Nancy: What I Learned from Reading Seven Romances in a Week(ish)

Like some of the other ladies on the blog, this year I was a judge for an RWA contest, the RITA. I was tasked with reading seven published books in different contest categories (read: not competing against each other) and given approximately two months to complete and score them. Easy peasy. I would read one contest book per week, record my scores online, and be done in plenty of time.

Er…Um…Well, you know how it goes. I got behind on writing here, picked up books off my TBR pile there, got distracted by a shiny object across the room, and the next thing I knew, I only had two weeks left to read all seven of my entries. Goal: seven romance books in seven days, with a week of wiggle room. Outcome: seven books in ten days. Deadline, schmedline. I finished with four days to spare.

Because I’ve always read in diverse genres and like to mix it up, I’m not sure I’ve ever read that many books in a row in romance or any other single category. This unusual (for me) approach to reading allowed me to compare and contrast the books as a reader and as a writer. Three of the books were quite good. If I’d been reading them in the wild, I would have stuck with them and probably given up some sleep and, for one or two of them, possibly even some writing time to finish the stories. A fourth was also good and I would have finished it, but it would have taken me a few days and several reading sessions to do so. A fifth was just ‘meh’ for me, and absent the requirement to read it for the contest, I might have wandered away from it if I’d had another book waiting. (And honestly, who doesn’t always have another book or ten waiting?) As for the last two books, oy! They would have been DNFs for me if I’d had a choice.

Following are my top takeaways from going all romance, all the time, for seven books and ten days, starting with the good, moving to the bad, and ending with the ugly. Continue reading

Justine: The Romance Writing Olympics

golden heart, rwa, justine covington, writing contest, romance writing

Your type of jewelry? The Golden Heart® necklace, given to winners of the Golden Heart writing contest for unpublished romance writers.

By the time many of you read this (well, those of you west of Mountain Standard Time), I’ll have registered for the Olympics of unpublished romance writers: The Golden Heart®. I’ve been training for this competition for years — both as a reader and as a writer.

Sponsored by Romance Writers of America®, it is THE contest for unpubbed romance writers. They cap the entries at 1,200. Yes, 1,200! It’s that popular.

There are several categories, including Contemporary, Erotic, Historical (mine!), Inspirational, Paranormal, Romantic Suspense, Short Contemporary, and Young Adult.

A couple years ago, they changed the judging guidelines. Now, the top 10% in each category make it to the final round (but you must have a minimum score of 80%). There are five judges per entry; scores are calculated by dropping the highest and lowest, then averaging the three remaining scores.

As with any contest, your score is entirely dependent on the judge, and almost any RWA member can judge. If you get someone who just doesn’t connect with your story (which has happened to me), you’re potentially screwed. It doesn’t mean you have a bad story, but it does mean you might not qualify as a finalist, and unlike Michael Phelps, my goal isn’t really to win…it’s to final.

There are a few benefits to being a finalist — some are more important than others Continue reading