Thursday, April 10, 2008

From NaNo to The Genesis Contest and Beyond...

"If it means anything, I would've requested a full manuscript based on these chapters and would expect you to deliver on it, ..."
Oh wow! They're talking about my writing. They like it! They really like it! Sally Fields, I finally know how you feel because those words were written by a judge (a freelance editor and acquisitions reader),who liked Charley's Saint - my last Nov NaNo project. Let me tell you the story:

Last Nov I decided to sign up for National Novel Writing Month on the eharl site. It entailed the attempt to write a complete 55,000 word novel in 30 days. That's approx 1833 words per day.
I wrote Charley's Saint during this month. I finished on Nov 28th with 57,238 words and 256 pages. Mission accomplished, right? But that was only the beginning. The part was next...the revisions and the tweaking. I found a critique partner and sent the chapters to her and revised it and tweaked it somemore. And then I put it away for a bit.

Before I get carried away, I would like to thank all my friends on the NaNo thread for their tips, hugs and support. You guys are great!

So, during the last week of Feb, my inner voice was asking why I wasn't entering it in the Genesis Contest sponsored by the American Christian Fiction Writers. But, it costs money, I told myself. Yes, but you get real feedback, my inner voice responded. So I looked over the rules and whatnots and yes, every entry was guaranteed scores/comments from 3 judges. And the fee was only $30 per entry. Now I don't know about you, but I don't know anywhere I can get a ‘critique' from a professional in the publishing business for 30 bucks let alone 3 of them!

With the deadline only a week away, I pulled out Charley's Saint and poured over it once more. Did I have the guts to enter it? I knew I had a lot of eharl friends over on the NaNo thread who'd expressed interest in reading the completed ms just from my daily reports and ‘best lines'.
But I needed to know if I actually had what it takes to write a good novel. So, I tweaked Charley's Saint some more and then entered it in the contemporary category. And there were still a few days before the deadline.

But wait! I had started a historical romance during my writing group's Book in a Week in Jan 08. It was over a third complete. Did I have the ability to write a realistic novel set in the American Old West? Or would it sound like it was written by a transplanted person from the 21st century?

So, I pulled up my project, An Outlaw for the Lady, and started working on it. Unfortunately, I didn't have the benefit of a critique partner at this time so I was on my own. I read, researched and revised. Read and revised again, repeatedly, trying for that moment when my inner voice said, ‘That's it!' And it finally happened 2 days before the deadline. I probably should have waited anothr day and then looked it over once more but I was worried about computer problems, power failures etc, so I sent it in.

Then settled down to wait. Knowing that I wouldn't win, but praying that I'd final. I mean they pick 5 finalists in each category...surely one of those spots was saved for me, right?

Wrong! The results came out 3 nights ago and neither of my entries had finaled. Drat!

2 nights ago I rec'd the judges' scores & comments for An Outlaw for a Lady. It was hard to open those attachments but I'm glad I did. Although one judge didn't like it and gave me a below avg score, the other 2 were above avg with an overall score of above avg. Okay, so I passed. Whew!

But it was the feedback that I needed! The judges' scores and comments show me exactly where my strengths and weaknesses are.

And even on the sheet with the lowest score, the judge commented, "I see instant conflict including a spiritual battle." And "I'm hearing a strong western voice with a certain authenticity..."

I needed to hear comments like those especially from a judge who didn't think my writing was as strong as it should be. All the judges used ‘track changes' on the word document so I could see where I need to work on the ms. This is great!

Mind you, when I read the scores and comments to my hubby his mouth turned into a thin white line and his eyebrows touched his nose. I actually thought he was going to jump up and rant, "How dare they!" :-)

Last night the results for Charley's Saint came in. It was harder to look at these because I hadn't thought I could tweak it any more. Boy, was I naïve!

But I rec'd above average scores. I am so pleased with the results. I am also awed by those that did final in the Genesis Contest.

For Charley's Saint, I think the best compliment came from the judge that said, "If it means anything, I would've requested a full manuscript based on these chapters and would expect you to deliver on it..."

... it's like I can now say when I get published and not if I get published, ya know?


  1. oh wow! sorry you didn't final in the contest, but a woo hoo! for the positive comments from the editor about Charley's Saint.

    i've attempted NaNo three times and have not been successful, mainly because i didn't fully commit myself. your story gives me a good reason to rethink things and get more committed.

    "when" defintitely sounds better than "if". yay Anita Mae!


  2. Hey writer2b - I'm glad you found me here and thanks for your kind words.
    Especially since you beat me out in the last writer's challenge. Woo hoo to you!!! That was some entry you put out there.
    About NaNo, the fact that you've attempted it makes it a success because there are so many would-be writers who don't even try.
    And by attempting it on the eharl site instead of the national one, you can set your own goal. I mean if you've tried to write the complete novel in a month and haven't succeeded, then try half or even a third of that length.
    How far have you gone on your best attempt so far? A goal for you might be to surpass your best attempt by 5 or 10 thousand words.
    As long as you're advancing, you will have a personal best and that fact alone is a success.
    Keep writing and I'll see you on the eharl threads...

  3. Yes, the setting for An Outlaw for the Lady is 1883 Wyoming Territory, but I haven't been working on it since I entered it in the Genesis.
    And I should have been!
    CBA agent, Rachelle Gardner has just put out a call for historical romances and if this wip was finished, I could've sent the query in to her.
    It just goes to show that you'll never know when the call could come and you have to be ready.
    Hmmm...that sounds kinda biblical... :-)


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