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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Rules - Golden Heart Style

Every year at Golden Heart time, on my various loops, come frantic emails questioning The Rules of the Golden Heart. Most of these questions can be answered by going to the RWA website and just carefully reading the rules or looking in the FAQs for judging. But I understand that one just becomes emotional about this contest, because it is so very important.

Here are the areas that seem to get the most questions:

1. Formatting
"What font am I supposed to use?" "Will I be judged down if I use Times New Roman?"
People remember (or remember hearing about) the huge fiasco of a Golden Heart year when there were all kinds of very specific formatting rules, bunches of them That year lots and lots of entries were disqualified, including mine. The current Golden Heart Rules only tell what to put in the header and to double-space. That's it.

After that GH formatting fiasco, RWA decided to design the Golden Heart to mimic the real submission process. Because editors and agents have said over and over that they just want readable manuscripts, ones that won't strain their eyes. Editors and agents don't reject manuscripts because the margins are too narrow.

But if you must have a rule for formatting, here's one: one inch margins all around, 25 lines per page, Courier New 12 pt, drop down 1/3 of the page (eight double spaces) for the beginning of a chapter. Turn off your widows and orphans.

You don't have to do it that way, though. You really can use Times New Roman.

2. Contest Category
The contest categories were changed last year and it is best that you put the old categories out of your mind. There are no short and long historical categories, for example; no short and long series. Almost every manuscript will meet that word count.

The new categories give the entrant more flexibility in deciding where their books fit best. You decide if your manuscript fits best in Romantic Suspense or Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure, for example. Ask youself where you want to sell this manuscript. Do you want to sell to Harlequin? Then put it in a series category.

Historical entrants, there are two categories. Historical Romance, defined as Romance novels set in any time period prior to 1945, and taking place in any location. Regency Historical Romance, defined as Romance novels in which the majority of the story is set against the Regency period of the British Empire. Is there a contradiction here? Couldn't Regencies be entered in Historical? They could, by definition, but ask yourself what kind of book is this, a Regency or some other kind of Historical? Put it in the category that best answers that question.

Entrants are going to remember that the old Regency category was the one in which Traditional Regencies were entered. The new Regency Historical category is for all manuscripts set in the Regency era.

What if your book has elements of two categories, like it's a paranormal historical, or a historical suspense story? Or it's a young adult with a paranormal or suspense element? In these cases, there is no right or wrong answer to what category is the "right" one. Again, ask yourself what kind of book is this? Let your answer be your guide.

3. Definition of unpublished
The Golden Heart is open to writers who have not accepted a publishing offer from a non-subsidy, non-vanity publisher. Read the definition of what non-subsidy, non-vanity means in the rules. It is pretty clear, and if you have any questions, call RWA.

Some of you will still have questions about what the rules. Ask here! If I can't answer I'll try to find someone who can.

Diane's Scandalizing the Ton, her Regency Paparazzi story, is available in bookstores now!


At 11:03 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Hi Diane. Thanks for the recap. I can't believe I might be entering the golden heart yet again! Ha! Anyhow, if anyone is interested I have used both Times New Roman 12, Times New Roman 13, and Courier New 12 and I have finaled with all three... Go figure. I personally think less is more when it comes to squeezing pages in. With synopsis, I don't think I've ever gone over 51 or 52 pages...instead of the 55 pages allowed.

If any of you have ANY questions at all, this is the place to come! We're happy to help out. Thanks for putting all this great advice out there, Diane!

At 1:13 PM, Blogger Prisakiss said...

Diane, thanks for setting us all straight. :-)

You're right, sometimes we get so nervous about making a mistake, we wind up making the process more difficult than it has to be.

Any one out there have any formatting questions they'd like to toss our way?


At 2:32 PM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

One question. What if you've been previously published in a format other than novel with a non-subsidy, non-vanity publisher? (e.g. short story, poems, etc.)

Does that disqualify you for the Golden Heart?

At 6:17 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Patricia, according to the rules on page 26 of the October 2008 RWR, "The Golden Heart contest is open to writers who have not accepted a publishing offer for a work of original fictional narrative prose of 20,000 words or more from any non-Subsidy, non-Vanity Publisher by the contest entry deadline. If you have questions about whether your publisher is a non-Subsidy, non-Vanity Publisher, e-mail"

It sounds like you are okay if your published work is LESS than 20,000 words.

You might want to e-mail RWA for further clarification...

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

That 20,000 words is roughly 80 pages which would be a novella. So technically, since I have only published short stories, I would still be qualified to enter the GH. So I think you're probably okay to enter. Please do call RWA if you're not sure.


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