Last month, I blogged about the Top 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Enter the Golden Heart, and Top 5 Signs You’re Going to Score High in the Golden Heart.
But recently, I was asked a question, I’d never seen answered on a blog:
Should you put your name on your GH entry? If you’ve previously finaled in a chapter contest, do you need to change your title to protect your anonymity?
The Golden Heart is unique among contests in that entrants are allowed to put their name on the manuscript, but it is not required.
Some entrants are strongly opposed to doing this because they believe the work should be judged strictly on its merits. They’ve heard the horror stories about jealous judges out to destroy the most successful writers. They worry about privacy issues and psycho stalker judges.
Others see this as an opportunity for promotion. After all, if the judge sees your name every time she turns the page, she’s likely to remember it. Who knows, your entry may fall into the hands of someone who can advance your career. Maybe, if the judge thinks about the person receiving the results, she’ll bump up the scores a tad.
Both sides make valid points. But if the contest judge is more interested in googling your title than reading your entry, you’ve already lost the contest.
With a winning entry, the judge doesn’t notice the header at all. Nor does she notice the punctuation, the formatting, or the occasional typo. With a winning entry, the judge is totally immersed in the story, oblivious to time and place, until she reaches that final, horrifying moment when she discovers she has run out of pages and she will never know how the story ends unless the book is published. And even then, she is so devastated that she turns the manuscript box inside out in the hope of finding one last stray, forgotten page.
When that happens, the header is the least important thing on the page. The judge is going to give the entry a perfect score no matter what the title, no matter whose name is on the manuscript. She will follow that author’s career, delight in her successes, and rush to buy the book as soon as it’s released. How do I know? Because I’ve been that judge. Several times.
As human beings, we like to understand why things happen. Writing is subjective and the Golden Heart, with its no-comment, numeric system, offers no explanations. And so writers focus on petty details, trying to rationalize why one manuscript finaled and another didn’t. After judging dozens of contests, I still don’t know exactly what makes a perfect contest entry. But I do know, it’s not your name, and it’s not your title.
If the writing's strong enough, nobody cares what’s in your header.
I would love to hear your opinions on this topic. Do you think it helps or hurts to include your name or change your title for the Golden Heart?