Several months ago I entered my first writing contest. I submitted a sample of my novel I WANT TO BE LIKE JANE. The novel is about a young woman living in Bath, England who considers Jane Austen to be the finest writer to ever breathe air (smart girl), and wants to be a writer herself. She is embroiled in family drama and ultimately finds herself living in London, working for a publishing house owned by her father who she hasn’t seen in 20+ years. Once in London she meets a young man and…. Well, I’m not going to tell you everything! You’ll need to read the book–once it gets published.

But back to the writing contest. As a novice, I had no idea what to expect. I filed my application, uploaded my chapters, making sure to honor the appropriate word count outlined in the submission rules, and promptly forgot about it. Until this morning when I woke up, looked at my phone, and saw an email from the RWA Chapter that held the contest. My heart raced as I grabbed my glasses and scanned the letter. No, I wasn’t chosen as a finalist. Honestly, I didn’t expect to, but I was hoping for some feedback. Low and behold, there WAS feedback from the three judges and it was great! They gave me tips on some issues of mechanics, pacing, and plot development. The ranking system was on a scale of one to five across multiple areas of story development–five being “girl, you are ready to be published!” I was thrilled to receive several fives, mainly fours, and a couple of threes, and I’ll admit one ranking of two in one area from one of the judges (she/he was tough!).

A couple of comments made my day.

  • “Lizzie [the protagonist] is fabulous. She is a round character, and I am rooting for her from your first paragraph.”
  • “I thought the setting was really clever. I like that a writer who admires Jane Austen is working in a tea room in Bath wearing Regency gowns on a regular basis. I can imagine this would make for some fun scenes later in the book.”
  • “You have a clear, engaging voice through your main character. Build on that. It makes her sympathetic and believable.”
  • “This has potential and once the heroine develops her goals, it will be a great story to read.”
  • “I think this work has great promise and every Jane Austen fanatic (which is most of us romance authors) would love it.”

When I read that my novel has potential and great promise, I thought I would weep with joy. Okay, I actually did cry a little. Yes, it needs work and I have to tighten up some areas, but to have professionals tell me that I don’t suck??? Well, I am energized and ready to get back to my novel! There is hope, there is joy, and there is a writer in me!!!

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