June Rodriguez
This week we shared the table with a few freaky friends. Halloween is tomorrow night and the eerie sounds and dead stares of ghoulish creatures provided by a family member helped set the mood.

JUNE: We talked about Dori’s latest contest entries. Writers Digest has the prestige of winning or even placing to draw writers to enter but the massive amount of entries can make you hesitate. The fees are another draw back to a struggling writer. Where as smaller contests with smaller fees are just as rewarding and can be added to your list of accomplishments. But with any contest your ultimate goal is to complete the story and put it before the readers for their enjoyment.

DORI: Paying out money for contests is definitely a concern for me. Makes you think about which contests are worth entering and for what purpose. When I decided to write a short story I wanted to have a purpose for writing it, so I targeted Writer's Digest's big annual contest. It got me to write the story, which I then had to enter into another contest as well. It was lucrative for me as I got a national award and an honorable mention in the WD contest and money in the bank. However, neither of these led to publication and ultimately I want my stories put before readers as June says. I wrote the story to be read not just to win awards. The awards were great for validating that "yes, I can write," which should not be undervalued. However, how many contests does one need to win? Perhaps the focus needs to be on publication where you can submit for consideration without paying a fee, and might even get paid in exchange or at least get published. With that said, I am looking at submitting a short short story that I just wrote to the upcoming WD contest, but at the same time looking at another contest without the $15 fee attached. One is maybe more prestigious, but is it worth the cost? At this stage of the game I will try my hand with a different type of story with WD, but then the focus needs to move from contests to publication. At least for me.

SARAH: Entering RWA contests can be costly! Some are as expensive as $35 for a non-member. I tend to stick with the contests that are in the $20-25 range and offer feedback. As long as I get constructive comments, I think the contest is worth entering again. I entered the 2009 Golden Gateway and was completely blown away at the caliber of feedback. I definitely recommend any unpubbed romance writer to enter the Golden Gateway. It's the most bang for the buck: $25 entry fee and entails a judging of the first 50pages and synopsis!! The contest is geared toward prepping an author to the RWA Golden Heart.

DORI: I just finished up another online writer's course with Writer University (http://www.writeruniv.com/) titled Kills, Chills, and Thrills taught by author C.J. Lyons. Like all the courses I've taken with Writer U it was very informative. One of the take aways from this class was the importance of VET--visceral, evocative, telling details. Doesn't take a lot of details, just the right details. Details that show don't tell. Details that express mood, emotion, etc. So for instance with June's piece changing "opened the window" to "eased up the window sash." The second conveyed that she was trying to quietly open the window without being heard and provided more visual details.

JUNE: Taking an online class can be very helpful. Especially if you know you have a problem in a certain area. The information you shared with us allowed me to see new ways of adding better details.

SARAH: I took an online class this summer on writing Query Letters. I found the information very helpful and challenging. I was forced to examine my storyline and characters from all angles. From the class, I walked away with a great query letter, a log line, and a better understanding of my MS. LOL It's just a lot of work!! Totally worth it, but very time consuming.

JUNE: I am getting better at critiquing the work of the other members but find I still do not do so well on my own work. I made quite a few beginner mistakes tonight. Possessives, hyphenated words, and tracking caused problems. The story line is solid and authenticating details were a plus.

DORI: I'm the same way. Eventually, I would hope I get better at self-editing. I find the technical things easier; the tracking less so and the hardest is tweaking the language to make it read better. Good news was that you have the right story line and just needed some tweaking to fix the minor errors and to add the authenticating VET details to raise the emotional level of the chapter, which is a rather high drama situation.

SARAH: I think we all have our own little triggers. LOL We all know I like facial expressions, conjunctions, and have problems knowing when to break off paragraphs so characters aren't tangled up! What I have found helpful is my story board. I have a section dedicated to all my triggers. When I 'm prepping my pages for you gals, I'm looking over my little line-up. Ha! Just like Old Saint Nick- I'm checking my list twice, too!

JUNE: Our local library recently hosted a book sale. We all managed to stop by. Each of us looked for different types of books. I have a tendency to go for books that can either be used for research on a particular topic or something that will spark an idea for a future story. I made several excellent finds and at a dollar a book not only did I save money but I did my small part in supporting my local library.

SARAH: Oh! Now, why didn't you tell me to do that, too! LOL I was too busy elbowing my way up to the romance paperback table. DOH! The next sale is in April, you better bring your 'A' game, June! I was looking for books that would branch out my reading. Kind of like checking out the competition. There was quite a varied selection, too. The prices were great- for us- not so great for the poor author who won't make a dime from the re-sale.

DORI: At a buck a piece you made good investments. Cheap resource material was not even on my radar at the book sale. I only went for various authors in my genre for research. However, I did pick up one book, by Michael Connelly titled "Crime Beat" which is about his decade of covering cops and killers. I thought it would provide good research material. One advantage I have is that I write what I know and can draw on my work as an attorney to provide authentication for my writing. I'm not writing historicals like June and Sarah, which require a lot of research.
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