Monday, March 31, 2014

The Sane Writer's Guide to Surviving the Heartbreak of No Golden Heart / Rita Call

Okay, forget I said "Sane." Even Gerard Butler got a laugh out of that one ! There is no such thing as a sane writer. If you find one, let me know and then back away slowly. They're either a Pod Person or an Alien and we're in a Roland Emmerich movie.

The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying
thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine addled,
crippled by procrastination, and consumed
by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and
soul-crushing inadequacy. And that's on 
a good day. 
                          Robert de Niro
                           2014 Oscars

Everyone in our little community, unless they were hiding under a rock doing revisions for a dictatorial editor whose sole mission in life is to torture writers, knows the Golden Heart and Rita calls went out this past Wednesday. 



Not getting a call, even when you really, really wanted one is not the end of the world. It isn't even the end of your writing career. It does sting, however, and anyone who entered and didn't final is entitled to feel let down, a little depressed and even a tiny bit ticked off. Writers may not be sane, but we are human, at least after we've had a cup of coffee or three. 

Thus, the point of this blog post. (Finally !! you say. I thought she'd never shut up. "Get to the pernt, Edith!" Extra points if you get the reference.) 

Here are a few do's and don'ts for surviving this bump in the road.

1. Realize that is all it is - a bump in the road. It's just a contest like any other and even with all of 
    the new rule changes and the new point system it is STILL subjective. You can't please all of the
    people all of the time. (And if you can, get some Blistex, honey 'cause your lips have got to be
    chapped. :) )

2. Take some time to give yourself a pity party. I limit mine to 24 hours, but you can set your own
     limit, so long as you set one. Scarf enormous quantities of chocolate, wine and pizza. Lay around
     in your pajamas (Bathing optional : But only if you're single, not leaving the house and/or your
     significant other and children are out of town.) Treat yourself to a Downton Abbey marathon or
     a mani / pedi or anything else that makes you feel better. 

3. Congratulate those who did final. It is a huge honor and they deserve it. Celebrate with them. And
    feel pleased for them. It's good karma and it's the right thing to do. Not to mention there might be
    more wine and chocolate involved.

4. There are a number of blog posts and discussion loops dissecting the new scoring system, the 
    number of finalists in some categories, the revamping of the process - you name it. Go ahead
    and read them if you like. Might make you feel better. Might not. BUT (We're talking BIG BUT,
    here. One of the BUT SISTERS big. We're talking Kim Kardashian in white spandex BIG!) if 
    you comment on these posts Be Kind. Be Thoughtful. And realize without exact statistical data
    most speculation is exactly that - speculation. RWA is not a perfect organization. Even after all
    of these years RWA is still growing and adjusting. We'll get it right, but not if we fight amongst
    ourselves. We are a sisterhood (with a few brothers thrown in for good measure) and like all
    sisters we will disagree from time to time. Don't say things you can't take back. Don't air the 
    family's dirty laundry in public. No hair pulling and no hitting. We're Romance Writing Sisters
    NOT the Kardashian Sisters. We're writers! If you have a grievance, an idea, or just something to
    say - write it down and zip it off to RWA. Get it off your chest without putting an axe in your 
    fellow writer's cleavage. Save that for your next novel !   

5. When you get your scores back read them over. Scream. Cry. Plot the murder of the East German
     judge who tanked you with a score just low enough to keep you out of that 90%, call me and
     we'll plan how to get her body to the Alligator Farm without getting caught. Curse. Curse a lot. 
     Swear you'll never enter another contest and decide to pack in your writing career forever. 

6. Then print those scores out, put them in a folder and put them away for a few days, a week if you
    need it. After some time has passed, take them out and lay them side by side. Take stock. What
    areas did you score high in and what areas received low scores? Write each category down and put
    the five scores you received under it. If you see a judge's scores that are really off throw them out.
    That East German b*&^% is keeping company with the alligators. We don't care what she thinks.
    Look for consistencies. I have done this with every contest I have ever entered for every book I 
    have entered into contests. With forty-seven contest finals under my belt (Contest Slut) and 
    probably twice that in contests in which I didn't final I've got this down to a science. Consider
    those areas where you have consistencies, decide if they're valid and then do something about it.

               Take a class.      Read a craft book.     Talk to your critique partners.

   The only thing you can't fix is a blank page. Remember that because La Nora says so. I don't know
    about you, but I'm not about to take her on, sister. 

7. Get your butt back in that chair and WRITE, dammit! If you're a writer "We'll get 'em next year!"
    is not just a beauty queen wave at life's gut shots. It is a moral imperative. Keep at it. Not for the
    contest accolades, or the phone call next March 26th or the loads of money people think writers
    make. Not for the tiaras and the bon bons and the personal trainer named Joe.

  WRITE !! Because your day is coming. Your stories are going to change someone's life. They're going to give someone comfort when they need it, or a laugh when they need it, or a cry when they need it or just an escape from life when it gets tough to take. (Some of you ladies are going to have women's undying thanks when they finally get their husbands to read some of THOSE scenes and these guys figure out "Get off me, you're heavy." is NOT an expression of gratitude.)

8. Believe in yourself. So you didn't get a call. You are in good company. Plenty of writers I admire -
    published and unpublished didn't get calls this year. It doesn't change their talent or their skill or
    their ability to tell a great story. Doesn't change yours either. And if believing in yourself isn't 
    enough, find someone else who believes in you and know you're not in this alone.

   If you have trouble finding someone to believe in you, let me know. 

I believe in you.

So long as you keep trying, I always will. 

 Louisa Cornell

What tips do you have to offer to those who didn't get the call or perhaps got a rejection of some other sort? What do you do to deal with the bumps in the road on this writing journey? 


Christine said...

Love this post!! And you're right. It's not the end of the world if you don't final, but it does sting. I stopped entering the Golden Heart after 2011. I've never finaled in it and it always threw me off my writing game for a good week or more. Negative energy wasn't worth it. So I took stock and started entering contests where I got feedback and had done well. I also focused more on querying and following up on requests. You don't need a Golden Heart to sell a book--you just need a book to sell. I also think you're right about keeping your head down and moving on quietly to your own beat.

And I'm so stoked for Lexi George's RITA final!! Happy news. I also have a CP who finaled in the Golden Heart. Good news for her is good news for me. And even though I've never finaled in the Golden Heart, I've been a Golden Heart date two times. And it's actually more fun because you're not stressing about winning and you get to sit with cool people. That's GOOD energy.

Keep writing!! You're going to sell -- start querying and following up on all the requests because I KNOW YOU WILL SUCCEED!!!

Rashda Khan said...

Thanks for a good reminder post, Louisa!

Collette Cameron said...

Well said, Louisa! Hugs.

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

Great post, Louisa!! Hugs to you.

Lexi said...

Thanks for the shout out, Louisa. Couldn't survive the writing process without the support of other writers. And, even if I could, what fun would that be? Like Mr. King said, it's a lonely process and I need all the help I can get!

Cari Hislop said...

I've not yet entered any contests probably out of a deep fear of rejection (even placing for any of the RWA awards would be an honor "Go Lexi George!" - it's secretly a part of my "Dream as a Writer" - is there any romance writer who has watched Romancing the Stone and not notice Joan Wilder's RWA awards on the wall?). One of these days I'll take the plunge and face my inevitable fate, "Honey - I'm afraid even another ten thousand hours won't help this manuscript - there's no plot!" Cari's future reply - since when does a freaking book need a plot?

Seriously, I think you nailed it when you said that you have to focus on the subjectivity of awards. One persons favorite book is another person's "throw it on the fire - I'll get something out of it one way or the other". I have two sisters. One of my sisters loves my stories and thinks they're great (so she says). The other sister prefers stories with a narrator (unless its a book written in first person I don't like reading let alone writing narrators) so she thinks most of my stories are - meh! I think most of her favorite books in audio form should be termed torture! We should never underestimate individual taste!

I wish you luck with your next contest entry! May you strike gold.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Christine! And I am so proud of you for recognizing the negative energy the contest provided and the need to cut that out.

CONGRATS to your CP !! And being a GH date has got to be more fun than being a finalist.

We are going to COMPLETELY embarrass LEXI at the awards, aren't we. Lets see. We need cow bells, a bullhorn, and one of those really obnoxious horns. Who is with me? :)

Louisa Cornell said...

You're welcome, Rashda. Life is all about perspective. If you ain't the lead dog the view may never change, but you will still get there if you just keep pulling.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Collette! And thanks for being a great CP ! Our group always keeps me going.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Ella! And thank you for giving a kick to the pants when I need it.

Louisa Cornell said...

You're welcome, Lexi! I am so stoked for you! You've had a rough year and you deserve this honor!

I thought Stephen King's words were spot on and I know he says he would be nowhere without his wife who believed in his work when he didn't.

Louisa Cornell said...

And I wish you luck with yours as well, Cari. Send it out there. You never know what might happen and I can honestly say feedback from contests has helped me immeasurably.

I still go back and look at my chart of weaknesses and realize how much I have improved as a writer because I paid attention to the consistencies in judges' remarks and did something about it.

Sandra Owens said...

I understand both sides, and think we each know what's best for our aspirations as far as contests are concerned. I've done fairly well in them in the local RWA chapters' contests but mostly, I was looking for the feedback. I will admit I was thrilled to final in the 2013 Golden Heart and it's been an awesome ride ever since. The thing to remember though, it really is the luck of the draw. Did the judges who got your entries happen to love your story? I daresay if my entry had gone to different judges than the ones I was obviously fortunate to get, I likely wouldn't have finaled. And that's the thing about contests...there're no different from any given book. Some will love the book, some won't.

Great post, Louisa.

Sandra Owens said...

I hate it when I see an improper grammar usage just seconds after I hit submit.

I really do know the difference between there're and they're (as it should have said). :-)

Louisa Cornell said...

You are so right, Sandra! Judges are human and if your book goes to the sort of judges who like your sort of book. If it goes to those who don't like your TYPE of book it may not matter how well written it is. It simply didn't appeal.

However, I find it hard to believe anyone who loves romance would not love your book THE LETTER! SUCH an amazing book!

LOL at the grammar error. I do it ALL the time.

Connie Gillam said...

Funny as always, Louisa.

Good post. The laughs are as good as chocolate.

Congratulations to all the Golden Heart and Rita finalists.

Louisa Cornell said...

Thank you, Pixie Sister! High praise indeed as we all know the value of chocolate to a writer !!

Chris Bailey said...

Thanks for the boost! Getting back to work now. . . .

Lexi said...

Cowbells, huh? Me likey. Embarrass away!!! I'm just blown away to be a finalist. If I were to actually WIN????? You'd probably have to stand over me with that bullhorn to wake me up. Smelling salts, anyone?

Louisa Cornell said...

Anytime, Chris ! Hang in there!

Louisa Cornell said...

I'll be sure to bring my reticule with my vinagrette just for you, Lexi! Be careful when you tell Christine and me we can embarrass you. It could get just a LEEEEETLE bit crazy!

Carla Swafford said...

Louisa, great post! I love your sense of humor.

Before I was published I would take the good remarks from contest judges and list them. I've actually posted them on my personal blog some years ago. When you see them all list out, it makes your realize the progress you made.

Now I do that with reviews. It can be MaryJo Blow raving good things about my books, it doesn't matter. Anyone who talks nice about them is my bestest of friends.

Louisa Cornell said...

Ooh, Carla! I like the way you think! I need to print some of those nice contest judge comments out and keep them handy for when the "I SUCK!" song starts playing in my head.

And good reviews are like mother's milk to a writer. Like you, I don't care if it is a famous reviewer or a housewife in Podunk, Alabama. If she likes your work you need to listen to her. That's who we write for anyway!

Ali Hubbard said...

More cowbell!!! You know I get tired of writing, "Great post, funny and timely as always, Louisa." But that's what I think when I read them.

So many good points, even for someone in the learning/applying stage. I'm entering my first contests now and am interested in the feedback. This helps me put things in perspective too.

Louisa Cornell said...

I'm just glad you like the posts, Ali, and that they are helpful to you. I'm very excited for you entering contests! And it is definitely all about perspective. Contest feedback made me a better writer, even when the judges hammered me.

Ali Hubbard said...

I've seen a lot of the commenting you refer to as well. From people who may or may not be happy with the contests. I don't have enough experience to even have an opinion on it.
While it's always prudent to THINK about what you are writing, I can also see that writers make their livings on the 1st amendment...and maybe are more comfortable expressing opinions as such.
I've been really happy with RWA. And if I have a question about the organization, then I want to be free to ask it without fear of retaliation or being labeled a trouble maker. Honestly? I've had too many jobs like that.

Louisa Cornell said...

I don't think anyone would ever be labeled a troublemaker for asking an honest question about an issue they have with RWA. RWA is pretty open to that. What I referred to was the sniping about how some books of a certain genre are better than others, but because of the scoring system they weren't making it into the finals. You never want to take a cheap shot at other writers to prove your point. Not smart. RWA is always up for lively discussion and debate. It happens all the time. I simply hope people will not take their frustration with the system out on other writers. We're all in this together. We have too many outside elements taking cheap shots at us because we write "romance." We don't need to do that to each other.

Ali Hubbard said...

Writers definitely need to stick together. Not smart to bash other authors/genres. I see what you mean. I feel the same way when I see a sponsored ad that says, "better hero than xyz" or "hotter than book abc." Um, don't advertise that your book/hero/whatever is better than a successful author's. You will likely alienate the readers you want because they are loyal. Plus...bad manners!!! Yikes.