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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Monday, October 01, 2007

Why Enter The Golden Heart

by Debra Holland

As November 15th rolls around, it’s time for unpublished writers to consider entering RWA’s Golden Heart contest. The Golden Heart is RWA’s most prestigious unpublished contest. Finaling not only opens doors for your writing career, but is a lot of fun.

When the GH call comes, the good news gives you a happy, bubbly thrill. It’s a great feeling to share with your family and friends. The high can last for weeks.

The days after the GH results are announced are a good time to send queries to agents and editors about your finaling manuscript. Finaling makes your queries stand out, leading to quicker responses. It also gives agents and editors more of a reason to request your book. If your manuscript is already with an agent or editor, it’s good to call or email with the news. This can motivate the agent or editor to hunt through their slush pile to find your manuscript, instead of waiting the months, or even years, it might take them to get to it.

It’s not uncommon to have five to ten finalists sell their books in the months between the announcement and the national conference. During that time about the same amount of writers also sign with agents.

Sometimes an editor who is judging the contest likes what he or she is reading and directly buys the entry--before the winners are even announced at the awards ceremony in the national conference.

The finalists organize themselves into a yahoo group and begin to get to know each other. They share stories of their “call” and of their books. They support each other through rejections and acceptances, and celebrate if one of them sells. By the time the conference rolls around, the group has become friends.

At the national conference, GH finalists get to wear pink finaling ribbons on their name badges and be princesses for five days. The ribbon identifies them to other conference attendees, agents, and editors, and they get a lot of people asking about their entry. There is also a special reception for the GH and Rita finalists.

At the awards night, the finalists dress up in beautiful formal gowns and sit in reserved seating in the front of the theatre. As each finalist’s name is announced, two overhead screens show her professional photo and the name of her book--a great way to build name recognition.

Winners receive a beautiful necklace with a golden heart. Once a winner places that necklace around her neck, she is forever a Golden Heart winner. The necklace is a symbol of her accomplishment that other writers can recognize whenever she wears it. However, it’s also a tangible reminder when future doubts creep in--yes, she is a good writer.

Golden Heart Necklace

As I see it, there’s only two cons to entering the GH. One is the entry price. $50.00 can be a bit steep on an unpublished writer’s budget. Multiple entries can really add up. Make sure you follow all the rules. If you break a rule, your manuscript will be disqualified, and your money won’t be refunded.

The second drawback of the GH is that the only feedback you will receive are numerical scores. You’ll never know why you received a 9 from one judge and a 4 from another.

How do you know if you are ready to enter the Golden Heart contest?

Is your manuscript completed or nearly completed? A completed manuscript is a requirement for the GH, making it different from RWA chapter contests. This weeds out the people who have completely polished the first few chapters and synopsis of their books, and enter them in all the local contests, but have never completed the manuscripts. These entries might be multiple winners in local contests, but the GH is for finishers, which gives you a different caliber of competition, and much more respect when you final.

I have used entering the Golden Heart as a spur to completing a manuscript. As a finishing-the-book tool, this has worked very well. Actually there have been several years when I was writing right until the deadline to mail the entry in order to have it arrive the next day. In other words, the ending was done, but not polished. However, one of these books still finaled, and the other finaled the next year when it was polished. But don’t do this unless you are confident you can finish. Otherwise, your entry will be disqualified.

Make sure the first fifty-five pages, including your synopsis, are polished. Have a critique partner or two or ten go over your entry. In the first round, it won’t matter how much you’ve edited the rest of your book. The first round of judges only sees the first fifty-five pages, which includes the synopsis. You probably won’t win if the quality of the rest of the manuscript isn’t as good as the beginning, but winning is just a bonus to being a finalist.

So challenge yourself. Get out those manuscripts, finish them, polish them, and enter the Golden Heart Contest!



At 2:01 PM, Blogger Charity said...

When I entered, I really had nothing to lose. I'd done a rewrite for an agent who didn't feel any love for the new version.

Well, that new version made the finals. And while I didn't sell it (nor will I), it really did open some industry doors for me.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I'm going to give everyone some specific examples of the Good Things That Can Happen From The Golden Heart tomorrow!

I think Debra made an excellent point about The Golden Heart being for "finishers". Because the single score doesn't give you any useful feedback, it is not a contest for those people testing the waters with their manuscripts. The chapter contests are good for that.

The Golden Heart is best for those writers who think their writing is ready for publication. You've gotten "good" rejections; you have requests for full manuscripts. That sort of level.

At 5:26 PM, Blogger Priscilla said...

Great intro to our Golden Heart blog-shop (workshop), Deb!

I hope folks will keep coming back over the course of the coming weeks as members of the Posse share their thoughts, insights and pointers. It's an opportunity for others to see what makes the Posse so special-- the desire to help those walking the same tough road to publication.

See you tomorrow!


At 5:33 PM, Blogger Jill Monroe said...

I will say it was one of the best 50 bucks I ever spent!

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills said...

I second what Jill said about it being the best $50 I ever spent. Okay, so I spent several sets of $50... :) Still, the GH experiences are some of the very best from my writing career thus far. I encourage everyone who thinks they are ready to enter to do so.

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Aunty Cindy said...

Without a doubt, THE BEST thing about being a finalist in the GH is the wonderful people you meet, especially the other finalists. I feel so fortunate to have all the wonderful 06 Packers in my life! Also, being a GH finalist is a wonderful validation that your writing IS good.


At 6:46 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

It's so nice of you all to share your experiences and advice--I'm really looking forward to reading over the next month. :)

At 7:00 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I LOVE the Golden Heart because it motivates me every year to try and finish a new book. I've met new friends and finaling has given me the boost I need to keep on writing! Good luck to anyone entering the Golden Heart in 2008!

At 7:41 PM, Blogger Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Great topic, ladies! And a wonderful way to lead up to the deadline. :> As Trish and several others said, it's about the best $50 (several times!) I ever spent. I wouldn't give anything for the '06 Packers, my "year-mates" and the GH Princess experience. Even when I didn't final, being able to be in the top quartile was incredibly encouraging. I have a paranormal that finished in the top quartile the last three years. That "East German Judge" with her 3.5 got me each year, in spite of the other 9's. BUT, ahhhhh, the 9's...those are priceless. Looking forward to the discussion!

At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've definitely got to take into account those East German judges and the fact that an absolutely fantastic manuscript might not final (at least, that's what I told myself after last year, LOL!). But finaling is such a blast--I definitely got queries read and fulls requested after I finaled.

Something to bear in mind is that the GH will open doors, but won't sell your ms. You've got to do that the old fashioned way--by writing the best book you possibly can.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Karen said...

Bear in mind, also, that five judges will read your partial, not the usual three you get in chapter contests. As in skating, you can throw out the highest and lowest scores, or you can get out your calculator to figure your average. Either way, you can come out of the experience with a benchmark for your manuscript. Good luck!


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