Naomi, thanks for stopping by the Alley! I loved reading your submission for the Genesis contest last year. And I am so excited to read it in “print”! Tell us a little more about your novel.
I don’t have an official copy of the blurb, but here’s an earlier version I was given. It should be pretty close to what appears on the back of the book.
Running to freedom, she found love . . .
The injured young woman that Michel Belanger finds in the woods is certainly an aristocrat, and in the midst of France’s bloody revolution, sheltering nobility merits a trip to the guillotine. Yet despite the risk, Michel knows he must bring the wounded girl to his cottage to heal.
Attacked by soldiers and left for dead, Isabelle de La Rouchecauld has lost everything. A duke’s daughter cannot hope for mercy in France, so escaping to England is her best chance of survival. The only thing more dangerous than staying would be falling in love with this gruff yet tender man of the land. Even if she sees, for the first time, how truly noble a heart can be . . .
Wow, sounds like a powerful story! So exciting to see more books coming out that are from different time periods and settings! So, most Genesis entrants have a tiny spark of hope that entering the contest will be a possible step towards their publishing dream. I am dying to know how entering Genesis and being a finalist, helped you along the path to publication?
Entering Genesis put my writing in front of some great judges. With my manuscript polished, my philosophy was to enter any competition where the finalist judges were editors or agents who I thought might be interested in my writing. That philosophy paid off, though not in the manner I was expecting with Genesis. A best-selling, popular author was one of my first round judges. She liked my opening so much that she sent my entry to her agent and then the judge told me to email her.
As you can imagine, I could hardly breathe when I got my judging sheet back. God worked everything out better than I ever expected, and I did end up signing with the agent, Natasha Kern. I also had an editor who judged a different competition request the first half of my ms. So Personally speaking, I did a lot better with entering contests than I ever did with querying or conferences, but some people do well with querying and others with networking at conferences. It works differently for different people.
What a great story of getting your stuff in front of an agent. Just one set of eyes is all it takes...and a really polished manuscript. We have a lot of readers out there that are preparing their entries for Genesis. How many revisions did you go through before you sent the entry to Genesis?
Oh goodness, a crazy, unbelievable amount. On the opening scene, probably about 15. My subsequent scene which was also included in my entry didn’t go through nearly that many revisions, maybe 4 or 5. I had a really hard time figuring out how to get the reader’s rooting for my heroine by the end of the second page and I went through endless revisions..
I looked, but I don’t have a copy of my original beginning (probably because it was so bad I couldn’t stand to look at it anymore). It went something like this, though I can’t be exact: “Isabelle Cerise de La Rouchecauld walked down the middle of the road, glancing at the forest and wondering if she should harbor in the trees’ thick branches.”
By the time I finished my revisions, I had an opening that I loved:
“Silence surrounded her, an eerie music more haunting than that of any chamber players. It soaked into her pores and chilled her blood.
Isabelle surveyed the shadowed trees of northern France, so different from the wide fields she’d grown up with in Burgandie. The woods lay still, most animals caught in winter’s slumber. Her breathing and the crunch of her shoes against the road formed the only human sounds amid acres of forest and earth and animals—or the only human sounds of which she knew.
She clutched her cloak and glanced behind her. Did someone follow?”
I wish I could say I came up with that the first time I sat down at my computer. But I didn’t. It took hours of hard work and banging my head against the computer screen until I found something that worked the way I wanted it to. And it works that way for most people. Occasionally a writer might sit down and come up with the perfect start to a story, but more often than not, a good beginning means hours of hard work. So if your slogging through your first 15 pages right now, don’t give up! I understand how hard it is, but the effort might well be worth the pain.
Great advice. I don't even think I can count the amount of times I've changed the beginning to my story...and I am sure I will still tweak it up until I hit send. What was the most helpful thing you did to prepare your submission?
Two things. First, have one or two awesome crit partners who don’t mind reading and rereading a chapter until you get it perfect. For every time I revised my opening, my poor crit partners, Melissa Jagears and Sally Chambers, reread it. They deserved to final just for putting up with me.
Second, I entered the ms in the Great Expectations RWA contest. Genesis was the second contest I ever entered, Great Expectations was the first. I would have never finaled in Genesis had I not gotten and applied the judges’ feedback from Great Expectations. In the draft I sent to Great Expectations, I had the heroine walking in the woods for seven or eight pages before the soldiers showed up and attacked her. Way too long!!! In the Genesis version, I had the soldiers show up on page three. But I never would have known to move the action up without getting the judging feedback from Great Expectations.
So before entering Genesis, I would advise contestants to get some professional advice on the manuscript. Whether it comes from a contest, a paid critique, or a published friend returning a favor, you’d do well to get some advice beyond your crit partners.
It's tough sometimes to take the criticism, but it pays off in the end!
Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom! I am looking forward to applying your advice to my own submissions. Can't wait to read the rest of your novel!
Thanks Angie, I enjoyed being here. This is my first ever blog interview, so I find the whole thing a little intimidating!
My pleasure! I am sure you have many readers who thank you for such great advice. Looking forward to reading more from you, Naomi!!
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