By Iola Goulton
Last year, I judged a short story competition for Romance Writers of New Zealand, and I talked about my experience in this post.
This year, I'm one of three judges for a brand new competition, the Australasian Christian Writers Contemporary Christian Romance Contest (ACW CCR Contest for short). This opportunity has advantages and disadvantages.
Advantage: getting to read some cool entries (that's a statement of faith. The competition doesn't close until 31 October, so I won't actually see any entries until after that).
Disadvantage: not being allowed to enter.
The ACW CCR Contest is a first five pages contest, which will make the judging different from the short story contest. For one thing, we've agreed as judges that we will give feedback, but we won't be scoring entries (and I'm hoping that will make things easier!).
But the most obvious difference between a short story contest and our ACW contest is, well, obvious.
An 1800-word short story has to be complete: beginning, middle, end. First Act, Second Act, Third Act. The guy has just 1800 words to get the girl.
A first five pages contest is about the opening hook. There's a lot more going to happen before the guy gets the girl … so the first five pages are all about engaging your reader so they'll want to take that journey.
Here are my tips to make your entry sing:
- Introduce your viewpoint character by name in the first sentence
- Answer the essential questions: who, where, and when
- Ensure you are showing, not telling
- Avoid backstory
For more advice on the opening, check out Anne Hamilton's series of posts:
CharacterisationLimit the number of viewpoint characters. Five pages is probably your first scene, so there should be only one viewpoint character. For a romance, this should be the heroine or hero. Give us some insight into the characters—hero and heroine. And ensure we meet both characters—or give a good reason why we can't.
- Ensure dialogue is natural and pertinent to the story (not idle chit-chat).
- Use dialogue to show us the character of the hero, provide backstory, and move the plot forward.
- Avoid creative dialogue tags (which are often telling).
- Pare the dialogue down to the essentials.
For more advice on dialogue, check out my recent posts:
If you're unconvinced about whether you should enter, then I suggest you review these recent posts by Carolyn Miller and Lucy Morgan-Jones, both of whom agree entering writing contests is a great way to get unbiased feedback on your writing.
Entries close on 31 October.
Will you be entering the ACW CCR Contest? Why? Or why not?
About Iola GoultonI am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Tsu.
I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500.