Is Your Manuscript Golden Heart Ready?

9 Nov

The Golden Heart is huge. It’s a big, big contest for those of you who haven’t heard of it before. It’s the little sister of the Ritas (the end-all-be-all of romance contests). It’s the unpublished version.

I was lucky (and hopefully talented) enough to have finalled last year. I will never point and laugh again when an actress says “It was just an honor to be nominated” because after finalling in the GH (and sharing that final with 7 amazingly talented women) I know that there are times that’s true.

If you’re seriously considering entering, you may want to look (not so seriously) at my Should I Enter The Golden Heart flowchart as well as this weeks Golden Heart Checklist.

But, for now, let’s just focus on the details.

Is your manuscript ready? That’s a hard question. If I could challenge you, it would be to this: ASSUME IT’S NOT AND WORK FROM THERE.

I know. You’re all supremely insulted. But, this is the fastest way to success. If you’re assuming your ms is good to go, opportunities will be more difficult to spot. And, let me start by saying, of course there are exceptions.

So, here we go:

If you have just finished writing this ms, you’re not ready. It needs to sit. To get out of your head so you can see it fresh. There’s still time. Set it aside and fill your head with other stuff.

Read. A lot. Watch movies. Write something else. Try not to think about it. If you do think about it, make notes. Do not go back to the ms.

Let it become fuzzy. Let yourself come back to it with fresh eyes.

If no one else has critted ms, you’re not ready. I’m already hearing allll the people shouting about how they don’t need a second set of eyes. How there are brilliant people who never get input or feedback. I have a friend on her 9th book who doesn’t have them critted. It happens.

But, you’re not looking for an agent or editor who will think, “Oh, I ADORE this and it’s almost there! We can have her do so-and-so in revision rounds.” You’re looking to judges who are going to mark down entries for everything because you make — or don’t make — the finals by less than a point.

Don’t believe me? I had two entries last year. One finalled. One didn’t. By less than one point. ONE point. Can you spare that one point? I couldn’t.

Also, even if they don’t make suggestions about the story, the fewer typos or poorly structured sentences it has – the easier the read – the less places to lose points.

If you’re not sure where to cut off your pages, you’re not ready. Where you end your partial is not a matter of how many you can squeeze in, but where your best hook is. If you haven’t stopped and put a lot of thought in to that for pages 45-55, then you’re just not ready to send it.

You need to leave the judge excited, sucked in and a little annoyed to be on the last page. You need it to make sense. You need enough questions answered to have the judge — the reader — involved and enough raised to have them asking for more. You need there to be a little Dun Dun DA going on when that last word drops.

If you haven’t put a lot of work into your synopsis, you’re not ready. So, the judge is hooked — HOOKED — can’t wait to read more. So much so that she snatches your synopsis off the desk so she can find out what happens…and reads a meandering, non-sensical crammed story that doesn’t seem to line up with what she already read OR doesn’t give that “satisfied” feeling she expected. I know. It’s not fair. Synposizing is hard. Sooo hard. But, they have to do the trick here.

Just like when an agent or editor reads your partial and syno.

Best advice? Ask someone who hasn’t read your story and doesn’t know anything (or almost anything) about it to read it. Ask them to mark it up with questions about clarity, annoyance, wording, etc.

Also, ask someone who has only read the partial and someone who has read the full to do the same thing.

 If you haven’t cut, you’re not ready. Let’s be honest, most of us need to cut stuff out of the beginning of our . Whether it’s entire chapters, scenes, info dumps, descriptions, extra walk-on characters…whatever it is. Most of us need to cut.

Why is that so important here? You have roughly 50 pages to SELL this book to the judge. You have roughly 1 page to convince them you’re worth looking at.

There was a blog (and darned if I have the link) I saw last year. Someone asked judges to score the first page of several entries and then later, score the first 50 pages.

Over 90% of the time the scores were remarkably close. Almost never did the scores go up. If anything, the scores went down.

Make sure you have sucked them in, kept them hooked and sold them…starting with page one. Cut anything that doesn’t do that.

If you ever find yourself say, “Yeah, but…” during a conversation about a crit (or to yourself when you get one), stop. Think. If it’s because “the reader needs to know this” you’re probably doing it wrong…or not well… or overdone…or telling them something they already figured out… or, or, or.

We’ve all done it. But, let’s be honest, this is 100000% the time not to do it.

This isn’t an opportunity where your editor or agent can say, “Can you add something in the beginning to make this part at the end make a little more sense?” This a time when no one is going to see the end. They’ll assume you did it well when they see the synopsis…if you’ve convinced them you do it well in your pages.

Cut till it’s clean.

If you’re taking this advice personally and are insulted, you’re not ready. If you’re looking at this and telling yourself all the reasons why none of these apply to your book or your writing or you in general, you’re not ready.

No one on the defensive can see her ms’s flaws.

No one on the defensive can fix after she’s entrenched.

Let go of your preconceived notions about your ms, your writing and yourself and there’s nowhere to go but up… and up, with your talent (and maybe that luck I was talking about) is the direction to head for finalling…and selling!


6 Responses to “Is Your Manuscript Golden Heart Ready?”

  1. abby mumford November 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    this is good advice for deciding if your MS is ready for query land too. thanks!

  2. briaq November 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    THANKS Abby! I thought so too, but tis that time of year. 🙂

  3. Jenn McGowan November 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Bria–this is such good advice. I’ve entered the Golden Heart ten times, I think–finaled twice, and won once. It’s all about leaving them with a powerful hook at the end of your entry and having overall smooth writing. Doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to act like it is. 😉

    GREAT post!!

  4. briaq November 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    “…but it doesn have to act like it.” — SO TRUE! I’ve known several people who openly admit their GH entry falls apart at about page 70, but they still finaled.

    Now, the next thing is to carry everything through the whole book for a sale! 🙂

  5. Louise Behiel November 9, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    good advice whether for a query or a contest.

    thanks for the chuckles

  6. briaq November 9, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    Thanks Louise… consider the chuckles free 😉

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