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Friday, June 11, 2010

Contests Volume Three

So, I arrived home last night to find out my name was picked out of a hat over on Maisey Yates' blog to win Mira Lyn Kelly's new book. Color me surprised and extremely excited! 1 - because the book sounds fab and 2 - because my name is nevereverever the one picked out of  a hat (or however they chose!). On my teensy I-Get-A-Prize high, I decided to jump into another contest. A writing contest!

I'm a little bit of a contest nut...but y'all know that already! I decided this spring to forego contests a bit...and then I waffled and decided to enter 2. Since, a couple of others have caught my eye. After rabidly reading the judges lists careful perusal of the various contests, judges and final round judges, I chose just one more. That's a total of three.

It is always the final round judges who help make my decision. If an editor I really, really, really would give my eye-teeth to get in front of is a final round judge you'll find me entering the contest. It's my hard-and-fast rule. Not that the other judges aren't important, they are..but I don't enter writing contests to win stuff. As nice as some of the contest prizes are. I enter because I want the possibility that that editor will see my work with a big, fat happy winner's score on it.

So I checked about fifteen contests, narrowed that down to seven and further narrowed to three. With the possibility of two more in the fall, depending on how my entries fare this summer. Yay!

Oh! It's also Freebie Friday over at eHarlequin! Today's deal: Buy 2 or more books and get Runaway Vegas Bride, a Harlequin Silhouette Special Edition by Teresa Hill absolutely FREE! Just click below to take advantage of today's Freebie Friday!
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Posted By: Kristina Knight @ 12:15:47 AM

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Monday, May 17, 2010

A Little Contest Information

I've talked about contests (pros and cons, from the judges and entrants perspectives) a little bit on this blog. Today, I'm not waxing philosophical at all, I'm just passing on a little contest information. Yay!

First off, the Central Ohio Fiction Writers "Ignite the Flame" contest had extended it's deadline to May 22 - yeah, this Saturday! And I hear through the contest loops that they are low on entries, so get your pages polished and take a chance on this one, okay?
All the details are here.

Second, Kensington's Brava imprint is teaming up with RTBook Reviews magazine for a new contest. They are looking for FULL LENGTH MANUSCRIPTS this time. Alicia Condon with Kensington writes, "If you’ve written a sensual full-length romance novel, this is a great opportunity to submit to the editors at Brava, who will be reading the entries and selecting the top ten finalists. Starting in September, each of our top ten will be paired with one of Brava’s star authors for the next stage of the competition – creating one-of-a kind opening hooks, to-die-for heroes, sizzling love scenes and more." Details are here.

And finally, eHarlequin is having another pitch contest, this one geared toward the Harlequin American line. They want a log line and a 1 page synopsis. Details are here.

So, lots and lots going on in the world of romance, especially if you're in the mood to try your hand at a contest. For those of you who really like contest, what is your best piece of advice on entering (or not entering) contests? Any do's and don'ts you want to share?

Posted By: Kristina Knight @ 4:29:29 PM

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Contest Volume Two

So last week I blogged about a few contest do's and don't's - and yeah, I'm guilty of a few! - from a writer's perspective. I promised at the time to have a do's and don't's post from the judges perspective later that week...and obviously the Thanksgiving holiday got in the way!

But I'm back and I'm packin'! So here goes!

First up, the Do's:

1) Do volunteer to judge. If you're an RWA member and your local chapter is having a contest, volunteer to judge a few entries. No, you don't have to judge 20, 3 or 4 will usually be a big, huge help. Why do I mention it? Because of the emails that go all over looking for judging help but mostly because judging can make you a better writer.

Seriously. I can't tell you guys the number of things I've caught in an entry I'm judging that I later caught in my own work - and been ashamed that I counted off (even though it should've been) when I missed it as my own editor. I hate when that happens!

2) Do leave feedback. Most contest coordinators encourage leaving feedback as you score, but a lot of judges seem to think this is just leaving an opening for the writer to lash out. As both a judge and an contest entrant, feedback - constructive feedback - is priceless. Reading what caused a low score is so much more helpful than seeing the scores and wondering what was wrong.

3) Do ask your category coordinator questions. If an entry seems to have been mislabeled or you have a question about the scoring system, ask the question. Don't muddle through on your own - it will only frustrate you!

4) Do take it slow. Seriously, don't think you have to judge every entry in one day. Take one every day or two days. Space them out so that each is fresh and different. Plus, spacing them out - and not procrastinating on starting! - will help you keep your sanity as the CCs start asking for the judging sheets!

Now for the Don't's (and this list may be a little bit longer):

1) Don't judge an entry - from an unpublished or published writer - based on how YOU would write the story. The beauty of writing is that we all have our vision of the story. You may hate the heroine's job or the hero's name, but obviously the writer didn't. And really, that isn't the point of contest judging. The point of contest judging is to judge an entry based on its merit. So take yourself out of the equation before you get started.

2) Don't be distracted. Please, turn off the television/radio/Internet connection before you sit down to judge. Getting pinged, hearing a favorite song or having a favorite show start is a huge distraction that can cause you to rush through an entry. Contestants deserve your full attention.

3) Don't be afraid to recuse yourself. Sound like a trail judge, don't I? What I mean is, if you get an entry and you recognize the title or the writing style of a friend/critique partner tell your CC and don't judge it. If you judge a friend/crit partner's entry your personal feelings/friendship may get in the way.

4) Don't wait until the last minute. This is an echo really of #4 above. If you wait until the last day before judging sheets are due to start judging, you'll stress yourself out and you'll miss something.

5) Don't accept too many entries. The first time I judged I took on way too much. I had 5 entries from one category and then took on 3 more entries from two other categories when not enough judges were found. I stressed myself out and I was late getting my score sheets out because I flat-out didn't have enough time to judge 11 total entries. Don't be afraid to only judge 4..after you've turned in your 4 if a coordinator contacts you, make your own call.

6) Don't let judging take over your writing. Yes I said above that judging can help your writing. But you have to write to improve, not judge to improve. Don't contact every contest coordinator who sends out an appeal for judges and don't accept so many entries that all you can do for weeks is judge a contest. Your writing must come first!!

Okay, those are my do's and don't's...do any of you have any suggestions you'd like to add to the list?

Posted By: Kristina Knight @ 3:46:27 AM

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Contest Volume One

I've been entering and judging a LOT of contests since the beginning of summer and have come to a realization: we're not remembering the rules of contests ... even the rules that need to be broken from time to time.

So, I thought I'd give y'all my two cents. With that and a buck, you can go grab a coffee at Mickey D's, right?

Today, contest do's and don't's - for entries.

First, the Don't's:

1) Don't forget to start in the right place. Sounds too simple, right? I can't tell you guys the number of entries I judged this summer that didn't start in the right place. How do I know this? Because as I got to the end of the entry, I had no clue what the plot was. And some of these entries had really good points: good dialogue, good characterization. But no indication why the book was paranormal/suspense/women's-fic-with-romance-elements/erotica/whatever. As a judge that makes me sad because I have to judge lower on certain points dealing with the plot and motivations because I Don't Know where the author is going.

2) Get your entry critiqued. Even if you don't believe in critique groups per se, have a trusted friend, co-worker or another writer read through your entry to point out the bad spots. And by trusted friend, I mean a fried you trust not to say 'it's perfect, absolutely perfect'. The story won't shine if the judge (or editor or agent) have to struggle through bad grammar, spelling, punctuation and the list goes on. The more of these issues you fix before sending out the more your story will shine.

3) Don't forget that contest judges are human. If every character in your story has a name beginning with 'T' the judge (or editor or agent) is going to get confused at some point. If every dialogue section has no dialogue tags, the judge/editor/agent are going to get confused.

4) Don't stay in the heroine's POV because you like her a lot. At the same time, think hard about POV switches before you do them. Nora Roberts can get away with switching POV's every few paragraphs. Most new writers can't. While you're thinking about POV, think about which POV will give the reader the bigger 'wow' factor...and use that POV.

5) If the rules state 1st chapter/1st 30 pages, go with the page number amount. Why? Because more is better. No one will know you've sent in 3 10-page chapters or 2 15-page chapter. Do a little reformatting and send in as many pages as the contest allows. It gives the judge more information and more information is always a good thing. Small story: one of the contests I judged, an entrant sent the first chapter. Which was 10 pages. The rules stated 'first chapter/first 30 pages'. This goes hand in hand with Rule #1 - start in the right place. That entrant not only didn't send nearly enough of her manuscript, she didn't start in the right place - all I got from the entry was a bunch of backstory...and her scores suffered because of it.

Now for the Do's:

1) Do follow standard manuscript formatting: double spaced, typed, standard 12 point font. If the contest requires a different kind of formatting, they'll note it and you should use it.

2) Do follow the contest rules: if the rules state 'paperless/e-entries' follow the rules. Don't try to convince the contest coordinator to make an exception for you because you're more comfortable mailing in the entry.

3) Use .RTF file extensions when you save as much as possible. Why? Because not all computer users are using the same operating system. You're version of Word, WordPerfect, or whatever word processing system likely won't be the same as all of the judges, coordinators, etc. By saving in a universal file extension like .RTF, the entry will be able to be opened and won't morph on other compupter systems.

4) If you're going to send a thank you, just say thanks and move on. Trying to convince the judge he or she was wrong because Judge X said something more positive is just going to waste your time - time that could be better spent writing that next wip!

Remember, we're all - contest entrants, judges and coordinators - human and we make errors, so if you find a mathematical error afterwards point it out quickly so that it can get fixed. Contests are subjective and just like sending your manuscript to 3 agents or 3 editors will net 3 different responses, so will a contest entry. Don't hate the judges. Put the comments forms away for a few days and then go back and re-read the entry. After that re-read the judges comments; don't accept all the comments as a 'fix-this-now' problem but if you see where the judge is coming from and believe those suggestions will make the manuscript stronger, do it.

Don't worry, I'm not letting judges off the hook ... later this week I'll post my do's and don't's for judges, too.

Posted By: Kristina Knight @ 9:33:30 PM

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