Jilly: Embarrassing

embarrassingWhen’s the last time you did something really stupid? Something so obviously dumb that when it’s pointed out to you, you can’t believe you did it?

That would be me this week.

I said in last week’s post that one of my main writing goals this year is to enter Alexis’s story in the RWA Golden Heart contest. I also wrote: I’ve entered Alexis in a few contests already, well-established ones with a track record of training their first round judges. I’ll use the feedback from those to consider what changes (if any) I’ll make to my opening pages. I don’t think major revisions will be needed…

Yeah, no. Thank goodness I did enter Alexis in those contests, because I got some feedback from one of them this week, and it was a *facepalm* experience.

One of the questions on the judges’ score sheet for this particular contest was: If I was judging this entry in the Golden Heart, I would give it a… The judge gave me 1 from a possible 10 points. In the comments she wrote:

This book was very well done and I enjoyed the characters and the action. This author is a talented writer and I’d love to see more of the writer’s story. The only hitch is I didn’t see any sign of a romance in the story at all. The two main characters don’t appear to be attracted to one another and nowhere in the synopsis do I see a romance. I hated having to score the story down in the sections that ask about romance, but frankly, it doesn’t appear to be a romance novel.

WTH? Whatever else this story may or may not be, it’s surely a romance.

The love story between Alexis and Kierce is a slow build. At the beginning of the story Alexis is passing as a man, she’s mortally sick, and her only plan is to get healthy and get out of town. Kierce has other ideas, but not romantic ones. Love would be the last thing on his mind, even if he saw past her monkish disguise, which he does not, at least not in the first 50 pages of the book. So I knew I’d have to give the reader signals about their long-term future that the characters themselves are entirely unaware of. I thought I’d done a decent job of it, but I wanted to know whether the signals were strong enough. Apparently not. I have work to do there, and I’d half expected it.

The glaring problem was my synopsis. Months ago, when I prepared my contest entry, I was confident in the romance plot, because that’s what’s most important to me. I was worried about the adventure plot, so I spent some time picking at it and filling in gaps. And then I was so proud of myself, I wrote a synopsis that was entirely about the adventure plot and ignored the love story. There was zero romance in my synopsis. And nothing in the opening pages to mitigate my howler.

My other judge was smart (and kind) enough to intuit what I had intended. Her comment was: this is not a fault of the story, but of the synopsis.

They were both right. I am extremely grateful to them, and even more relieved that somebody pointed this out to me before I tripped myself up in the Golden Heart and wasted an opportunity.

I’m still mortified that I made such a basic mistake.

Misery loves company, and embarrassment does too. Please share my blushes. If you have a *headdesk* story, I’d love to hear it. Hopefully it turned out okay in the end.

5 thoughts on “Jilly: Embarrassing

  1. Oh, ouch! That’s something I worry about (and I’m pretty sure I do it, too) — I forget to write down the bits that are so overwhelmingly clear to me, and the reader gets confused.

    I do like writing romance, and I fully intend to include romance and family elements in anything I write — but I’m OK if people don’t think what I write is romance. Sometimes it really isn’t . . . .

    For the Golden Heart, though (and also most editors and agents), it seems like you have to fit into the genre they are promoting. If you luck out and get an agent who does both romance and fantasy, you’ll be set.

    I don’t really have any stories to share because I haven’t been brave enough to share my stories. The more chances you take, the more you’ll fail . . . but it also means the more you can win.

    • Exactly that – I forgot to write down what was overwhelmingly clear to me. It’s a problem for Golden Heart, because that’s specifically a romance writing contest. GH has a deal breaker yes/no question that says something like ‘is this story a romance?’ If two judges say ‘no’, your entry is disqualified and you don’t even get a score. Argh.

      It does demonstrate the benefits of showing your writing to somebody else – contest judges or trusted beta readers. Third party feedback really does help to identify the important bits that are still in your head and not on the page 😉 .

  2. Pingback: Justine: Slow Burn in Romance – Eight Ladies Writing

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