Image credit: Romance Writers of America
If you’re an unpublished RWA member with a completed manuscript, you might want to consider entering the Golden Heart Contest.
The Golden Heart is an annual contest for unpublished authors run by the Romance Writers of America. You can find all the details and rules here. I was a Golden Heart finalist this year, and I definitely wasn’t aware of all the benefits before I entered. A few people have asked me about the experience, so I wanted to put everything in one place. If you’re looking for the chance to build community and get your work and your name known before you sign a deal, hopefully this post will help you decide if entering the Golden Heart is right for you.
But first, a few tips about entering.
(Originally posted in the RWA-NYC Keynotes April newsletter. Reposting here by popular demand.)
In mid-December, I decided to enter the Golden Heart® contest. The deadline was January 11th. On December 14th, I had a 100,000-word first draft and the holidays were approaching. If I was going to do this, I needed a plan.
One friend had recently shown me her bullet journal, and I knew of another author, C.L. Polk (author of Witchmark, coming 2018 from Tor.com), who uses journaling to develop new story ideas. My background is in art, so there’s always something appealing to me about working on paper. I wanted to try using a bullet journal to help me revise and edit my novel in four weeks. Inspired, I grabbed one of my many spare notebooks, a 24-pack of Paper Mate Flair felt-tip pens, and a ruler, and got to work.
Contests are something of a hot topic. Some writers don’t see the point of them, while others are hesitant to break out of the safety of the contest circuit. I think chapter contests can be useful if you’re clear on what you hope to get out of them. In the last year, I’ve submitted sixteen entries to twelve RWA chapter contests. For most, I had my eye on the final judges, who are often agents and editors. It worked—I received requests from a contest, which led to offers of representation and publication. For others, I wanted feedback, to see how the piece was received and if it fit the genre.
I read a blog post by Angi Morgan where she compiled the comments she’d received from various contests, and it made me curious about my own results. I’ve submitted opening pages from four unpublished manuscripts in different categories and tried to draw conclusions. Here are the stats:
Title: Take the Lead (formerly Feel the Rhythm)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Contests entered: 6
Title: The Art of Loving a Duke
Genre: Historical Romance
Contests entered: 2
Title: Venus Rising (formerly Aphrodite’s Heart)
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Contests entered: 7 (3x as contemporary, 4x as paranormal)
Wins: (Winners announced end of August)
Title: Say Please
Genre: Sci-Fi Erotic Romance novella
Contests entered: 1
I like crunching data, and contests offer a lot to crunch. In the interest of time, I’ve compiled the scores, averages, entry lengths, and results. In each case where I finaled, I incorporated the first round feedback before submitting for the final round. Results are included at the end, in case you want to jump right to the conclusions and takeaways.
A lesson in focusing on the good things you have in front of you instead of longing for the thing that’s “over there,” and focusing on what you have done instead of the thing you didn’t do.
I didn’t attend the RWA national conference this summer in San Diego. I could have. I should have. And yet I didn’t. Mostly because I didn’t want to spend the money on an expensive conference and flight when I’m not yet published, and if I’d gone, I would have spent an extra week in SoCal visiting family members (and spending more money). It’s also partly because I mixed up the RWA and SDCC dates. In any case, I didn’t go to either event, and experienced serious FOMO as a result.