Elizabeth: The Fate of the Golden Heart

RWA’s Golden Heart necklace, awarded to each Golden Heart winner.

One of the clearest memories I have about the very first RWA conference I went to was the Golden Heart award ceremony.  I hadn’t known what the contest was all about before I attended the conference, but afterwards, entering the contest (and winning, of course!) went on the writing project plan, somewhere between “finish the manuscript” and “find an agent” – and seemed a sure stepping-stone to “see my book on the shelf at the local bookstore.”

The woman I sat next to in several workshop sessions, as well as at the awards dinner, turned out to be the winner in one of the contemporary categories.  When she accepted her award, she confidentially ended her thanks with, “all you agents out there, have I got a book for you.”  I was sure that, had I remembered her name, I’d have found her book out in the bookstore in short-order after her win.

Oh, for those wide-eyed innocent days. Continue reading

Jilly: Five Great Writing Craft Resources

What are your go-to references for improving your chosen skill–creative, mechanical, sporting, whatever’s important to you?

I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t spend any more money on writing craft—no books, workshops, courses or conferences—unless I come across something exceptional. It’s not that my writing is so good I don’t need it, but that I already have a great collection of resources at my fingertips and I’ve only scratched the surface of most of them.

Even if I write for another 20 years (and I intend to), I bet I could find the answers to 99.9% of my craft problems on my current bookshelf or the internet. My challenge is to digest all that great advice, evaluate it, select the bits that I need most in order to power up my strengths, bolster my weaknesses, and widen my skill-set, and apply those lessons until they become second nature.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in this post that I was surprised to discover how much I’ve absorbed about the process of self-publishing. I’ve also learned that some craft resources hit the spot for me, while other famous names slide through my brain and out again, leaving no trace. I had fun choosing my favorite indie publishing resources, so I decided to play the same game with the writing craft references. I found it surprisingly easy to pick the ones I believe will support my writing journey all the way to the pearly gates.

Your mileage may vary (I’d love to know!), but here are my choices: Continue reading

Jilly: Ten Great Indie Publishing Resources

One of the most interesting changes at this year’s RWA National conference was the increased focus on indie publishing. For me, the timing was excellent.

Four years ago, when I attended my first Nationals, I was only vaguely aware of self-publishing. I fully intended to pursue a traditional publishing career and I found plenty of workshops to help me understand the role of agent and editor, to perfect my pitch, and to polish my query letter.

As I started submitting to agents and entering contests with my dream industry judges, I also began to seek out sources of information to educate myself about the industry I was planning to join. To my amazement I found a freely available treasure trove of solid, actionable information and over the last couple of years I’ve gradually come to believe that independent publishing will be a better match for my personal priorities, timelines and ambitions.

I attended a number of the indie-focused workshops in Orlando, and I was surprised to discover how much I already knew. So instead of recapping my learnings from the conference, I thought perhaps I should share the online resources I find most valuable: Continue reading

Jilly: Don’t Leave Your Story in the Cold Over the Holidays

dont-leave-your-story-in-the-coldCan you believe it’s December already? How’s your month looking? Busy?

May I add something to your schedule? Earmark a few minutes each day – five, ten, fifteen, whatever you can shoehorn in – to make sure your story doesn’t get lost in the seasonal brouhaha.

Even for a holiday humbug like me, December is a time sink. It was worse when I had a day job – closing the payroll ten days early with the extra headache of bonuses to calculate and pay; a year end to prepare for; and in the middle of the financial scramble, parties to organize and/or attend for staff, clients and suppliers.

I’m glad I don’t have to do that any more. My life is also relatively quiet on the family front, but my calendar is still filling up. Multiple catch-ups with friends and ex-colleagues who are home for the holidays. A birthday trip to see the Abstract Expressionists at the Royal Academy. A night at the theatre. A few days with my mum, even though she doesn’t really know it’s Christmas anymore. Visits on mum’s behalf to her friends and ex-neighbors. A haircut. Gift and grocery shopping. A rare opportunity to see my expat brother, who’s flying home for a couple of weeks.

In the midst of all this activity, my immediate writing priority Continue reading

Jilly: Observations of a Contest Judge

Observations of a Contest JudgeI finally finished my last round of contest judging for this year. Not before time 🙂

I try to give all entries two or three reads and offer honest, constructive, actionable feedback. It’s time-consuming but from a purely selfish perspective it’s worth the effort. I learn something valuable every time. Last year I read a couple of outstanding entries. I posted about that recently (Storyteller v Smooth Writer).

This year I’ve read a lot of competent writing, grammatically correct, properly punctuated, with interesting characters and an intriguing premise. I don’t think I’ve read a single story that would tempt me to keep reading by the end of the pages, let alone a book that I’d shell out money for.

Continue reading

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: Continue reading

Justine: Write It Down or Forget It

My

My “Little Black Book”

This summer’s RWA conference wasn’t the best for me (see this post for reasons why). What’s worse was what I discovered after I got home. My black Moleskine, which contained every little tidbit of information, ideas, notes, practice log lines, minutiae from my trip to England this past May, all the “Heyer-isms” I’d written down after listening to hundreds of hours of her books, advice from fellow writers I’d gleaned at our local RWA chapter meetings…in other words, my entire writing life – was missing.

Gone.

Like that.

*snaps fingers*

I’d never felt so sick in my life.

But there’s Continue reading