anything of value to a sentence. So and as used instead of other conjunctions weaken the prose.

I just can’t stop loving you.
I can’t stop loving you.

As the opera stretched on Joe’s eyelids became heavy.
The opera stretched on, and Joe’s eyelids became heavy.

Joe could not keep his eyes open at the opera so he vowed he’d never attend another one.
Joe could not keep his eyes open at the opera. He vowed he’d never attend another one.

Sometimes, of course, it is perfectly okay to use as and so (rarely just). Look to see if the phrase reads better without them. If not, leave them in.

Lorraine Heath has an excellent article about other unnecessary words. I couldn’t find the original source but it is copied here.

7. Look for “Filters”

Filters are those unnecessary words we all stick in, usually when we are Telling instead of Showing. Some of Lorraine Heath’s unnecessary words are what I’d call “filters.”

Words like began
He began to recite the poem.
He recited the poem.

It seems, he thought, wondered, speculated – all these can be filters. If you take them out it doesn’t change the meaning and it usually puts you straight into the POV character’s head.

She seemed to recall that he’d lived in Seattle.
He’d lived in Seattle.
Or if you meant to convey some uncertainty about her memory: He’d lived in Seattle, hadn’t he?

8. Look for Repeated words

I repeat words all the time! My editor once pointed out that my hero’s brow furrowed 17 times in one manuscript. I un-furrowed at least 14 of those.

Look for repeated words in the same paragraph.

She’d been looking for a dress like this one all through the racks. She looked at the price tag. Four hundred dollars. No way could she afford this dress, no matter how good-looking her date was. She’d have to look at the bargain rack again.

You get the idea.

9. Vary your sentence structure

My paragraph above starts three sentences with she. She-verb. She-verb. I could probably do better than that. You want to avoid the repetition of sentence structure because it sets up a boring rhythm.

Joe traveled to the beach. He pulled into the parking lot. Mary met him there. She led him to the boardwalk. They held hands.
Subject verb, Subject verb, Subject verb

Modify this a little so that boring rhythm is broken.

Joe traveled to the beach and pulled into the parking lot. When he stepped out of the car, Mary ran to greet him. Clasping his hand in hers, she led him to the boardwalk.

Listen, I break all these “rules” some time or another. Use your own judgment always.

I’m sure some of you have other things that you look for when you are polishing a manuscript or a Golden Heart entry. What are they?

Does anyone have any questions about this? Let me know.

See how many times Adrian's brow furrowed in Scandalizing the Ton, in bookstores now.

I'm also blogging at Risky Regencies today. Come visit and also see my interview about Scandalizing the Ton from yesterday.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Question and Answer Day!!!

TGIF!!!! It's bright and sunny in my area and my weekend schedule includes my middle daughter's varsity tennis team conference tournament as well as high school homecoming activities. Read: mom and dad covering hair appointment costs, driving nascar-style from tennis to home (quick shower) to beauty salon, then back home to dress/makeup/jewelry/beautify in time for group pictures. It's a whirlwind for the teens and parents. My tip of the day: don't forget to fix my own hair and powder my nose. Inevitably I'm in a picture with one of my girls and after a day of focusing on helping them get ready, I wind up looking everyone of my years. Not the picture I want up on their Facebook page. :-)

But enough of me, let's get down to the good stuff. Golden Heart questions!!

We've had a great week full of tips and GH finaling/winning experiences. I know there's a niggling question you meant to ask, but didn't get around to, or couldn't remember once you sat down to check out the blog and were consumed by the great advice you found.

Guess what, now's the time to let it all out. Pick our brains. If we don't have the answer in the Posse house, we'll saddle up our horses and ride out to find someone who does.

So here's your chance. Do you have a burning question?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Mistakes writers make with their GH entries

by Norah Wilson

Trying to squeeze too much in. More is not always better. We’ve all been there. You want to get to that hook that falls at page 68 in your manuscript, and you try to pare the sentences/paragraphs/chapters down until you can finally fit it into 52 pages, leaving 3 pages for the synopsis. And you end up with an entry with a cramped font, squeezed into the minimum margins, with zero white space. But before you do that, ask yourself if you really need to. Be sure about it. Are you certain you’re not sacrificing too much in terms of rhythm, flow, voice and aesthetics to get there? Often there’s another hook you can end on while preserving your voice a little better.

Failing to establish voice. Make sure your voice shows in your entry. I know, I know, tough advice to follow. After all, what is voice? Is it tone? Mood? Style? Word choices? Theme choices? I think it’s all of the above and more. It’s every choice you make as a writer. Which details you include, and which you omit. It’s in the space between what your characters say and what you are saying. It permeates every single thing about your writing. Ergo everyone’s voice is necessarily unique. Yet I continue to see entries that are technically solid, but the voice seems canned or constricted or flat. Maybe that’s a consequence of writers being too careful, or trying to emulate something they think is expected. Or maybe it comes from editing and polishing the life out of the story, or trying to incorporate critique from too many sources until your voice is diluted and the result too homogenous. Maybe it’s from falling back on clichéd phrasing or situations. Whatever the source of the malaise, you must find a cure. I would urge you to take more chances with your writing, let your uniqueness show. Get into your characters heads and write from their “voice”. And that means narrative as well as dialogue; whenever you’re in their POV, it should sound like that individual. When I think about the strongest entries I’ve read, the writer seems to trust her voice and refrain from overwriting. They trust me to see the irony, to ache for the wounded hero, to yearn for whatever it is the heroine needs.

Failing to deploy hooks. Everyone knows you need to open with a hook that makes us want to read on. And we all know you want to close with a killer hook that leaves the judge excited. But sometimes writers miss opportunities in between. Make certain that you end every scene with a mini-hook and every chapter with a bigger hook. I even know writers who think about this on a micro level, making sure one paragraph “hooks” us strongly to the next paragraph, and that one to the next, and so on. It’s all about drawing the reader on and into your story. It’s also about escalation. By the end of your entry, the reader should have a good idea who your characters are, what the story question is, and what’s at stake. If you do this effectively, you will leave the judge thinking, “Man, I’d love to read the rest of that book!” and reaching for the synopsis to find out how it ends.

Bonus Tip: Remember – the entry does not need to precisely echo the corresponding first 50 (or so) pages in your manuscript. This might be the most valuable GH tip anyone ever gave me (thank you, Deborah Hale). This could be especially useful if you decide you DO have to cut and hack to get to that killer hook. Instead of constricting your voice by making everyone’s dialogue terse, or paring down to talking heads, or sacrificing setting, think about cutting whole scenes. It may be that a scene is critical to the book as a whole, but possibly not so critical to the chapters that form your entry. Or maybe there’s a secondary character who is important in the whole scheme of things but not so much in the entry. Perhaps their introduction can be omitted or seriously abridged. Obviously, don’t hack out plot lines or details or characters that would render your entry illogical or materially different from the story as revealed by the synopsis. And this is definitely NOT a license to graft on an exciting hook that doesn’t belong there!

Norah Wilson is a 3-time Golden Heart finalist and a perennial GH and RITA judge.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Agent Kelly Mortimer Talks About the Golden Heart

Kelly Mortimer of the Mortimer Literary Agency represents clients in both the ABA and the CBA. Kelly gives each client personal attention, including manuscript editing. She’s in the top 10 of the Publishers Marketplace Top 100 Dealmakers - Romance Category, a two-time nominee for the American Christian Fiction Writers “Agent of the Year” Award, and her agency is Romance Writers of America recognized. Kelly writes a monthly column for Christian Fiction Online magazine called “Gotta Get It.” Kelly is also President and CEO of Underdog Press. And if you're looking for up-to-the-minute publishing news, subscribe to her Perils of Publishing newsletter.

Kelly is referred to as "The Extreme Agent," and after hearing the story of her first Golden Heart experience with a client, you'll understand why.


Ah, the Golden Heart...

I’m going back to a time when my life was simpler. I’d made the switch from writing to become an agent. My first client: one of my writer-friends. Her manuscript made the finals in the GH, and we were ecstatic. Buuut, her manuscript wasn’t as good as her partial.

Problem number one: What to do? She’d sent her full to a Steeple Hill editor before I signed her. (Rejection.) She’d sent this same manuscript to the Golden Heart judges. RWA allows finalists to send in a cleaner copy of the full, if they have one. Yikes! We didn’t have much time.

Me being an editing agent, I went to work. Some of her scenes went into graphic medical detail. (Cut ’em.) I found a subplot that didn’t work. (Ditched it.) Needed some work on mechanics. (Fixed all.) We worked through the wee hours of many mornings to meet RWA’s guidelines, but we made it.

Problem number two: She was going to the RWA National conference. (Not me.) I wasn’t looking for an agent anymore, and I couldn’t take appointments, as my agency wasn’t RWA recognized at the time. My friend/client begged me to go on more than one occasion, but I’d vowed I wouldn’t use household money for agency-related expenses. I told her, “No dice.”

Disappointment isn’t a strong enough word, for either of us. If she won, I’d forever regret I’d missed her shining moment, but what could I do? Wait a minute; I could do anything if I believed I could.

I checked out fares for the flights. Yikes! I talked to RWA, who informed me registration was closed, and there were no hotel rooms left. (No problemo.)

My friend/client invited me to share her room every night except for Saturday, as her hubby would be there. I went on a chapter loop to see if I could find someone who’d share their room for the other night. (Bingo.) You didn’t read this, but I managed to get RWA to register me. (Impossible feat for nearly everyone but moi.) But what about the money for the flight? Hmm. I even figured that one out. I sold my wedding china on eBay. Sigh.

When her category came up I sat with clenched fists, breath held … waiting. SHE WON! Boo-yah! She thanked me for my “eagle eye for editing” in her acceptance speech, and my heart nearly burst with pride for her.

Couldn't find her after the ceremony, then someone almost knocked me down from behind. (Guess who?) And that wasn't the best part. After we got home, a Steeple Hill editor called me. They’d read the manuscript I’d edited that they’d previously rejected, and made an offer. (Double sigh.)


Now that's working the contest. Any questions for Kelly?

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Winner of Debra Holland's Critique!

Winner of a GH Entry critique by Debra Holland is.......

Tiffany Kenzie!

Tiffany, email Debra your entry (the no more than 55 pages, including synopsis) at

The Rules - Golden Heart Style

Every year at Golden Heart time, on my various loops, come frantic emails questioning The Rules of the Golden Heart. Most of these questions can be answered by going to the RWA website and just carefully reading the rules or looking in the FAQs for judging. But I understand that one just becomes emotional about this contest, because it is so very important.

Here are the areas that seem to get the most questions:

1. Formatting
"What font am I supposed to use?" "Will I be judged down if I use Times New Roman?"
People remember (or remember hearing about) the huge fiasco of a Golden Heart year when there were all kinds of very specific formatting rules, bunches of them That year lots and lots of entries were disqualified, including mine. The current Golden Heart Rules only tell what to put in the header and to double-space. That's it.

After that GH formatting fiasco, RWA decided to design the Golden Heart to mimic the real submission process. Because editors and agents have said over and over that they just want readable manuscripts, ones that won't strain their eyes. Editors and agents don't reject manuscripts because the margins are too narrow.

But if you must have a rule for formatting, here's one: one inch margins all around, 25 lines per page, Courier New 12 pt, drop down 1/3 of the page (eight double spaces) for the beginning of a chapter. Turn off your widows and orphans.

You don't have to do it that way, though. You really can use Times New Roman.

2. Contest Category
The contest categories were changed last year and it is best that you put the old categories out of your mind. There are no short and long historical categories, for example; no short and long series. Almost every manuscript will meet that word count.

The new categories give the entrant more flexibility in deciding where their books fit best. You decide if your manuscript fits best in Romantic Suspense or Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure, for example. Ask youself where you want to sell this manuscript. Do you want to sell to Harlequin? Then put it in a series category.

Historical entrants, there are two categories. Historical Romance, defined as Romance novels set in any time period prior to 1945, and taking place in any location. Regency Historical Romance, defined as Romance novels in which the majority of the story is set against the Regency period of the British Empire. Is there a contradiction here? Couldn't Regencies be entered in Historical? They could, by definition, but ask yourself what kind of book is this, a Regency or some other kind of Historical? Put it in the category that best answers that question.

Entrants are going to remember that the old Regency category was the one in which Traditional Regencies were entered. The new Regency Historical category is for all manuscripts set in the Regency era.

What if your book has elements of two categories, like it's a paranormal historical, or a historical suspense story? Or it's a young adult with a paranormal or suspense element? In these cases, there is no right or wrong answer to what category is the "right" one. Again, ask yourself what kind of book is this? Let your answer be your guide.

3. Definition of unpublished
The Golden Heart is open to writers who have not accepted a publishing offer from a non-subsidy, non-vanity publisher. Read the definition of what non-subsidy, non-vanity means in the rules. It is pretty clear, and if you have any questions, call RWA.

Some of you will still have questions about what the rules. Ask here! If I can't answer I'll try to find someone who can.

Diane's Scandalizing the Ton, her Regency Paparazzi story, is available in bookstores now!