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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Thursday, November 08, 2007

What To Do When The GH Call Doesn't Happen

When I was in college, I was applying for a work scholarship that I really REALLY wanted (and needed).  At one point in the process, all the administrators would leave us alone with the students currently working under the scholarship.  They called it Realities of the Job.

The energy and excitement about entering the GH has been great on this blog, but there is a sad reality - there's only so many finalist spots, and most of those who enter won't final.  I'll raise my hand and say I entered way more times than I ever finaled.  In fact, several years ago, I participated in a blog challenge where authors posted the first bit of their writing.  I posted the prologue of my first book, the one I couldn't wait to finish because I was going to enter it in the Golden Heart.  I received not one but TWO scores of 1.  Ouch.  If you're a glutton for punishment, I dug up that old blog entry - it's here.

So since I am a member of the Wet Noodle Posse, obviously my first suggestion is to enter the Golden Heart again the next year if you're still eligible.

Second, realize that the Golden Heart, like any contest, is a crapshoot.  You get five judges, who may or may not be the best judge, and who all have to pretty much agree (although standard deviation is used).

Get other feedback.  When I wrote the book that scored 1's in the Golden Heart, I didn't have a critique group, nor had I entered any other contests.  Chapter contests costs can add up, but you can really get the kind of objective feedback you might need.  I have a critique group, but lots of authors don't (NYT Bestselling author Sharon Sala comes to mind).  Even if you don't have the time or energy to commit to a full group, I'd advise finding one person whose opinion you trust (and is familiar with the genre) to give a fair read.   

Dig In.  Not finaling might just the thing to prompt you into writing more.  I know it does for me.  Anytime I received a poor contest result or a rejection, my first reaction was to go, "oh yeah?" and try even harder.  I took a long, hard critical look at my writing...was I writing something different with a unique spin?  Or was it more of the same?  Did my writing prompt someone to keep reading or was it a snoozefest of boring things happening to boring people?

This is a great time for you - change genres, look at your plot and when something looks to be going one way, switch it to keep your reader guessing.  My critique partner, Gena Showalter, often says she likes to write herself into a corner.  Write yourself into a corner, then write yourself back out!  Have a goal of being ineligible for the Golden Heart next year.

Acknowledge that it stinks not to final.  I know it is so disappointing when you don't final - believe me, I was there.  You have a lot of hope, a lot of yourself is invested in finaling.  You hear all these great stories about the GH call leading to sales.  That's your dream, too, and now you'll have to wait an entire year to try to achieve it.  Give yourself one day.  One day to be upset, mad, angry whatever.  Eat something filled with carbs.  Gripe to your best friend.  Then the next day, get right back and start writing - maybe even into a corner.  Work to make yourself ineligible for the Golden Heart! (Do you see the pattern?)

Don't Be In The House.  Really, just be away from  your phone and e-mail the day those calls go out.  You'll drive yourself crazy.  Every time the phone rings, you'll jump.  Every time you get a new e-mail, it's another person announcing they finaled.  Go out.  See a movie, just do something.  Really, coming home to a message on your answering machine is far better than waiting by the phone that's not ringing and getting down. 

Make The GH Final Gravy.  I'd never heard this phrase until I met my husband, but it's a good philosophy to have.  Have other writing irons in the fire - queries out, other projects going, set yourself up with all kinds of rewards for setting writing goals.  In other words, get your potatoes mashed, salted and buttered just the way you like them.  Then, if the GH call does come, it's just gravy.  One more thing to make those potatoes (your real meal) good. 

Finaling in the Golden Heart is great, but it shouldn't be your goal.  Writing the best work you can and getting published should be.  Many, many people get published, hit NY Times, you name it without ever finaling in the GH.  A GH final is fantastic, it gets your writing in front of an acquiring editor, but so does a lot of things.  So my last suggestion is to keep working on those other things.  

With that said - good luck!

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At 3:48 PM, Blogger JeanneD said...

OMG! Your blog with the GH entry is too funny! Thanks for being brave and sharing it! LOL

At 4:55 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

You are such a dear for posting this!!

And the gravy has officially made me hungry.... :)

At 7:36 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I do like the gravy analogy, Jill. I also agree with getting out of the house the day of the calls, but I must say I have NEVER done that! Maybe I'll give it a try in 2008.

It's funny how MORE than finaling in the GH we would all like to be ineligible to enter...

At 7:59 PM, Blogger banksofmillbrook said...

After spending the morning grimacing over a particularly lame-o prologue in one of my wips (which I think I'm finally ready to dump) reading your prologue really made my day. Especially your comment on the "contents" thing...I'm a thesaurus junkie and that one really got me laughing!

I love the idea of having multiple rewards and goals -- that way there's always a new path to the dream to travel on and a different project to push you forward. Funny how you can get so tunnel-visioned with a particular ms...thinking this one HAS to be it. It's super hard for me to let go, but once I do, I'm happier for it.

At 9:37 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Jill, your old entry is hilarious! I wonder who was nice enough to give you a 5!? Just kidding. The man in the shadow is great! :)

At 10:02 PM, Blogger doglady said...

Jill, I really appreciate this post! I am printing it and hanging it by my computer. It works for so many of the slings and arrows you have to suffer to make it in this business. I have finally learned to give myself one day when I get hammered in a contest to have a pity party. Then it is back to work, but oh sometimes it is so hard!! This was a great, great post!

At 10:48 PM, Blogger Jill Monroe said...

Ladies - thanks for the kind comments concerning my post, as well as the teasing about my first ever entry into the GH.

I don't know who that oh, so kind person is who gave me a 5 because really, the book doesn't get much better than that! I also entered it into a chapter writing contest, and one of the judges wrote that it had given them a headache! Funny now - so painful back then.

I always wonder if someone is out there reading that prologue now and going, "I remember that!"

Banks - I firmly believe in letting go. I know people who started writing the same time I did, and are still working on that first manuscript. I could still be reworking A Political Affair, but good grief, why? And I learned so much more on writing and finishing several other book than to keep tweaking that bad book.

Doglady - I'm honored you're printing that off : )

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Jill, your example is one reason why I would never want to discourage a beginning writer. One comment, like, "Your writing gives me a headache" might convince a writer to give it all up. More power to you that you didn't.
Some people have what seems to be an innate way with words, a knack for both the story-telling and the craft, but some can learn both. If they are entering a contest they have the desire and that is worth nurturing!

You've all done what you can to control your outcome of the Golden Heart--you've written the best book you could write for right now. Now it is up to Fate to decide what happens.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

In the spirit of Jill's entry, here is the first paragraph of a prologue I wrote for the first historical I ever attempted, which didn't final in the GH. My hero apparently had an affinity for describing the decor and for trying out all the seats in the room! LOL

Stewart Hall, SC, 1811, Early Fall

Captain Noah Randolf had sat on the butter yellow satin sofa in the Stewart's newly redecorated parlor for at least a quarter of an hour. He had paced from the large paneled door to the marble mantle {yes, homonym error} and back again more times than he cared to count. He had sat tentatively on the edge of the graceful side chairs covered in a complementary yellow silk and settled himself yet again on the sofa while waiting for Seth, who as usual was late. Why he had ever agreed to meet with his former friend, he had yet to determine. And as he sat mopping his glistening forehead with his handkerchief, Noah decided he had waited long enough in this hotbox of a room. With no trees to shade this new addition, the room quickly heated up in the September afternoon sun. As he heard a soft familiar voice, Noah recalled his reason for answering his summons to Stewart Hall. Anne.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

OMG, Jill, great post! And how good of you to share.

I echo Diane's concern about that judge's comment. I've read entries that sent me reaching for the Ibuprofen, too, but I'd never say that. How can those judges forget that their own writing must once have given some poor judge a tough job? Of course, maybe they think they were amazing writers right out of the gate.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I agree, Norah. No judge needs to actually say that they need ibuprofen even if they do.

Maureen, I like the start to your first book, even if the hero does have an affinity for furniture. :) The scene made me tire of waiting also, as if I was right there in the room with him.

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

Jill, I love your mashed potatoes and gravy analogy!

I relished that GH gravy with several finalist manuscripts, which by the way have never sold.

In 2005 and 2006 I entered a manuscript that never finaled, although I was so sure it had a shot. As it turned out, that book was my first sale! Not bad for "just plain mashed potatoes"!

At 2:17 PM, Blogger Christine Rimmer said...

Great advice, Jill. Argh. Sometimes I think being a writer is just too damn thankless of a job. Which is, I guess, why only people who can't stop keep doing it!


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