Well it's late in the 2006 contest season for us, but we are just getting started. We missed the January and February contests for a variety of reasons. If you are an aspiring author of Romance, then you are probably already familiar with Donna Carrabeaux's terrific Contest Deadlines Yahoo list.
Cai and I have been steadily buffing and polishing two separate pieces. We did have four pieces ready to go, but had to make a decision as to which two we wanted to go! Instead of sending in two brand new mss, we sent in one that is brand-new. The other we sent round the contest gauntlet in 2004 and got the same answers across the board. Our heroine was TSTL. Ouch! Never what you want to hear!
I ripped apart the first 25 pages of that ms! I put her on a motorcycle and had her chase the bad guys. Cai gently took her back off the motorcycle. I went back to the original scene and began tightening. The way Cai and I work well together is in write/edit/write/. One of us starts by writing. The second one then reads and edits that portion and then writes past as much as she can. The first one gets it all back and proceeds forward with editing her own bit, then the other's, then writing forward.
At some point we have to decide to stop going back over the beginning and just push forward. This ms was FINIS at about 45k. It needs to be 90k to equal its counterpart which has done extremely well on the contest rounds. It is in the hands of two editors as well as an agent at this point. We have all our fingers crossed to hear something from one of the three.
I am also a judge for several contests. One is a major one in our industry. I just sent my scores in. Here are a few things I want to share with those whose entries I judged even though I have NO CLUE who they are.
1. Ten pages of backstory is too much. No really! I do not need or WANT to know why her grandmother lost her left pinky.
2. If I can make a formula and someone else can fill in the blanks, you need to get something fresher.
3. I discovered that injured animals and bloody wedding dresses are far more intriguing than I ever thought possible.
4. Please assume I am stupid and have never seen something. SHOW it to me with your words. Create a picture for me please.
And most of all, no matter what I or any other judge puts on your work, don't toss the baby out with the bathwater. Hang on to that ms even if you have to put it under your bed for a year or ten. Grin! Then reread the judges comments. See where they mesh. Ok, so your heroine is Too Stupid To Live. She made your first choice editor hurl the ms across the room and then hurl her cookies. Yeah, that hurts, but you can fix that!
As an author, you can fix whatever problem there is. But remember this as well. If only one judge says something, don't go on their opinion only. Judging is incredibly subjective. In fact romance contests may have just surpassed Figure Skating as the most subjective judging around.
As the saying goes, have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.