Bonus Content: Genesis—Any Score Can Be A Winner
I had worked on a romance manuscript for a couple years, periodically putting it aside when new writing opportunities appeared. On the third or fourth go-around, the manuscript sounded dull to me. Was it because of so much going back and forth, or did it really need a major makeover?
Impressed by some outstanding first-person stories I’d recently read, I decided to convert my third person POV into a first person. A daunting task, as anyone who has done this knows. But, I eagerly rubbed my hands together, anxious to begin. It wasn’t long before I realized the story I had called a romance wasn’t that at all, but women’s fiction.
Finding fresh eyes
I needed fresh eyes for feedback. What better place to find that than the ACFW Genesis Contest? So I entered.
My awesome crit partners had seen the story from its inception and I needed fresh eyes for feedback. What better place to find that than the ACFW Genesis Contest? So I entered. I told myself it most likely wouldn’t place—and that was okay. Meanwhile, I continued working on it, and by the time the semifinalists were announced, I’d changed the beginning at least three times.
Still, when my name wasn’t on the semifinalist list, I felt a tinge of disappointment. Weeks later, as I was preparing to shut down for the evening, the judges’ score sheets arrived in my inbox. I told myself to not open them until morning since judges’ comments were likely the last thing I wanted in my head just before sleep—but did I listen to me? No, curiosity won out.
The scores were much lower than any I’d ever received in a contest. Moving on, I skimmed the judges’ comments, reading some and ignoring others. I licked my wounds and shut off the computer. Determined I wouldn’t think about it until morning, I went right to sleep.
Then the voices started: “You can’t write.” “What were you thinking?” “Time to give it up.”
An hour later, my eyes popped open and my brain shifted into high gear as those score sheets materialized in my mind’s eye. Then the voices started:
- “You can’t write.”
- “What were you thinking?”
- “Time to give it up.”
On and on they went, until a Greater Voice broke through the clamor. God told me it was time to get off my pity pot and focus on someone else. So, I began praying for a friend’s sister who is gravely ill. Within moments I fell asleep.
St. Ane’s passion
The next morning, I spent time in one of my favorite passages, Hebrews 10: 35-36:
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
I’ve never doubted my call to write and God has promised me that at the proper time I will reap a harvest if I don’t give up. (See Galatians 6:9) I camped on there for a length of time, meditating and praying, then called my crit partner and best writing buddy, Ane Mulligan.
Ane helped me realize that by switching genres (from romance to women’s fiction) I also needed to change how I begin the story. We brainstormed and soon fresh ideas for new opening chapters flew between us almost faster than we could say them.
Ane helped me see the judges’ comments were well founded. That made entering Genesis all the more worthwhile.
Ane helped me see the judges’ comments were well founded—and they also pinpointed issues others had missed. That made entering Genesis all the more worthwhile.
I hung up with a renewed and energized spirit, grateful for all I had learned in one hour’s time—and from the judges. I got to work and outlined several brand new chapters that will make the story stronger.
Rarely have I regretted entering a writing contest, even if I didn’t place—and this experience is no different. No matter how low your scores on the Genesis may be, remember there is always a nugget or two (or more!) in the comments to help point you in the right direction. You just need to keep your eyes open—and on the Lord—so you don’t miss the prize.