What competitions have you won or finalled in lately? And how many comps did you enter before winning anything?
I only started writing seriously about two years ago, and last year I entered my first contest, Spring into Romance, which I was incredibly lucky to final in. Just lately I’ve finalled in the 2013 Linda Howard Award of Excellence and was thrilled to come first in RWA’s First Kiss 2013. However, I’ve entered another couple of contests where I didn’t final, but I did receive valuable feedback about head-hopping, making the motivations of the characters more clear, and introducing conflict a little earlier in the story. I’ve tried to incorporate this feedback into my writing.
How do you mostly find out about the competitions?
Isn’t the internet an amazing thing? I initially took a look on the RWA (Australia) website, but the US RWA website has a huge compendium of contests. Stephie Smith has an impressive – and up-to-date – list of contests here. I generally decide which contest to enter based on who the final judge is. I think it’s pretty important as a writer to know who publishes for your target reader.
Any cool prizes? What do you generally get – just kudos or a certificate?
Apart from the cash prize for RWA’s First Kiss this year, which pretty much covers my contest entry costs (!), I think the coolest prize is having someone write comments like “excellent balance of narrative and dialogue, well done” and “you've got a nice writing voice and style - pump it up just a bit more with visceral, physical emotion and you'll be even more stellar”. It gives me tingles :)
Why do you enter comps? Why's it important?
I originally entered contests because I wanted objective, anonymous feedback on my writing. It’s pretty scary, as a new writer, to have someone you know read your story. What if they hate it? What if they can’t connect to the characters or the storyline? With contests, you get some honest feedback, and, while some if it may be a bit painful, I know it was meant in the spirit of helping me improve my craft.
Any examples of different feedback you’ve had which has been helpful, or not? Or conflicting comments?
Sometimes comments on the same story receive very different critiques. I submitted the story that finalled in Spring into Romance to the Valerie Parv 2012 contest, and that was fascinating, as I received three very different scores: 38%, 81% and 98%. That really highlighted to me that the judges’ comments are subjective, and as a writer you take what is useful, and politely ignore what doesn’t seem appropriate. To be honest though, the comments from the 38% judge were totally valid, and I do cringe re-reading some parts of that entry. Needless to say, I’ve edited that story pretty heavily!
What people have you been able to get your work in front of? Name-drop!
I’ve been lucky enough to have a partial with Harlequin Blaze editor Dana Hopkins. And Kate Cuthbert, Harlequin Escape, judged the First Kiss finalists, which was very exciting.
Where do you hope to see yourself in the future as a writer? Any publishers/lines you’re particularly targeting?
Like many new writers, I’d love to see my stories published someday. Life’s pretty hectic, so I’m taking the slow and steady approach to hone my craft, have a few more completed stories, and take on board the invaluable feedback I receive from my critique partners and contest judges. There are so many choices for writers these days, including the self-publishing route, but I’m kind of old-fashioned in that regard, and would love to see my stories published by a well-known romance publisher someday.
For more on Ella, check out her site here.