NaNo Midway Check-In (and the NEW Golden Heart Rules!!)

I’m officially here to give you my mid-way check-in on NaNoWriMo, but since November 15 is now the OPENING DAY for entering Golden Heart (see all the official wording here), I’m going to start with a quick run-down of the rule changes:

 1. As of this year, you MUST be an RWA member in good standing to enter the contest.

(If your membership lapses during the period of the contest, they’ll let you re-up your membership rather than disqualifying you.)

 2. The categories have changed, going from nine to seven. 

Novel with Strong Romantic Elements is gone for good.  Regency has been eliminated as a separate category, though you may enter Regencies romances under the Historical category. (And yes, many of us are still crying in our teacups over that.) The definition for YA has changed significantly, as discussed in Amanda Brice’s recent post here.

 3. The due dates are different.

The contest officially opens today, and final versions of manuscripts are due Jan 2 at 5:00. Lots of folks have been asking if you could in effect “reserve” a spot and keep polishing until the final deadline, asi n the past. The answer is yes. Here’s the word straight from Carol Ritter in response to an email I sent:

“You will need to enter, pay and upload an entry, BUT you can return to the entry site and replace/edit anything that you upload up until the 5:00 PM deadline on January 2, 2013.  We’re hoping that this will resolve one of the problems that has occurred in the past, where an entrant enters that contest, pays the fee and then never sends in the actual entry.  We have around 70-100 entrants that pay, but never send in their entry every year.”

That’s good news for those who are drafting during NaNo and planning to use December to polish!

4. The rules have been clarified on whether indie publishing disqualifies you (i.e., it does, if any book you’ve self-pubbed is 20,000 words or more).

Here’s what they now say: “The Golden Heart contest is open to RWA members who have not accepted a publishing offer for, or Self-Published, a work of original fictional narrative prose of 20,000 words or more by January 2, 2013.”

No more ambiguity about that.

 5. Your Golden Heart book CANNOT be available for sale in any form until AFTER the winners are announced.

The official rules say, “Entered works must not be published as long as they are under consideration for the Award.” That left some people wondering if that meant you couldn’t even sell the book, but Carol Ritter has clarified that as well:

“The rule means that if an entry reaches the final round it may not be made commercially available through publication, self, digital or traditional.  A finalist may still accept a contract, as long as the publisher understands that the book may not be be published until the winners have been announced on Saturday, July 20, 2013.”

Just to clarify: Your book cannot be available for sale until AFTER Nationals. You cannot e-publish your Golden Heart book in any form until AFTER the awards ceremony, or you’re disqualified.

Once January 2nd has passed, though, (but not before) you can accept a publishing CONTRACT for this book, or self-publish a DIFFERENT book and your current Golden Heart entry still remains eligible.

6. Judging will be different.

From what I saw when I signed up to judge, judges will now get manuscripts from a variety of categories. You can opt out of any two of the seven categories, but entries from any of the other five may arrive in your email inbox.

Plus we’ll be using the new scoring system, based on a 50 point total with four sub-categories, as described in this scoring overview:

The Romance: Between 1 and 20 points, with 1 being the lowest (poor) and 20 being the highest (excellent)

The Plot/Story: Between 1 and 10 points, with 1 being the lowest (poor) and 10 being the highest (excellent)

The Writing: Between 1 and 10 points, with 1 being the lowest (poor) and 10 being the highest (excellent)

The Characters: Between 1 and 10 points with 1 being the lowest (poor) and 10 being the highest (excellent)

7. One thing that hasn’t changed:

The contest is still limited to 1200 entries—and I have a sneaking suspicion the change to electronic submissions will significantly increase the number of people who decide to enter. So don’t wait!!!



 And now for a little NaNoWriMo check-in:

Well, cowpokes, I reckon it’s time to put my cards on the table. If you happened on my post from a month ago as I was headin’ towards that November 1 showdown, you know I was headin’ into NaNo with my guns a-blazin’.

And it’s goin’ purty well so far. Cain’t say I’m quite on target, but I’m not quittin’ either.

I am one saddle-sore gunslinger, though. The first few days were a bit cantankerous—I had letters o’ recommendations to write for my students, an’ my quarter grades were due (damn fool I was , choosin’ to be a schoolmarm)—and then I was too dad-blamed tuckered out to do much the next coupla days.

But I got lucky—my sister drove up in her wagon, handed me a big jot mug o’ joe, and we started sprintin’ together. If ya check out my latest NaNo progress chart, I’m a-gainin’ momentum, and I’ll catch up soon fer sure.


And that’s all I got to say fer now.

Well, fella NaNo-ers, how’s it going’ for you?

46 responses to “NaNo Midway Check-In (and the NEW Golden Heart Rules!!)”

  1. Gwyn says:

    Thank you for this, Elisa. Methinks book 3 will not be entered this year because of the change in scoring. I’ll not fare well on Romance in the first 50 pages, and few judges give a hoot about what’s in the synopsis. I may be able to juggle the story line a bit, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable doing that. The story is what it is.

    Congrats on the NaNo progress! You won’t feel those saddle sores If’n you get yerself to the roundup on time. Yeehaw, sis!


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I wonder how it’s going to change what people choose to, or choose not to, enter.

      And I wonder how judges will adapt to the new system. I’m really going to miss that holistic single-number score. I don’t know how to separate “romance” from “characters” from “writing” from “story” in anything but an artificial way. That’s not how I decide whether I like a book I’ve actually bought, and I’ve always appreciated that Golden Heart didn’t force those artificial breakdowns. Sigh.

      Maybe some aspects of the contest will swing back around again….


  2. I’m with you, Gwyn.I was just telling my husband that I’m really glad I’m not eligible this year (I SOLD!) because I write in paranormal, and my books tend to spend A LOT of time setting up the paranormal elements in the story, and not much romance can be squeezed in until I’ve explained “the rules”. I’m interested to see how the other paranormal writers handle the new scoring system.


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      That’s really true–Paranormal’s another category in which the romance can wind its way in slowly. And that’s something I’ve NEVER minded as a reader.

      Congrats again on being SOLD!!! (Squee!)


  3. Funny how my NaNo progress line looks mighty similar to your’n, little lady. 😉


    I think the new GH procedures and rules will make a big difference. And I’m glad they’re allowing entrants to continue revising and uploading until the deadline. Phew!

    I’m am NOT, however, pleased with the judging piece of this puzzle. I’m a Historical reader through-and-through. And, though I will occasionally pick up a Contemporary if it’s written by a friend, I just don’t “spark” to them. I worry I will unfairly give lower scores in that case (and receive lower scores if my judges aren’t Historical fans.
    Perhaps the scoring system will help me come to a more clear-cut, fair final score, though. Time will tell come February.


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      It’s going to be interesting to see how well judges adapt to judging in unfamiliar categories….everything’s new this year.

      See you later for some sprintin’!!!!


  4. Tamara Hogan says:

    My 2009 paranormal GH finalist opened in the deep-third POV of the villain as he hunted for his victim – and though it was clear who the heroine and hero were, they didn’t actually share a scene until Chapter 5. So yeah, pretty sure TASTE ME wouldn’t final under this set of rules. 😉 Judging is going to be quite the adventure.

    Go, NaNo’ers! and great progress, Elisa. (Your cowpoke voice delights me.) In hindsight, I perhaps should have joined you as I try to knock out a novella my publisher has asked me to write. Right now, I’m over-thinking the process when I should be just getting the words down. I’m also more than a little intimidated by the fact that my first attempt at writing short – ever – is going straight to publication. GAH.

    Kick my ass for me, Ms. Elisa. 😉


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      C’mon in and do a half-NaNo! Today’s the perfect time to start! Keep yer nose clean, and you’ll have 25,000 words afore December rolls around!


    • Elise Hayes says:

      As a (hypothetical GH) judge, I think if I had an entry that didn’t get the characters together for quite a while (maybe the full 50 pages that I’m looking at), I’d definitely rely on the synopsis to give me a sense of the romance. If I love the writing, the story, the characters, and I’m totally hooked…the synopsis could really convince me about the romance element.

      But I don’t imagine all judges would work that way–which raises very interesting questions about judging discrepancies. I wonder if judges will get tips about remembering to use the synopsis…?


  5. I’m so behind on NaNoWriMo, it’s not funny! Ugh! I have such a hard time dedicating myself to full time writing. For instance – today I’m bringing pumpkin pie to a group of little Native Americans (my daughter’s Kindergarten class) for their feast. Then cleaning because supper club is at MY house tomorrow night. Then going to see Breaking Dawn tonight because I MUST see Edward.

    Yes – I know, priorities. Will buckle down over the weekend (LOL!)


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Sounds like you’ve got your priorities in fine workin’ order.

      You can catch up on NaNo, though! That’s what it’s made for!


    • I agree with Elisa! Your priorities are in fine order. Pretty soon you’ll be like me–high school looming on the horizon for my son next year–and wanting to cry in your tea for how fast it all went. Enjoy all these little moments with your daughter while you can! The volunteer opportunities are scarce for parents in the upper grades. We just have to sit on the sidelines and weep. 🙂


  6. Rita Henuber says:

    Not in Na-No. The new GH rules do concern me. In particular the new way romance in the story will be defined and judged. In a world where woman have grown by leaps and bounds in the last three decades I feel the new rules are a throwback to a 70s or even a 60s style. We’ve already discussed the ramification on YA. I may not have a grip, but for me romance is not the most important thing in a woman’s journey. To say it is gives the impression anyone not in a relationship is somehow less than others who are. For me, the romance/ love is another way to enrich one’s life. I’m not willing to think a brilliant young woman following her dream in college (the New Adult Genre) working on her masters in chemical engineering is going to be spending 60% of her time on her romantic life. And if she isn’t there is something wrong. Can anyone say the 60s. What am I not getting? I’m really confused. Please enlighten me.


    • Elise Hayes says:

      Goodness knows I’m confused as well, Rita, but I *think* the intent here is to remember that it’s “Romance Writer’s of America,” not “Women’s Fiction of America,” or “Young Adult Writers of America.”

      Now, personally, I think that having subcategories that acknowledge that romance might be an element–but not a dominant element–of a book is the way to go, because I prefer inclusiveness to exclusiveness. But I do get the general premise. I just don’t agree with it (and as someone who will be shifting from medieval romance to urban fantasy soon, it saddens me to know that my future writing might not be eligible for either the GH or Rita)


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Yes, yes, yes, “throwback” is the right word!

      Apparently, the outside consultants RWA hired felt that the contest needed to get “ROMANCE” more front and center in the contest. That’s why “strong romantic elements” got dropped.

      But it’s really out of touch with where the market is, and where readers are. It’s actually making the contest LESS relevant rather than more relevant (which was the whole point of hiring the consultants).

      Can you say “painful irony”????


      • Rita Henuber says:

        I AGREE. Like you and Elise I understand the need to keep romance in the forefront. But for crying out loud we define romance differently than it was 40 years ago. Getting our panties knotted won’t accomplish a danged thing either. I suspect things will change yet again.


  7. Tammy Baumann says:

    Love that you and your sister NaNoWriMo together! My sisters would rather take a beating than write a book ;0)

    And thanks for keeping us up to date on the GH rule changes. I think we’ll see many more tweaks to come before this is all over!! (When I judge next, I think I’ll still pick one number in my head then work the new system to reflect that.)


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Yes, I think tweaks will come. The Board is smart, and they must be hearing the discontent.

      And, to be fair, we have to give the new system a chance, and see how it all plays out.

      And I don’t think you’ll be alone in making the new system work in a way that makes sense to you.


  8. Like others, it will be interesting to see how the new GH rules effect scoring/finaling. I’m not sure I like how they’ve changed it so you can only opt out of categories, though I understand the reason for doing so, it makes me wonder about bias coloring the scores. And like Rita, I’m concerned about the new scoring system and how judges will define (and thus score) the romance element if it’s a slower building (but still integral) part of the book.

    As for NaNo…I reached the halfway mark on my NaNo project yesterday. It’s a total, horrible, mess, but I see little glimmers of potential here and there, so we’ll see. My main goal in participating is to try and get the words flowing again, whatever they may be, so the fact that I’m writing everyday and hitting those goals is enough for me.


  9. Thanks for the update on the rules, Elisa! It’ll be interesting to see if the number of entries remains high.

    As for NaNo…I’m behind (15,924 words as of today), so I need to get busy rounding up those stray critters (words) and making ’em join the rest of the herd (manuscript).


    • Elise Hayes says:

      Tina–I’m really curious about the number of entrants, too. I’ll definitely be registering early for the GH this year, just in case…

      It’s great news that we can keep updating the drafts up to the final hour (and I AM grateful about not having to shell out the money for postage this year)


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I think the elimination of the cumbersome and expensive printing and mailing process is going to increase entries quite a bit.

      And you’re in good shooting range of finishing NaNo in good order! And just, think, more than 16,000 new words since November starting!! That’s great!


  10. Great job getting us all up to date on the GH rules, Elisa – thanks! So the scores will be returned to the entrants? Because at least it gives a little more indication of why something did/didn’t final. That might be helpful.

    As for NaNo, we’re gettin’ along (lil doggie). I’m right on track, but was hoping to be much farther ahead since my relatives are about to descend on Becker Manor for 9 days. (Yay!) Don’t figure I’ll get much writing done, but hope to get a sprint in here or there to avoid getting rusty (or gathering tumbleweeds…or whatever the wild west term is. 😉 )


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I hope scores will be passed along! That definitely would be one advantage of the new system.

      And good luck with the family invasion! Sounds fun but exhausting.


  11. June Love says:

    Thanks, Elisa, for clearing up the new GH guidelines. After the dust settles from this year’s contest, it will be interesting to see if we have changes for next year. I’m not entering this year, as I haven’t completed my current WIP.

    You’re doing great with Nano. Again, not participating. I knew I didn’t have the time to devote to it and didn’t feel like setting myself up for failure. 🙂 I remember my teaching days and must give a HUGE shout out to you. Wow. To have the time to Nano and teach is something I can’t begin to fathom. Plus, you have a family. Lady, you are amazing!


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Oh, you were a teacher too!!!

      It is an exhausting combination, teaching and writing, whether it’s NaNo or not.

      Thanks for the shout-out! Every little bit of support helps!


  12. Jenn! says:

    Sadly, I have not made the half-way mark yet. Darn life keeps getting in the way, 😉

    Thanks for the GH updates. Good luck to all who enter!



  13. Jeannie Lin says:

    Real interesting about the GH changes. We’ll have to see how judging pans out, but I still trust the judges as readers and writers of romance to be able to pick good ones.

    As someone who always shipped express on the very last day I could…being able to resubmit electronically is a godsend. But imagine, sisters…no more sitting in cars rearranging manuscript pages…counting the pages to make sure everything printed out. No more calling the RWA office before the deadline and begging to pay the 35 cents difference you owe in postage so your entry will be eligible. No more driving to the RWA office to deposit your manuscript physically on site.

    But also no more missed entries sent all the way from Australia due to mailing snafus! *hugs*


    • Elise Hayes says:

      And no more stressing over having a fresh printing cartridge, the appropriate sized binder clips, or rubber bands, or different colored sheets of paper to insert between the various copies…those were the things that always got me. I’m not going to miss the post office (or my printer) at all this year!


    • Greta says:

      The move to electronic entry is great, of course … but I’m with Jeannie. Almost nostalgic for the bad old days of paper and post office. 🙂


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      LOL, Jeannie!!

      This will become the stuff of nostalgia…like hearing from our parents how they walked to school uphill both ways in the snow!


  14. Elise Hayes says:

    November is one of the busiest months of the year for me–so I’m pretty much never going to be able to do NaNo. It’s one of the reasons I love the Ruby Winter Writing Festival so much. January and February are *much* better months for me!

    But I LOVE the little graph/table that reports your progress, Elise. Is that something that the NaNo organizers provide for everyone (you plug in your words and the website generates the cool little visual display that breaks down what needs to happen for you to succeed)? I want me one of those!! (even if November if a feeble writing month for me, I have done *some* writing)


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Oh, it’s true, it’s true how motivating that graphic is!!! I would love to have that for everything in my life.

      And, yes, thanks for the reminder about the RUBY WRITING FESTIVAL!!! More on that in a couple weeks….


  15. Hope Ramsay says:

    Thanks for the update on the rules. Can’t say as I agree with them, especially the new judging rules. It seems to me those rules really de-emphasize STORY TELLING. And to me the best books are the ones that tell a story, regardless of when the romance starts.

    As for Na-no. I’m not officially enrolled. But I do have a 90K book due on December 1. I had about 40K at the beginning of the month. I now have 65K and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now if only the pesky day job would quit getting in the way.


  16. I’m not in love with the new rules for YA. I agree with everyone in the previous post — it’s a different beast than an adult romance novel, and that should be reflected in the rules. Maybe they’ll tweak next year. Hope so.

    Glad about the e-entry, though! I, too, wonder if it will mean more applicants, though that might be counterbalanced by the new rule that you have to be a RWA member to submit to the GH. That, plus no NSRE, which I think was always a huge entry pool.

    NaNo and I are getting along just fine. 🙂 I’m right on track. Kind of surprised, honestly, because I didn’t think I was ready to write this book yet. Apparently I was? I love the story, so it’s not painful to keep up with the word count (though I feel like I’d kinda like a day off every now and then).


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      whoops…replied to you below.

      (It also occurs to me that the requirement to be an RWA member means an extra $95 in the cost of entry…at least for anyone not already a member. Though the savings in printing and shipping offsets that a bit, especially for those who enter more than one manuscript….)

      It’s going to be interesting to see how all this plays out.


  17. Elisa Beatty says:

    Congrats on doing so well on NaNo…and even more importantly, loving the new book!

    And, yeah…I hadn’t calculated in the loss of two categories in my predictions about the number of entries they’ll get this year.

    I still think the elimination of the printing/mailing will make a difference to a large number of folks, but it may be offset by the lack of NSRE, or the number of Regency and Historical folks who’ll decide that having their chance of finaling cut in half makes the $50 too risky an expenditure. We’ll see, I guess!


  18. Diana Layne says:

    I’m late chiming in, but I’m done with GH, even if I hadn’t had work published. I know it’s so much easier and cheaper for the entrants to enter electronically but I wouldn’t want my entry sitting on someone’s hard drive, nor do I want their entry sitting on my hard drive and I have to judge at my computer. Yeah, I pretty much stopped entering contests re: the electronic thing-I did enter a few and judged a few but nope, that’s not for me. Yeah, guess I’m an old fogey (paranoid too, I know, lol)

    Good luck on catching up re: NaNo. I’d thought to do it since I’m on “vacation” but there’s too much else I have to catch up on while I’m on my retreat.


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Hmm–yeah…I hadn’t thought about the issue of other people having your digital file…. There are always so many things to think about!

      Enjoy your time off, however you spend it!


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