Our Pages

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Independence Day . . . or 5 Reasons You Should Celebrate When You're Not a Golden Heart® Finalist

(Please note: I wrote this blog before the 2011 announcements because I knew I would be traveling today. As of this writing, I have no idea whether or not I will final. In the past, I've had both finaling and non-finaling manuscripts.)

On March 25th, Romance Writers of America® announced the finalists for the 2011 Golden Heart awards, to the great joy of sixty-four unpublished romance writers. Congratulations to all the finalists. This post is not for you.

Today, I want to blog for the hundreds of writers who entered but didn’t final. Perhaps you’re feeling down, wondering why you ever considered a career writing fiction. This is exactly the opposite of what you should be thinking. First, the judges’ scores are no reflection on your ability to get published. There are plenty of best-selling romance writers who never finaled in the Golden Heart. Second, NOT finaling in the Golden Heart can be a very liberating experience, freeing you to make the career move that will ultimately lead to that coveted bestseller slot.

Here, then, are my top 5 reasons you should celebrate when you didn't final in the Golden Heart:

Freedom to Submit: No more excuses, no more trying to ‘time it right.’ Since your manuscript is already finished, celebrate. Then submit it to the same editors you were hoping to attract with your GH finalist title. At the very least, you’ll get some feedback in time for Nationals. If you’re lucky, you may watch the RITA®/GH award ceremony sitting between your new agent and your new editor.

Freedom to Set it Aside: You say you’ve already shopped that novel everywhere and the GH was your last resort? Celebrate. Now you are free to set that manuscript aside, and start on something fresh. You learned so much writing that last novel. The next one will be much easier. Don’t you want to spend some time with a manuscript that’s shiny and new?

Freedom to Reinvent Yourself: So what if they’re right? Maybe your hipster voice doesn’t work in the mouth of a regency duchess. Maybe your love for flowery, descriptive details slows down your gritty thriller. Celebrate. If you had finaled in the Golden Heart, you might have spent years trying to squeeze into the wrong subgenre. Now you’re free to think about what you do best and where those talents will be most appreciated.

Freedom to Stay Home: If your conference dollars are limited, celebrate. You have freedom of choice. Had you finaled in the GH, you would been expected to go to the National Conference in New York City. As a non-finalist, you’re free to consider other writers’ conferences and readers’ conventions. Is there a regional conference you’ve always wanted to attend? Perhaps a writers’ cruise? Sometimes those smaller venues give you better access to editors and agents for half the cost. Look around for events that focus on your subgenre, have the speakers you want to hear, and the editors/agents you’d like to meet.

Freedom to Enjoy the Conference: If you decide to go to Nationals, celebrate. While it’s true GH finalists get extra perks at Nationals, they also have an overwhelming schedule. As a non-finalist, you’ll have more time to visit with all your writer friends, hang out in the bar with your favorite agent, and sightsee. More of the fun, less of the stress. And who knows, maybe one of those workshops you attend will spark the idea that gets you on the bestsellers list.

So there you have it, my top 5 reasons to celebrate not finaling in the Golden Heart. I would love to hear your stories. Have you found any other benefits to NOT being a Golden Heart finalist?


  1. I can celebrate not being expected to finish the rewrites at a certain time. I do, however, need to have it polished and shining before NY. It's a bit of an extension but I'll take it, thanks.

    Thanks for sharing, Clarissa! The wound from not finaling on Friday is healing, a little at a time. I hope it's soon before I can see not finaling as having benefits all its own.

  2. Good luck with the editors and agents at Nationals, Carla. Here's hoping next year you'll have a sale and won't be eligible for the GH. Thanks for commenting on the Lady Scribes.

  3. Great post! I think these are very important points to remember.

    I didn't enter this year, so I got to enjoy watching the results online and celebrating when I saw names of friends who had finaled. Congrats! You know I'll be cheering!

  4. A great way to turn a huge disappointment into something positive. Thanks!

  5. Hi Donna, Hi Barb! Thanks for the kind words. I hope to see you both in NYC :)

  6. Excellent post, Clarissa! I'll take a spin on the topic to applaud the GH contest. I didn't final, but the process of submitting gave me new friends and critique partners. I'll definitely submit a manuscript next year. I love the moment when I hand my neatly packaged contest entry to FEDEX - accomplishment and anticipation combined. Even better, I can cheer on friends who did final this year. Congrats to the finalists!

  7. Congrats again, Clarissa.
    I didn't enter this year, maybe next year. But you have some great advice here!

  8. I wish I would have been able to read a post like this when I was entering and not finaling. But now, when I look back on experience, though it was disappointing not to get a call, it was freeing in a way and some pressure lifted. Excellent post. And, I do remember how busy you were last year. Wait, did I actually get a chance to see you in Orlando? ;) :)

  9. LOL, I love this post. Thanks for reminding us that no matter what, there is usually a silver lining. We just have to look for it.

  10. I enjoyed your post, Clarissa. I must admit it would have been disappointing to have finalled and then not be going to NYC. This was my fourth year to try for that phone call, but this year I wasn't devastated or that disappointed. Maybe I am maturing or gaining a thicker skin or my ego doesn't need to be stroked as much OR maybe it's my new mantra "You can't fight fate." With that in the back of my mind, I am just moving on and doing the best that I can. Of course, having that same manuscript gain a double final in the Hearts Through History contest that same week did take the sting away. There are good days and bad days in this very intersting profession. :)

  11. I wasn't entered but will be cheering on those who do.