Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In the First Place with Guest Blogger: Rachel Brimble

Welcome guest author Rachel Brimble and WIN a copy of her book The Arrival of Lily Curtis...today at the Book Boost!

Rachel is here to discuss those "First Chapter Contests" that spring up daily (or so it seems).

Here's what she had to say...

First Chapter Contests – are they worth doing?

Another romance writer recently asked me whether or not I entered any of the many Romance Writers of America contests that are held each year and I admitted to entering each of my novels in at least two or three.

She stared at me incredulously. "Why?" she asked. "Why spend the money when your entry may nose-dive when compared to my fellow competitors."

After I thanked her for her sincere vote of confidence in my work, I thought it only fair I answer her question.

True, you could enter any number of contest and never final and thus win the coveted short-cut to your dream editors desk…but on the other hand, you could final and you could catch the editor’s interest, she could ask for a partial or a full, and best of all, you could sell your novel to that big New York publisher you’ve always dreamed of.

Who knows, indeed? Not me, that’s for sure. But what I do know is with each of these contests, you are promised so much more than any editor of a publishing house will promise you.


To me, this should be your main reason for entering these contests, not the editor, not the $50 prize, not even the nice laminated certificate to put on your wall if you final – it’s the feedback that’s valuable.

And varied.

Just recently I was given a perfect score (my first time and I am still floating on air about it!), which was 120, another judge gave me a 110 but the third scored me at 62!! The thing to remember and take heart about is these contests are subjective. Not every judge is going to love your work so this is the perfect place to get a dose of reality in preparation for the brutal form rejections that all of us experience at some stage.

My advice is to enter the contests, absorb the feedback, re-read it and then find the common statements. The ones that are really going to help you polish that manuscript until it shines. You know what I mean, the paragraphs riddled with comments or the scene that evokes some happy smiley LOLs!! from the judges are the ones you want to study. If you do this, you will be able to differentiate between the bits that aren’t working and the bits that are – and then dump the bits that aren’t, even if you think they consist of pure literary genius!

Contests are great – a great way to obtain feedback, a great way to jump the ‘slush pile’ and land on that editor’s desk but most of all they are a fantastic learning tool…one, in my opinion, that should be used again and again.

A Note from the Book Boost: You certainly have a wonderful attitude about this, Rachel. As a recent category coordinator for one of those RWA chapter contests I can tell you that you are right on point with the range of scores and comments for each entry. If only all the entrants would look at it with your positive outlook! Now, would you please share more with us about your book?


At the mention of an arranged marriage, Elizabeth Caughley feels her life is over at the age of three and twenty….so she hatches an escape plan. She will reinvent herself as a housemaid. Overnight, Elizabeth becomes Lily.

Viscount Westrop wants nothing more than his legacy to be passed to his own son one day. Even though he feels insurmountable pity for the unborn child already, he knows how much pain a broken promise can cause and will do what is right.

But with the arrival of his new housemaid, his plans are thrown into disarray. Lily is funny, feisty and the most beautiful creature on earth – Andrew is thunderstruck. But if anyone suspects how much he wants to ravish her and endlessly love her, Andrew’s lineage will be in peril. And he cannot let that happen…


The clock ticked like a heartbeat behind him, the fire crackled and spat. Andrew unconsciously held his breath waiting to see what this unpredictable woman would do next.

One minute she seemed so full of grace and intellect, the next full of fire and resentment. The two distinctions in her personality shouldn’t have fit but they did— inexplicitly so.

“Well, what do you say?” he pressed.

She dropped her gaze and curtsied, throwing him off-guard once again. He felt his jaw tighten as he looked at her bowed head.

“I thank you, sir,” she said. “But I know my place and to sit with you and your guests would be most unacceptable.”

He stared at her. “Unacceptable?”

“Yes, sir.”

Andrew watched her for a moment longer before slowly crossing his arms. “You have a very genteel way about you,” he said. “One would almost suspect you have been educated.”

She snapped her head up, another flash of color darkening her cheeks. “Not at all, sir. I…I try to better myself and the way I speak, that is all.”

He smiled. “Really?”

“Yes, sir.” She paused, a sudden glint in her eyes. “Of course, if it is not to your liking, I can always revert to common speech and bad manners. It comes easily to me either way.”

Andrew felt the burst of laughter bubbling beneath his diaphragm and could do nothing to stop it erupting. It burst from his mouth and reverberated around the room. Uneasy laughter
rippled around the table, joining him in his amusement. He ignored them, not caring about
anything else but this enigma in front of him. His friends clearly laughed because of who he was rather than their shared delight, Lily on the other hand didn’t seem to care who he was and would say just what she pleased.

“You are quite agreeable just the way you are.” He grinned. “If you wish to continue with your duties, then I will not stop you.”

He walked back to his chair and sat down. “Nicholas, another bottle of wine if you please. I have the distinct feeling a long night is ahead.”

“Of course, sir.”

Andrew tried and failed to wipe the smile from his face as Lily threw him a look of satisfaction before obediently following Nicholas from the room. He picked up his glass and took a long mouthful.

Lily Curtis may be just what Cotswold Manor needed.

Want More Rachel?

Visit her website here: www.rachelbrimble.com

Pick up your copy of the book today! Click here!

Contest Time:
Leave a question or comment for Rachel and be entered to win a copy of The Arrival of Lily Curtis. Winner selected about one week and posted in the Recent Winners box on the right hand column of this blog. Please check back to see if you've won and contact us to claim your prize!


Stephanie Bisby said...

Hi Rachel. Good to meet you at the weekend. I liked your post and I totally agree that feedback is the most valuable thing and any contest where you can get good feedback is worth entering. That said, some competitions seem more worthwhile than others in terms of prizes, visibility and the usefulness of the feedback given. Do you enter everything going, or do you think there are ways to judge which are the most valuable?

Rachel Brimble said...

Hi Stephanie, great to meet you too! Were you as tired as me when you got home?? LOL!!
With regard to contests, I tend to enter the first two that come along with editors of publishing houses I would love to write for. If you final, it's a short cut to your dream editor - if you don't, hopefully, the feedback of three editors will highlight how you can make your story even better.

Rachel x



I'm not a writer but it seem like you need all the feedback you can get. i Lir thr premise o f youer book.


Unknown said...

What a awesome post and quite timely for me. I was having a discussion about contests on one of my author's loops and you've provided even more reason for entering. Your book sounds awesome, so throw my name in the hat. Even though I have a stack I need to finish reviewing, I still find time for a good read. :)

Cate Masters said...

Great post Rachel. In addition to feedback, contests can give your work greater exposure, also very valuable.
Congrats on your new release! Great excerpt, and I love the cover. :)

Rachel Brimble said...

Thanks so much for your comments, ladies!! Hi Loretta, lovely to 'meet' you.

Ginger & Cate - I'm interested, do you enter RWA contests? You are both so prolific and seem endlessly confident in your work. Do you even need the feedback anymore?

Margaret West said...

I never enter contests really, but after reading your post maybe I'll give it a whirl. Loved the excerpt.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Rachel, I applaud your attitude for contests. Feedback is the best benefit from contests--although winning a read from an agent or editor can't be discounted.

LaVerne Clark said...

I love the excerpt Rachel! All those competitions have obviously helped in your journey as your writing is seamless! I have alot to learn (we never stop do we?) and see competitions as a necessary and valuable part of my education also.
Your cover IS gorgeous!

Talli Roland said...

Hi Rachel!

Lovely to meeet you last weekend. Great post. Totally agree re: feedback!

Rachel Brimble said...

Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments - I am so glad that you agree with the benefit of contests because so many people don't!
LaVerne, thank you for your kind comments about my writing! We are so full of self-doubt, aren't we? I adore my cover to, the cover artist is Tina Lynn Stout.

All your names will be put into a hat for my youngest daughter to pick one from. I'll keep you posted!

Love, Rachel x

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Rachel,
Terrific blog, I was a contest junkie before I got published, and you are quite correct, the feedback is invaluable.At least the discrepency in voting doesn't seem to have changed much. I also got full points from one judge, almost full points from another, and a real low score from the third judge in one competition I entered. This particular story was Highly Commended, but had the 3rd judge been a little more generous I would have run. But hey, that is the way of contests, they are very subjective.



Unknown said...

Hi Rachel,
Great post. You taught me something, and I do like to learn. I never thought about entering contests and just fluffed them off. Now, you'll have me looking for them and entering.
I agree about getting the feedback and would appreciate all that anyone throws my way.

Judy said...

I really enjoyed your post!! I am not an author, but I would think any kind of activity would help in getting you and your books out there. Your book looks very interesting, will put it on my TBR list.

Rachel Brimble said...

I can't thank you enough for all your comments, this is by far the best response I've had to any blog (including my own, LOL!).

I'm off to book a space in for my next release in January!


Rachel x

Rachel Brimble said...

Announcing the winner of the free pdf copy of 'The Arrival of Lily Curtis'!!!
**** drum roll ****


Congrats, Ginger, I will email you off list with a copy of the book.

Rachel x