Thursday, April 15, 2010

Emergency! Scene CPR

I managed to write for at least 3.5 hours yesterday. Well, writing is probably not the "right" word. What I did was start labeling my scenes in Scrivener. Oh yeah. That's a lot of fun (I did promise not to whine after having to do housework--this is me actively trying not to whine).

Any rate, why am I doing this? The first reason is I have a workshop to attend at Georgia Romance Writer's of America in Atlanta where I have to bring in different scene elements for critique and, yes, CPR. I know that Mary Buckham and Diana Love will apply major life saving techniques to my work because I have attended their BREAK INTO FICTION workshop and they are amazing teachers.

Note: If you see a workshop with their names as leaders, run, don't walk to the class. Their energy and enthusiasm and genuine desire to see YOU get to your publishing goal is outstanding. The cost, if any exists, is worth the price.

Here's what I am bringing to this workshop: four bits of my current WIP in Revision  scenes, primarily from the first 50 pages (the set up in Act 1). Why? Because if I can hammer out problems in the first 50 pages I will know what to do with the last 250 pages (give or take). And what does the first 50 pages bring to me? Oh yeah, do you see where this is going? Yes, three stars if you get this right.

Did you guess contest entries? You're right. Did you guess partial? Right again? Did you guess framework for synopsis? Yup.

A lot of talk and bandying about lately regarding the Golden Heart scores amongst those of us who didn't final and what I want to talk about is getting ready for the next contest. You see, I never entered the GH to final. I entered it to get a partial and synopsis ready. I don't care about my scores because they are meaningless to me. Why? Because I know that a person with a 3 book deal didn't final and got a 2 and a 9 on her tally. She was upset. Why? She's published. Who cares about the scores? They don't even matter if you DID FINAL. I know a finalist who got a 4.5 on her finaling manuscript (you can read about it on ROMANCE MAGICIANS blog) and she never won a Golden Heart but she's a NYT bestseller two years later and has a contract with Harlequin Presents!

But will knowing the scores don't matter and knowing that to final in the contest stop me from entering? Heck no! I want to play that roulette wheel and see if the magic combination of cool story and 5 judges who connect with it occurs. Talk about a JACKPOT! And I want to get the ball rolling that direction NOW. Because I am not going to be putting this puppy together in November again. No way. I want both my entries out the door, both with new titles and one in a new category, no later than October 31, 2010. It is NEVER too early to start preparing. You never know what curve balls life will throw at you.

So there you have it. I am mining my workshop mentors for serious CPR on my current WIP because I want to have 50 solid pages to enter in the GH (I'm entering two MS's again). I also want to have 30 solid pages and a new direction for my synopsis by the end of May. Why? The MAGGIES. I entered them. Now that's a tough contest to final in. I managed to do so once. I was thrilled. I got a lot of amazing feedback from the authors who judged my entry. I also got a lot of amazing feedback the year before on the same book (earlier version) and I utilized almost 95% of their suggestions.

Do you see where I am going with this? Oh yeah. The GRWA MAGGIE contest is, in my honest opinion and based on experience, one of the TOP contests to enter both for feedback and prestige. And when you enter, if you don't win or final or whatever, PAY HEED TO THE AUTHOR'S WORDS. They spend a lot of time critiquing your unpublished MS. They want to see you get published. They KNOW what sells. Their intentions are for good.

Note: If you have never entered the MAGGIES, get to the GRWA website NOW and enter. This will force you to write a partial and synopsis that will be judged by PUBLISHED authors. Their advice will help you. This is money well spent!

Now, yesterday I didn't pull together my scenes. I was still a bit in brainstorm mode about a cool idea I have for the current WIP and I also wanted to label my scenes in Scrivener because I need to see which ones will work in the new revision, where they really belong according to the tried and true Acts of story structure, and hunt for my pivotal plot points and where they might fall. I'm about half way through the process. As I went through the first half, I wrote a bit, made annotations thanks to my friend Gwen's wonderful Scrivener Tech Tuesday blog, and shifted some stuff around. Not much more than that.

Note: If you have a Mac, I highly recommend the SCRIVENER program for your writing needs. You will LOVE IT. Trust me. And it's cheap, too. Something we poor and struggling writers need to hear.

So that's what I'll be doing most of today (when I'm not running around with my Mom Hat on and getting forms signed for my DD's upcoming trip--I loathe errands--I am transferring all future whining to boring household duties and diets).

What contests have you entered? Why? Are you going to enter the Golden Heart again? How do you feel about getting started on the next big contest? Are you preparing for the RWA National Conference? It's in July. We have 3 months now to get a partial, query, synopsis and pitches ready for the conference. Now is the tine to get focused! These contests aren't about winning. Yeah, winning is nice. But what's more important is they force YOU, the writer, to get BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keys) and to get serious about your writing.


Martha W. said...

Really well said, Christine. Looking at contests as ways to improve and as deadlines to complete work is a great way to get past the scoring.

The only complaint I have with the GH is that anyone who is a general member of RWA can judge. Even if you're a hobby writer who doesn't keep up with the industry except on every other Tuesday (okay, that's an extreme version, but you know what I mean?).

I think there should be some beginning standard for judges (like you have to be a PRO or PAN) - considering it is "THE" contest to enter and costs $50 per entry. But that's JMHO.

Of course, I think we should get comments back for that amount too. Again, just my opinion.

BTW, just so y'all don't think this is a crazy rant by someone in the bottom ten - my scores ranged from 7.8 to 9. I hit the top twenty-five percent. Randomness just drives me insane. *grin*

Good luck with your revisions today!

KarenG said...

Guess what, you won my 3 book contest! Email me at with your address. Congratulations!

Christine said...

Martha: ditto on so many levels. I don't think I'd want comments tho based on the fact that not all judges are created equal! Congrats on making it into the top 25%. I was happy to be in the top half with one of mine LOL.

Christine said...

KarenG: thanks! I will email you!! Woohoo!!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Martha: I agree. I think the big problem is that w/o the general membership they wouldn't have enough judges.

Using the contest for deadlines is good. And I've received good feedback in the past. Now, I'm mostly entering for the final judges (plus any feedback), but I'm choosing sparingly.

Nationals is currently spurring me to finish my revisions. At least in theory. ;-) Thanks for the mention!

Christine said...

Gwen: you're right. The GH needs a HUGE volume of judges. But the good point is that all the people who finaled DO deserve this honor and they are great writers. Those of us who didn't final need to remember that we're still good writers even if we didn't final.

And good luck on those revisions!

You're welcome for the*plug.*

Christine said...

Thanks Kirsten. I need to send KarenG my addy so I can get my new book.


And if you're a MAC owner, I'd definitely look into Scrivener. It's a great way to org your scenes and write.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Wendy Marcus said...

I agree with Gwen, before I enter an RWA contest I research the final judges to see if they work with an agency/publisher I am targeting.

Also, have a great conference. You're very good about sharing what you learn so I look forward to your return!

Christine said...

Hi Wendy: I am looking forward to the weekend and to learning how to improve my craft. I also look at contests with the final judges in mind. I also look at contests that give the most "bang" for their buck.

I'm narrowing my list down to be honest. There's the Golden lottery, the MAGGIES, at least on "the first hook" and one other I'll do for feedback. I'm vetting contests on an ongoing basis. If I feel my overall experience was worth the money, I'll reenter. If not, then no.

And finaling is not a criteria--solid, CONSTRUCTIVE comments are what I am looking for as a contestant.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Wow, that sounds like an awesome opportunity! I've been on the look out for online contests or contests hosted by different blogs with free professional critiques in the prize list. I live in France so travel and writer's workshops aren't in my near future for the moment.

Christine said...

Creepy Query Girl: Cool handle!! Love it. Any rate, if you want solid critique on your first twenty five-thirty pages and on your synopsis, I'd enter the MAGGIE. It is judged by published authors. Also, the entire process is electronic! So no mailing costs for you!!

I think there is someone holding a contest with free critiques, but I'd make sure the person had some clout behind them before I went that route.

What you could do is try to find a decent critique partner. I have three and we don't live in the same state so everything is handled via email.

Good luck!

Creepy Query Girl said...

Thanks! Looks like I will check out the MAGGIE contest because it sounds right up my alley and my wip is a contemporary YA/chicklit comedy-romance.

I've actually been very lucky- I've been able to form a critics group with several other writers from our writer's forum- through email and it's been so so helpful