Adventures in the contest world

23 Jan

Before writing a romance novel and joining Romance Writers of America, I had only the vaguest of notions about writing contests. I had worked in publishing, so I had heard of the big contests, such as the RITA Awards because if an author won a RITA, it was a good thing to put on the book cover. It makes those in the know salivate.

Then I went to the RWA conference and discovered that the RITAs warrant their own fancy dinner ceremony, which they share with the Golden Heart Awards. The RITAs (named after RWA’s first-ever president) are awarded to published novels, and the Golden Hearts recognize excellence in manuscripts written by as-yet unpublished authors.

Those are the biggies, the Oscars of the romance world. I did not enter the Golden Heart contest. Why not? I wanted to wait to see what an agent says about my manuscript. After she weighs in and I make some improvements, I may think about it. Like chicken soup, it couldn’t hoyt.

In the meantime, just for kicks, I entered two other contests that are sponsored by local chapters of the RWA. Let me tell you, there’s a plethora (love that word) of contests out there, for published authors, unpublished authors, for beginnings, for love scenes, for query letters (the cover letter that accompanies a manuscript), even for cover art. I chose two contests for unpubbed writers, both for beginnings, where you have to submit the first 25 pages or 6,000 words, which comes out to be about the same amount of real estate.

Contest one is sponsored by the Yellow Rose Romance Writers of America, in Texas. It’s the Winter Rose Romance Contest. Contest two is the Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest, thrown by the Northeast Ohio Romance Writers of America. Both contests are for unpublished authors, or authors who haven’t had anything pubbed in the last five years.

When I first saw these contests on the RWA website, I thought, “Hey, I think my story has a pretty good opening scene. I’ll enter these.” I figured I’d enter the contests just for giggles, and I’ll get a “score sheet,” or a structured evaluation of my work. What the heck, right?

When I read all the rules for these contests—and there are many rules—I considered hiring an attorney just to prepare my entries. There are rules about methods of paying the entry fee, formatting your partial manuscript, what fonts you can use, and how to format your entry to email it (I learned how to make an rtf file; never even knew there was such a thing). I felt like I was filling out a job application for the CIA.

But I made it through and the contest people have cashed my checks. Now I can sit back, relax, and wait to hear from them. In April. (Yes, April.)

What do you win if you win, you ask? In the one contest, an agent will read your manuscript. In the other, you can use the contest winner logo on your website. Good thing I didn’t plan a career around winning romance writing contests.

As always, I’ll let you know what happens. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. And I’ll press my thumbs, which is what they do in the Czech Republic for good luck.

Thank you for your support!

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