Our Pages

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top 5 Signs You're Going to Score High in the Golden Heart®


Last month, I blogged about The Top 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Enter the Golden Heart Since then, I’ve been approached by several writers wanting to know if their manuscript had what it takes to final in the biggest RWA contest for unpublished authors.
I’m always uncomfortable encouraging people to enter contests because I have no way of knowing their financial situation. As a general rule, if you can afford to enter, you should. Being a finalist in the Golden Heart can jump start your career. But if it’s a hardship to enter, you probably want to evaluate your chances before you plunk down your hard-earned cash.
Since I can’t read every manuscript, I’ve started to look for outward signs that indicate you probably stand a good chance in the contest. Start with a polished, completed manuscript. If you’ve had any of the following experiences, then you stand a good chance of success:
  1. You’ve been a finalist in a chapter contest: A significant number of Golden Heart finalists enter chapter contests throughout the year to prepare for the big event. If you make it to the finals, you’re on the right track.
  2. You’ve had a request for a full from an editor or agent: If an editor or agent has read some of your pages and requested more, you have a good chance of getting to the final round.
  3. Your experienced critique partner thinks you should enter: I only finaled in the Golden Heart, because Lydia Dare encouraged me to enter a manuscript I had given up on.
  4. You’ve entered before: A significant number of Golden Heart winners are manuscripts which were entered in previous years and have been revised and resubmitted.Also, you increase your odds by entering more than one manuscript. I was surprised by the number of Golden Heart finalists who told me they entered several manuscripts, and the one that finaled was not the one they expected to do well.
  5. You believe in your manuscript: Every year there are talented finalists who have never entered a contest and never submitted to an editor or agent before. If you believe in your story and know what makes it special, you probably have a good chance in the Golden Heart.
So there you have it, my top 5 indicators you’re going to do well in the Golden Heart. It’s very unscientific and says nothing about how successful your writing career will be. Some of my favorite authors scored low in the Golden Heart and went on to have fantastic careers.
How do you recognize those authors who are going to do well in the Golden Heart? For those of you who are entering this year, what signs encouraged you to enter? For those who have finaled in the past, how did you know you were ready?


***Due to a technical malfunction, "Website Answers for Writers" posted by accident this morning. Please feel free to check back tomorrow.

33 comments:

  1. Great post Clarissa. You are a constant source of contest inspiration. I suppose I entered my story because of the positive feedback received.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a great post, Clarissa. I think the most important factor in deciding whether or not to enter the GH is if you feel you have a shot at making the final round.

    The Golden Heart isn't like chapter contests in that the vast majority of entrants aren't going to receive one word of feedback. There are no judges comments, nothing to help you at all if you don't final. So, if you're looking only for feedback - pick a different contest.

    But if you are one of the fortunate few who do make it to the final round - the world can open up for you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for posting, Gail. As always you are an inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I entered because if you do final, it is a great way to bypass the slush pile. I have a few contest finals under my belt, so hopefully I have successfully integrated the feedback I received to make a really polished product. At the moment, I am also scrambling to finish my 2nd ms, so I can enter that too. Hopefully one or the other will hit :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Clarissa,
    Great post! I'm entering this year because I have had postive feeback on both novels, and I'm not searching for feedback. I'm searching for a door to open that can get my foot in the "published" writing world.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you all for the kind comments. Wishing you all good luck in the GH!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm still trying to decide whether to enter again this year. I think I'm leaning towards it -- just have to decide which one I think will be the luckiest! LOL

    ReplyDelete
  8. Clarissa - Thank you for posting on this subject. Your suggestions on this and other blogs are always 'golden' -- couldn't resist. Probably should have.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Donna and Liz,
    You both are brilliant writers and should definitely enter!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great post Clarissa. I think the most important experience for me when prepping for the Golden Heart contest was comment #1: "You’ve been a finalist in a chapter contest." Or actually just entering several small contests, getting the feedback, making changes, and then repeating the process until my first pages didn't raise as many red flags with readers and contest judges.
    I refused to take out my prologue, though. These days most people will automatically suggest the deletion of a prologue, but I loved it too much to let it go. And in the end it worked out okay :-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great post Clarissa, always informative. I'm considering entering this year. But if I don't make my decision soon, I'll be SOL lol. Thanks for the info it's just more for me to ponder!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Jacqui, I love all your stories, especially the one with the cattle. Thanks for stopping by. It's a thrill to have the 2010 Historical Golden Heart Winner commenting on my GH post!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Well, I don't know how ready I am, but I meet #1-3 & #5 from your list. I've never entered the GH before, so don't meet #4. No matter what happens, this will be a great experience for me. Thanks for your great advice!

    Amy V.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Amy V., Thanks so much for commenting. Good luck in the GH and I will search for your name on the finalists' list.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Clarissa,
    Terrific post. When I entered, I was hoping to see how my manuscript would do anonymously, and with readers. Editors are a different animal, but I needed to know how readers reacted. They are the ones that got me to the finals and I found that hugely reassuring.
    And Jacqui, I'm a pro prologue writer myself. I think prologues can help set the tone and prepare the reader for the story.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi Mary! I know you have a wonderful story and we are going to see it in print soon. Thanks for commenting. It's so much fun to see all of my Unsinkable sisters here. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I don't think I'm going to enter this year. Judges either love my voice, or they really hate it. It's not worth that much money this year to take the chance. Also, my ms isn't as polished as I'd like it to be.
    Maybe next year, though!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Clarissa,

    My critique partners were behind me entering the Golden Heart the first time. We all saw it as a challenge, and I didn't expect to final, but I did. Sometimes the process just affirms what you're doing is what you're supposed to be doing.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Good luck to all of you who are entering the GH this year. I have an MS that I have thought about entering, but just can't justify the expense with my current state of things. Maybe next year. Or who knows? Maybe I'll be entering it in the Ritas next year.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Actually, I'd never finaled in a chapter contest before. My scores were all over the place. But I've been lucky enough to have won a few small critiques from published authors, and they all said enter. So I did, and it worked out well--the second time. If you have the money and a completed manuscript, the Golden Heart is worth every cent.

    ReplyDelete
  21. D'Ann, I can't believe you're not entering. Your writing is fantastic. But maybe it will have to be entered in the Rita's instead.

    Gillian and Shea, it's so good to see my Unsinkable sisters here. I think that is the absolute best part of finaling in the Golden Heart--all of the wonderful, supportive people you meet.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Interesting list. I entered two manuscripts last year. One had only two of those criteria, the other had four (I had never entered the GH before, so neither qualified there.) The fun part is, the one that met only two became a GH finalist, the other couldn't crack the top 50%.

    But I had a blast anyway, and I'm glad to be an Unsinkable. Just goes to show you can't always tell.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hi Barb. Thanks for stopping by. It feels like an Unsinkable party in here. Was that the manuscript that had-- um-- hard-to-sell characters in it? I still think that sounds like a fantastic story. Oh well, you're pubbed now so that'll be another one for the RIta's. Congrats on your upcoming release.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I think GH can open lots of doors if you final, but I also think the competition is great. I know several of the finalists last year had won other contests before entering GH and really worked hard to have very polished manuscripts based on the feedback from these contests.

    Good luck to those of you who enter this year! I'd love to see some of our followers on that list. :)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Clarissa, nice post. Great advice. And here's a hug to anyone who DOESN'T do well in the GH...

    I crashed and burned. It wasn't pretty. It was so not even CLOSE to pretty as to be downright embarrassing, I mean really, if my mother were alive, I wouldn't have even TOLD HER, but that's okay. A year later I sold to Melissa Endlich at Steeple Hill as a result of FAB, so even if the GH judges don't quite 'get' you, fall back on Clarissa's other barometers. In the end, it's one contest and ya' gotta go with your gut, gals.

    Believe.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Clarissa, great post. I'm still wavering about entering. I signed an agent with one of my manuscripts, but doubt it will do well in GH. It has a third POV and there are a lot of POV purists out there. I'm glad you mentioned multiple entries. I might consider that.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi Ruth and Ciara! It's true, many deserving manuscripts don't get the recognition they deserve. I think on the 3rd POV, it depends on the sub-genre. Romantic Suspense is very tolerant of having the antogonist's POV.

    Good luck, Ciara, whatever contest or goal you're aiming for.

    Ruth, Congratulations on the big sale to Steeple Hill!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I love to enter the GH. I'm an optimist, I guess. :) I've also learned, even if--or maybe because--you meet these particular qualifications, it's no guarentee you'll final or even do well. Last year, with a contest-winning, full-requested ms, I got two 9's, one 8.5, a 3 and a 4.5. So yeah, not only did I NOT final, I didn't even make the top half. LOL. It's so subjective--all you can do is polish til it shines and let it go. But I'm back in the ring this year. Got one entry I'm going to mail Friday and another (last year's) I'm toying with entering again. (I like to beat my head on the wall!) Like I said, I'm an optimist. I know I can hold my own, and I want this. So I'm trying again. :) If you're okay with the odds, and with knowing you won't get feedback but the chance of finaling is enough, go for it!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Ami, I love your can-do spirit and I know it's just a matter of time before you sell. Good luck in the GH this year. I'll be watching for your name. :)

    ReplyDelete
  30. I'm late with a comment, Clarissa. But this is a great list, especially, you believe in your manuscript. If you are passionate about your writing, it will shine through. Good luck to all who enter.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Great advice, Clarissa. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi Donnell and Alexa! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You're never too late for the Lady Scribes :)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Great checklist, Clarissa! You've really hit some key indicators. In my case, I entered only because my critique partners encouraged me to, but I think you're right -- the more of these categories you can hit, the better your chances.

    ReplyDelete