News, Writing Craft

Start where the damn story starts!

The STALI (Single Title and Loving It) results are in (Romance Writers Australia competition). By results, I mean the finalists have been announced. I am not one of them, but regardless, I am very happy tonight.

Entering contests is one of the advantages of being a member of Romance Writers Australia (I don’t need to go into all the other reasons, I wrote about this in my last post. Suffice to say, until I joined RWA, getting feedback for my manuscript was hugely difficult.

If you send it to friends, they give you “friendly” feedback. Which is good for the ego, but not for much else.

So, I joined the RWA Critique Partners program, and I started entering contests.

Having just read through the STALI judging comments for my entry, His Brand Of Beautiful, I find the real beauty about them is they mirror the comments of my Critique Partners. Namely, that I’m starting the story in the wrong bloody place! Sheesh!

This is Kathy, my Critique Partner:

“If you were cheeky, you could omit the first 1190 words and start the novel when Christina mistakes Tate for a stripper.  Then the reader would find out at the same time as Christina, that she has made a mistake.  You miss on that dramatic irony of knowing Christina is making a mistake, but you gain the real drama of making it along with her.  Tate’s reserves and issues could be hinted at for later exploration.”

This is a judge in the STALI:

“Please, please, please change it so you start at the heroine’s point of view. The first scene is too slow and mostly full of introspection – or dialogue that doesn’t seem to advance the story. You could filter that information in later. Better still, put that phone conversation into the bedroom scene and he could take in the scene around him whilst talking. It was a bit slow through that section.”

And the wonderful Jennifer Crusie who is my mesiah on all things writing, has the most classic summation for the entire thing:

“Start where the damn story starts.”

And I missed this! It seems so obvious once you have multiple people start pointing it out to you! All I know is that my opening scene is something that I have struggled, and struggled, and err STRUGGLED with since day dot. I have spent more time here than anywhere else in the book.

In the last week, prior to the STALI results but luckily, in time to enter the Emerald, I ditched my opening scene – which previously started with the hero – Tate – and opened it with my heroine – Christina.

The bad part of all these (what I call) light-bulb moments is: I’d submitted this manuscript as it sat to a request I had for a full. I wish I’d waited, but I’m impatient. I’m impatient to call His Brand Of Beautiful finished and get on with the next book… I’m impatient for feedback. I’m just … IMPATIENT!!

The good thing was, these are some of the judges’ comments. So it’s not all bad:

Judge 1:

“I really loved the picture you painted so vividly with your words. The characters are well fleshed out and have clear goals and motivations. The stakes are clear and I think you draw the reader into your world very effectively (except the first scene detracted from it for me). Mostly because I couldn’t work out why it needed to be there. Overall though, I thought you did a terrific job and you have me wanting to read more!”

Judge 2:

“The dialogue and dynamics between h/h are fabulous. So much of this entry is fabulous. You have a real knack for swiftly paced, witty exchanges in addition to good internalization. I think a bit of distance [with] your work would help you to pinpoint the areas where just a bit of judicious tweaking or pruning would clarify things.”

Congratulations to all the STALI finalists – well done! Thank you to Sandy Harris at RWA for organizing, and to everyone involved in the judging. I hope you know how helpful your comments are.