You may have caught it on my Facebook or Twitter accounts a couple of days ago, but How to Get Away with Marriage is a finalist for a Maggie Award in the historical category. Yeah! I’m still walking around with a big smile on my face. Thank you Georgia Romance Writers again!
That’s the news, so let’s move onto an explanation of why I’m so thrilled (for those of you who aren’t authors or who are new to writing). The romance novel industry is extremely competitive in terms of getting published. Agents and editors receive query letters every day and will act on very few. How easy is it to convey in a one-page letter why your book is wonderful and should be published and why your book is different from every other author’s? If that sounds difficult to you, you’re right.
Enter contests. I like contests for two reasons: (1) its a potential avenue for an editor or agent to read a little of my book; and (2) I receive criticism on those chapters no matter what. In many of the contests, which are held by various chapters of the Romance Writer’s Association (or other organizations/publications), there are two rounds of judging. The first round involves authors, usually published but not always, scoring and commenting on the work you submitted. If your score is high enough, you move to the second round where an agent(s) or editor(s) or both will rank the finalists and declare a winner. The carrot, of course, is that if the editor or agent likes your book enough, he or she might ask you for a partial or full manuscript, and if not, he or she may provide you with some very useful constructive criticism.
That’s the lovely stage in which I’m basking: An editor at a major publishing house now has the first two chapters of my manuscript in her hands. Cross your fingers, folks!
The criticism from the first round–I know some writers who like it and some who don’t. I fall firmly on the side of enjoying comments on my work. For me, it’s a bit like a game–what strategies can I use to make my work better. I take very little personally. (If you ever look up what it means to be an INTJ on the Myers Briggs test, you’ll see I’m not kidding. I’m analytical in the extreme, and there’s a strong chance I’m plotting to take over the world, lol.) A thoughtful judge, even one who does not like my work, is a godsend because they provide a great opportunity to see what weaknesses or strengths I might have.
For those of you who write romance, there are some wonderful articles out there to help you decide on if you should enter a contest or which contest is right for you. Here are two that I found particularly useful:
That’s all for now! The Maggie Award winners will be announced in October, so wish me luck!