Posts tagged with: Contests

No Contest: How to Save RWA’s Writing Contest Circuit

Ten years ago, every romance writer I knew entered writing contests. It was the way you lowered your wheels to the ground, tested out the road, and saw how far you could go.

There was a typical pattern:

  1. You’d polish three-chapters-and-a-synopsis and toss it into a couple of local chapter contests to see if it floated or sank. This was a decent way to judge your commercial appeal and get feedback (taken with a grain of salt). Finaling regularly meant you could achieve a certain venerability on the contest circuit (like our own Kelly Fitzpatrick, for example!).
  2. Once you owned the local circuit, you’d aim for a highly competitive contest with an associated multi-day conference, like the Golden Leaf, or with a glamorous awards ceremony at RWA Nationals, like the Daphne and the Royal Ascot. Attending one of these conferences or ceremonies as a finalist was a huge networking opportunity! (Still is, honestly). 
  3. You’d shoot for the Golden Heart. Entering was expensive, but the rewards were automatic: agents would actually call you to see if you needed representation, you could attend terrifying swanky parties with Rita finalists and industry pros at Nationals. Best of all, you could count on a solid six months of glory within the romance-writing community. 

There used to be online leaderboards showing who’d earned the most finals and wins that year. Remember those? Heady days, my friends. Heady days!

Now? Just try to find a contest leaderboard. 

Go ahead; look. I tried, I failed, and frankly, I doubt any exist, because I don’t think enough people care about contests these days to keep track of who’s finaling.

Fangirl Friday

It’s Friday, and we have some amazing weekend reads for you–two new Ruby releases, as well as some amazing sales and a Goodreads giveaway. Read on for all the details!



by Elizabeth Langston

New Release!

She’s a girl who can’t remember. He’s the guy she can’t forget…

It’s her final semester of high school, and Kimberley Rey is curious about what will come next. She needs to pick a college, but her memory disability complicates the choice. Will her struggles to remember make it impossible to leave home?

Help arrives through an unexpected and supernatural gift. Grant is a “genie” with rules. He can give her thirty wishes (one per day for a month) as long as the tasks are humanly possible. Kimberley knows just what to ask for–lessons in how to live on her own.

But her wishes change when a friend receives a devastating diagnosis. As she joins forces with Grant to help her friend, Kimberley learns that the ability to live in the moment–to forget–may be more valuable than she ever knew. 

Updated Golden Heart & RITA Rules!

Every year prior to conference the RWA National Board meets and makes changes to the contests.  This is the ONLY time such changes can be made because it is the only board meeting when the contest is not actively in session.  The new rules were released following the meeting and I’m sure will soon be posted in more detail on the individual contest pages, but for now here is RWA’s SUMMARY OF CHANGES.

And here’s a little breakdown of the highlights:

  • Entrants are required to judge. 
  • Entrants will not judge in a category in which they are entered.
  • Judges will be allowed to opt out of two categories.
  • Contemporary romance is divided into three categories and historical into two categories, based on word count, with the goal of dividing the number of entries equally among the available categories. Please note that the number of entries, by category, vary from year to year, and the resulting number of entries in each category may not be equally divided.
  • Each entry will be scored between 1.0 (lowest) and 10.0 (highest). (Yay!!!)
  • Judges will assign one score to each work, with the final score calculated by dropping the high and the low score and averaging the remaining three scores (trimmed mean).
  • The top 4% of each category’s entries (based on the number of qualified entries received) will advance to the final round, except each category will have no fewer than 4 finalists or more than 10 finalists.

Also, the minimum number of RITA entries for a category to avoid being eliminated due to lack of entries has been set at 50 (as opposed to last year’s 5% of 2000, or 100) so Young Adult should be back!  (Minimum 25 entries for the Golden Heart.)

Category changes for contemporary and historical above are for the RITA not the Golden Heart.  The Golden Heart categories will remain the same as last year.  Also, finalists for the Golden Heart will be the top 10% per category not 4%.

Aaaaand a little birdie told us at the AGM that they will be LOWERING the entry fee for the Golden Heart this year!  If my notes are correct you can enter (Golden Heart, not RITA) for only $30 per entry!  So get your multiple entries ready, darlings.

What do you think?  Do you like the new rules?  Are you excited to enter? 

A Crash Course on Being a Hooker (Part II)

Last month, in my Crash Course on Being a Hooker Part I, I discussed the importance of using hooks in your writing. I promised to finish today with Part II—pointers on crafting that all important first page. Please, allow me to apologize in advance for how long this post is. My only excuse is these tips should help in polishing your Golden Heart entry so that it’s just as dynamic as the great openings we’ve seen this past week the Ruby’s Make it Golden contest

However, before you follow any of the 15 upcoming tips, my first piece of advice is to finish writing the damn book before you worry about how great your first page is. Many authors get so caught up in rewriting and polishing the opening to their book they spend a week crafting hooks and rewriting passages that might eventually need to be deleted or changed once the novel is finished. Anyone who’s ever written a complete book knows how often the story changes and how frequently the first scene needs to be reworked.

TIP 1  Have a specific purpose for choosing a particular style of opening for your book.

A Crash Course on Being a Hooker PART I

One might think standing on a corner to support my writing addiction for thirteen years helped make me a better hooker, but it really didn’t. Only writing every day did that. However, my part-time job as a crossing guard did provide lots of time to brainstorm. 🙂

It’s that time of year again, when hundreds of writers are finishing and polishing entries for RWA®’s Golden Heart® contest. As a seven-time finalist and two-time winner of the GHt® award, I’m frequently asked what elements I believe sets a winning contest entry apart from the rest. Naturally, my answer is, “Talented writing and an intriguing premise.” However, if you’ve ever judged the GH, you know there are lots of entries with those qualities that never make the cut.

To give a manuscript the best chance of becoming a finalist (or to be successful with readers once it’s published), I believe the most important thing is for an entry to make a good FIRST and LAST impression.

It only makes sense that a positive first impression will leave judges and readers anticipating an enjoyable read, and they will therefore be more forgiving if they find something slightly negative in your entry—whether it’s a typo, minor characterization flaw, or overuse of a purple word. As a result, it will take a much more glaring problem to change their opinion for the worse.

At the same time, if you have a typo in your first sentence the reverse will be true. The judge will probably start looking for additional problems, so creating a bad first impression can put an otherwise great entry at a big disadvantage.

This is why hooks are so important in writing contests and in attracting buyers for your book once it’s published. You need to snag the judge’s or reader’s interest from the beginning and continue reeling her in all the way to the end. Then finish with a great hook that will leave her with a positive overall opinion and screaming for more.

What’s a HOOK? a newbie might ask.

HooksA hook in publishing is anything that will catch a reader’s interest and lure her into—buying a book, reading it, continuing to read it, or buying the next book. Hooks are utilized as marketing tools, which can be anything from a high concept plot, a catchy title, a book cover, back cover blurb, to an author or reviewer’s endorsement.

Authors use hooks in their writing by including passages designed to grab the reader’s attention and keep him/her turning the pages. An effective hook will  attract, intrigue, and entertain by teasing the senses, adding humor or wit, raising questions (make the reader want to know more), or evoking emotion (shock, horror, compassion, the ability to relate, etc.) It should make the reader feel something or react.

A good opening hook should reflect the genre and subgenre and establish the tone of the book, which can be funny, thought-provoking, insightful, action-packed, suspenseful, spooky, dramatic, emotional or poignant, lyrical, reminiscent, or evocative. I’m sure there are other tones that escape me at the moment.

And lastly, an opening hook should foreshadow and set up reader expectations. This is how the author makes promises that had better be fulfilled by the end of the book, or he/she will end up with a lot of unhappy readers.

But wait!

Before writing that first compelling line to draw the reader in, you need to bait your FIRST hook. Real ‘hookers‘ use revealing clothing, make-up, and come-hither glances to tempt and attract men. (My alter-ego, L.L does that too, but we won’t discuss her.)

If you recall, I mentioned that, in the publishing industry, the bait or initial hooks for a book are very similar—a provocative title, an eye-catching cover, and a compelling back-cover blurb that leaves the consumer eager to read the novel. Unfortunately, in unpublished writing contests,  the author only has her title to lure the reader and make that first impression.

Think about it. What’s the first thing you do when you receive a group of entries to judge? If you’re like me, you scan the titles and probably start reading the most appealing one.

From my numerous years as a finalist, I recall several fellow GH sisters who I suspect had a slight edge in the Golden Heart because of their great titles. Here are several examples of those I found especially memorable:

The Naked Duke, by Sally McKenzie

His Majesty, the Prince of Toads, by Delle Jacobs

Claiming the Courtesan, by Anna Campbell

The Education of Mrs. Brimley by Donna MacMeans

First Grave on the Right, by Darynda Jones

A Most Improper Gentleman by Elisa Beatty

The Proper Miss’s Guide to Bad Behavior by Anne Barton

If you study RWA®’s Past GH Winners list,  you’ll see what I mean. You’ll notice most of the titles that won are highly  provocative, witty, humorous, emotional, or intriguing. That’s not to say they weren’t also damn good books, but so are a LOT of GH entries that never get nominated. By the way, most of these books were published with their original titles.

So before entering your manuscript in a contest (or submitting to an editor), find a group of creative people to help. Brainstorm together to come up with the best possible title for your book that is extra witty, cute, sexy, emotional, or whatever you would like to make it unique—with emphasis on the EXTRA. Titles need to be a little over-the-top to get attention. It’s best if they reflect the ‘high concept‘ of the book.

Here’s a funny story. My hubby and I were brainstorming titles with my CP and her spouse for her sci-fi romance that involves interplanetary travel. We came up with some real doozies. In the end, my hubby won the prize when he suggested the most unforgettable title of all. Starship Bootie Call. Unfortunately, the book isn’t a comedy so my CP couldn’t use it, but we still laugh about it. I still think we should collaborate and write a spoof with that title.

Okay, back to our crash course in hooking.

After you’ve come up with a title that will really grab the judge’s or reader’s attention, you need to really HOOK ‘ER—not just with the first line, but with the entire opening page. I always try to position a great hook in the very last line of the first page so the reader develops extra enthusiasm to continue reading. Once you’ve promised an entertaining story, you naturally need to deliver, but creating the anticipation of greatness is half the battle.

Come back next month for PART II of this Crash Course on Being a Hooker, which will offer tips on crafting that all important first page.

Now I have a favor to ask of you that will be a big help to me. A lot of my readers who loved The Parent Pact have been e-mailing me, requesting a story for three of the secondary characters in that book—Sabrina, Luke, and BJ (a/k/a Ben). I hope to release this “love triangle” novel by November, but I need a kick-butt title for it. I don’t want to use a Christmasy title because I’d like the option to market the the book the rest of the year with a matching non-holiday cover, much like I have with No Exchanges, No Returns. In November, that cover will go back to red and green and the baby will be wearing a Santa hat again.

I have a couple of good ideas what to call my next release, but I won’t share them because I don’t want to  send you down the same  track my train of thought is already running on. Here’s the high concept, blurb, and cover to fire your creative process. Please feel free to comment on each other’s suggestions if you think one is particularly good. And keep in mind my author brand is Steamy Heartwarming Romantic Fun!

On her wedding night, Sabrina will share the bridal suite

with one of her brother’s best friends.  Which one?  She has no idea.Who's the Groom Background

Sabrina Fitzpatrick helped plan her dream wedding last year—for her brother and his wife. Now, she wants her own Christmas Eve ceremony. She’s tired of waiting for commitment-phobe, Detective Luke Marino, to realize she’s been crazy about him since puberty. Consequently, when Luke’s billionaire friend asks her to marry him, she’s compelled to accept BJ Elliott’s proposal, especially after he suggests their impending marriage might induce his idiot pal to finally step forward. Unfortunately, a week later, adrenaline-junkie Luke risks his life again and ends up temporarily confined to a wheelchair.

BJ would love to give Sabrina an unforgettable wedding night, but he fears she’ll never be happy with him if she doesn’t resolve her feelings for his buddy, first. Therefore, even knowing he could lose her, BJ persuades her to become Luke’s live-in nurse—offering her one last chance to convince the man she loves to take BJ’s place at the altar (which BJ doubts his friend will ever do). If nothing else, he hopes Love’em and Leave’em Luke can convince Sabrina he’ll make a lousy husband.

Luke has two secrets not even his best friends know. The first is he aches for Sabrina with every fiber of his being. The second is he loves her enough to spare her the heartbreak that being his wife would undoubtedly entail. Much to Luke’s dismay, his resolve to resist his buddy’s fiancée is tested after Sabrina steps in as his nurse and starts prancing around in nothing but his threadbare T-shirt. If he surrenders to her seduction, it may destroy his relationship with BJ. And, worse still, if he gets a taste of loving Sabrina, how can he ever stand by and let her marry his friend?

I can’t wait to read all of  your ideas. On Sunday night, I’ll do a random drawing from all of the suggestions and the winner will win a digital copy of my box set containing The Memory of You and A Little Bit of Deja Vu, which are the Prequel and Book One from my Return to Redemption Series. If I decide to use your inspired suggestion for my new book, I’ll send you a free digital advance copy of Sabrina’s story right before it’s released.

Laurie Kellogg is a two-time winner and seven-time nominee for the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® award, the winner of Pacific Northwest Writers Association® Zola award, and a Romantic Times® American Title I finalist. She began writing to avoid housework and has since resorted to naming the dust-bunnies multiplying as fast as real rabbits while she plots love stories that are Steamy, Heartwarming, Romantic Fun! Laurie also writes red-hot romantic comedies under L.L. Kellogg, which she’s branded as A Little Naughty and a Lot of Fun!

Ruby Blog-o-versary!!!

Can you believe it… we’re three years old today!

That’s right, The Rubies have been your companions on the yellow brick road to publication for three years! We’ve dodged flying monkeys, faced down the wicked witch, cowered in the face of the Wiz (to find out he wasn’t so scary after all), and finally, been blessed by the good witch, who taught us that inside each and every one of us lurks enough heart, brains and courage to persevere in the tough world of publishing.

And because we at the Sisterhood believe that ALL accomplishments, no matter how small, should be rewarded, we’re in the mood to celebrate three years of successful blogging by rewarding all of our loyal followers who have brought so much to our blog.

RITA / Golden Heart Awards Follow-Up

Hello, and welcome to the 2011 RITA / Golden Heart Award Ceremony follow-up (along with a bit about the whole day)!

Yep…that’s about all the creativity I’ve got today.  I’m still totally wiped from NYC and RWA.  I swear, it takes longer and longer to recover each year, and for the introvert that I am, recovering from New York is just about more than I can handle! 🙂

Are You in Danger of Becoming an East German Judge? (Reprise)

It’s that time of year again!  Since so many of us are judging Golden Heart entries right now, it was suggested that I re-post my blog from last year about how to decide what scores to award.  So here goes!

In an effort to remain politically correct, first let me apologize to all East Germans who have gotten a bad rep from the Olympic judge whose lowball scores garnered a perfectionist stereotype for them.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve never read a perfect novel.  During the course of a story, I invariably find a typo, punctuation error, or notice some characterization or plot problems. Even one famous, bestselling author, whose name I won’t mention, mistakenly used the phrase ‘combustible engine’ instead of ‘combustion engine’ (and her editor let it slip by).   My apology to this author if she actually meant the engine was highly flammable.

The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: Also proof to IRS that this is you’re serious about being a businessand not just a hobby.
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: Oh ugh! Editing is NOT my cake. It’s TORTURE. I love the shiny new words when I can...
  • Heather McCollum: Wonderful tips, Kim! I try to get in 2000 words a day if possible (definitely not when life throws...
  • Rhonda Clark: I love editing, so I guess for writing my tips would be: planning a plot twist, exploring different...
  • Kim Law: lol. Tell us how you really feel about interruptions, LOLOLOLOL! But yes…death glare! I don’t...