Link Of The Week- Enter A Competition

May 12, 2015

Do you need to earn some money writing? The novel just taking too long? Try honing your skills, earning some money, getting feedback all in the same place. I’m talking about writing contests. There are hundreds out there and I’ve supplied links to 2 places that give you many!WritingQuill

Glutton for Punishment? by Candi Wall

October 11, 2012

I was up late last night. Thinking. Biting my nails. Refreshing the six different tabs I had up on my computer. My ARC of Primitive Nights staring back at me all but screaming for my attention.

But I couldn’t focus. Why?

Because it’s the final day of voting in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. Yep, I entered. What’s wrong with me?

Why would I put myself through the stress? I went to bed with my mind buzzing from all I had accomplished through the day, what I hadn’t accomplished, a new book idea, the laundry I needed to fold… Well, you get the picture. But when I woke up this morning, all I could think was, ‘Why do we do this to ourselves?’

Are we gluttons for punishment?

We pour our hearts and souls into every word we write. We send our work out knowing we’ll receive rejection. And it doesn’t matter if it’s self-pubbing, agent hunting, or contests. All venues have the potential for failure or rejection. We spend hours building our online presence, telling the world who we are, and all the while, we’re surrounded by the possibility of failure. And we do fail.

You’d think that would be enough to make us throw in the towel.

But not us. NO! Not writers. We’re crazy that way.

It took me two seconds of thought (and a healthy dose of caffeine) to decide why I do what I do.

Here’s my top ten:

  1. I HAVE to write. Seriously. I think my brain would swell and ooze out of my ears if I didn’t dump my ideas onto paper.
  2. There’s little that compares to typing THE END
  3. The people I meet. I met some of my dearest friends in the writing world.
  4. The support that’s out there! Our government could take a page from the writing world…
  5. Failure is just a small backward step on the road to success, and each step back taught me how to leap forward.
  6. Because if I wasn’t a writer, I couldn’t have Twitter conversations about twitching penises. (True story)
  7. I live vicariously through the success of my fellow writers. It keeps me dreaming…
  8. No matter how hard I fall, other writers are there to pick me up again.
  9. Because someday, I want a fan to say, “Your book touched me.”
  10. I’ll be gone someday. My art will forever be a part of history…

And of course, that one success can wipe away all the pain that came first…..

So tell me. Why do you put yourself through it? Why do you write?


Do You Want Your Name In Lights?

May 24, 2012

Write your first draft with your heart.  Re-write with your head.  ~From the movie Finding Forrester


Of course you do!!

Whether we tell ourselves that we want to be published or not is irrelevant. Deep down inside we all want the same thing. Thankfully, there are choices and different paths we can now take to achieve that end goal. I have something for you that will help- a writing contest.

Before you dismiss this because you’re self publishing, or you’re already published in another genre, you better check this out. The Lone Star Writing Contest gives you tangibles that you won’t necessarily find anywhere else. No matter how you decide to publish, an author always needs outside help. I’ve yet to meet a writer that could spot all of their mistakes. For a very small fee, your pages will be read by two published and one non-published judge. If you final, your story will be sent to an agent, an editor, and an e-publisher editor. (Wow- three for the price of one!)

How is this any different? Well, besides providing training for the judges, revamping the score sheet to reflect the writing not “romance” rules, this contest also offers a few bonuses! If you win your category, you will receive a banner for your website, FB etc. This is worth its weight in gold! Free advertising screaming how good you are! If you final, you will receive a seal that you can use in the same way. How cool is that?

Everyone who enters also has a chance to win a 50 page critique by a published author whether they final or not. This is an open playing field where all have the same chance to win. There will be a drawing for each category and the winner’s name will be drawn irregardless of how they placed!

I know I’ll enter this year. Don’t miss the Early Bird Special which ends in a few days!



Northwest Houston RWA announces The 20th Annual Lone Star Writing Competition.

Along with awesome feedback and a new and improved score sheet, the Lone Star offers a NEW Special Prize!!!

All entrants will be entered into a drawing for a 50 page critique by one of NWHRWA’s published authors. There will be 7 winners, one for each category.

Romantic Suspense: Teri Thackston
Historical: Melinda Porter (Anna Katherine Lanier)
FF&P: Suzan Harden
Inspirational: Carla Rossi
YA: Christie Craig (CC Hunter)
Single Title: PJ Mellor
Contemporary Series: Cheri Jetton

The Lone Star Writing Competition is one of the few contests with two published authors and one unpublished author judging the first round. Finalists will be sent to BOTH an agent and an editor for judging. In addition they will be sent to an e-publishing editor.

EARLY BIRD ENTRY FEE: $5 discount on all entries submitted by midnight May 26, 2012; $15 for NWH members/$20 non-NHW members.

Entry fee: After May 26, 2012 – $20 NWH members; $25 non-NWH members.

Winners will receive a custom made sterling silver pin and a website banner !!!! Finalists will receive a seal to put on their website.

For more information including rules, the score sheet, and entry form, see our new, updated website at

Link Of The Week

April 3, 2012

Enter the 81st Annual Writing Competition and gain access to agents, to editors, to your peers, to readers. Winning entries will be on display in the 81st Annual Writer’s Digest Competition Collection and entrants will gain the spotlight they deserve.

Compete and Win in 10 Categories!
Inspirational Writing (Spiritual/Religious)
Memoirs/Personal Essay
Magazine Feature Article
Genre Short Story (Mystery, Romance, etc.)
Mainstream/Literary Short Story
Rhyming Poetry
Non-rhyming Poetry
Stage Play
Television/Movie Script
Children’s/Young Adult Fiction
Entry Fee
Entries: $25 for the first manuscript; $15 for each additional entry submitted during the same transaction.
Poems: $15 for the first entry; $10 for each additional poem submitted submitted during the same transaction.
individual attention from 4 editors or agents
a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City
$3,000 cash
First Place: $1,000 cash and $100 off WD Shop purchase

Second Place: $500 cash and $100 off WD Shop purchase

Third Place: $250 cash and $100 off WD Shop purchase

Fourth Place: $100 cash and $50 off WD Shop purchase

Fifth Place: $50 cash and $50 off WD Shop purchase

Sixth through Tenth Place: $25 cas

Link Of The Day

September 20, 2011

Good Morning Musetrackers- This is Stacey bringing you the Link Of The Day. Found some interesting places for you to visit-


As many of you know, I’m a member of Romance Writers of America and there are loads of writing contests offered within that organization. I was curious about what’s offered outside the walls of RWA and have spent a wonderful hour researching contests offered around the world. This is a cautionary tale, however since there are many disreputable sites out there offering “contests” which have all sorts of strings attached to your work. BE CAREFUL!

I couldn’t narrow it down to just one link for today, so for your viewing pleasure, here’s three:

1. Are you a winning writer? Find out by entering one of the Writer’s Digest Writing Competitions! Writer’s Digest hosts fiction writing contests, poetry writing contests, short story contests, screenwriting competitions, self-publishing competitions and more. You could win up to $3,000, as well as the opportunity to see your name in Writer’s Digest Magazine, opportunities to meet with editors and agents and more! Prizes vary between writing competitions

2.    Everything you share at gets detailed feedback.

  • Enter a writing contest. Over 50 contests to choose from every month.
  • You will be ranked. Every story or poem you share impacts your rank.
  • For over 10 years has been helping writers improve their writing skills.

(This is a very cool site- it’s almost like a clearinghouse for contests and they even try to make sure the contests are legit.)

3. Submit your contest for possible posting. But first, please readwhat we DON’T post. Then if your contest appears to meet our guidelines, submit your contest. (We need the basics: Name of contest, brief description of what is to be submitted, awards, entry fee, deadline, website URL, and contact email for our follow-up questions.)

Enjoy! Hope your day is absolutely terrific!

For Crying Out Loud- Get It Right!

September 1, 2011

The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

By: Stacey Purcell

Do you want to hear a semi depressing number? I read that less than 1% of the books that are published by the Big Six are by debut authors. Excuse me while I sit down for a second. That is a fairly harsh number, to say the least.

Fortunately for those of us still working on getting the first book out of the door, we have options. The publishing landscape is not as desolate as it seemed when I came across that tidbit of information. As you have undoubtedly heard by now, our industry is changing fast. What does that mean?

It means that we have options…if we don’t blow it.

E-publishing has brought us several more publishing houses that are looking for quality work. Companies like Carina, Wild Rose and Ellora’s Cave are offering representation to thousands of authors and paying a higher percentage to the writer. We also have the ability to skip agents and publishers altogether.

Here’s where we start to have some trouble.

The other day, I was chatting with Jenn about writing contests. She noted that there seems to be a drop in the number of entrants across the board. I’m sure the economy is partially to blame, but she also pointed out another factor that is driving the numbers down. As more writers self-pub, they are entering less contests. Whoa! Stop everything! It should be just the opposite..

One of the biggest draws in a writing contest is the final judge for each genre. If you’re a finalist, then your pages are read by agents and editors. Obviously, if you are doing your own work, then you don’t need them. So why enter? In my opinion, if you are publishing your own book, then you should be entered in multiple contests. It’s a terrific way to get your pages edited and help you polish those words. Can you edit your own work? Of course you can, I just wouldn’t advise it.

Listen up people, if you are going to publish DIY, then please don’t settle for editing it yourself. Enter contests, find critique partners, hire professional editors, and just get it right! We have this amazing opportunity to take control of our artistic future and the public is receptive. There are many success stories, but there are many failures as well. I’m afraid that if they are continually disappointed with mediocre, sloppy books, they will stop giving new authors a try.

Even at $2.99.

Even at $1.99.

Heck, even at .99.

When an author puts out a crappy piece of work full of typos, poor spelling and awkward sentences, they sink themselves. They also make it more difficult for me to grab that customer back to being willing to try an unknown writer. That makes me mad. Many of my friends have beat me in putting their stories up for sale first and I watched how hard they worked. Countless hours were spent writing and re-writing until it was their best possible product. They used the feedback from contests to hone their writing style and add more texture to the stories. It didn’t stop there. They had critique partners and beta readers marking up their manuscripts. It wasn’t always fun, but they knew it was necessary. Feedback is essential to any really good author.

This is a competitive industry. Be smart when you make decisions about your career. There are many things we can’t control in life, but the quality of our work isn’t one of them.

This one is just because I thought it was funny!

The Good, the Bad, & the WTF?! – Contest Comments That Leave You Speechless

May 12, 2010

Song of the day: Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) by Journey

We enter writing contests for a multitude of reasons.  Among those reasons are to learn of our weaknesses, to work under deadlines, and to gain exposure by possibly taking a final. We also enter to get a general opinion of our story. Do we have what it takes to nab a reader or do forty winks hit them faster than a sleep aid? Of course the grand Pooh-Bah of entering is to target a final round dream agent or editor.

MuseTracks has offered many tips on entering contests, judging the contests and hosting interviews with winning authors on contest wisdom.

Watch out. I bite!

One issue heard over and over with the very subjective nature of the contest beast is learning to develop a thick skin. I thought I’d share some comments that have earned me a cozy place among alligators, rhinos, and elephants. My hide has been stripped, tanned and leathered. Tranquilizer dart? Not my skin.

I laughed the first time I read some of these remarks. They were so ludicrous to me. Common decency had flown away. Who left the window open, damn it? Surely the judges meant well. I’m sure they did. But at times, it seemed the judges were engaging in a full frontal assault, and then attacking my flank for good measure.

I’m sure the following comments could have been worded more constructively.

  • The heroine’s mouth gets her into trouble. It would be an awesome flaw if her actions didn’t repeatedly show that she was an idiot.

At least my heroine wasn’t TSTL (to stupid to live), right?

  • Please, please, please watch the Yoda-speak.

    Need I say more?

It bothers you, my Yoda-speak?

  • There is an audience somewhere for this story, but I am not part of it.

An audience of mine, you are not.

  • Buy a good dictionary and use it.

Problem with this comment is the word she had been referring to WAS used correctly.

  • Reads like a B-version of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Did this judge even see POTC?

  • Reads like the author decided to enter the contest at the last minute and jammed out a quick story.

Seriously? It only took me a whole flipping year to jam out the story.

  • Q: What are one or two strengths of this entry?   A: The author tried to write a good story.

Does this mean I get an A for effort?

With remarks such as these, it is easy to see how a writer could easily be derailed. Some might have their dreams squashed, decide there is no hope and give up. I am firmly against this.

Say no to drugs. Say yes to the vice. (Pun intended.)

I won’t lie, I felt quite deflated after I let those comments sink in. Then I got mad. I have a pretty wonderful support system in my CPs. We rant, we rave, we decide the judges are on crack. I haven’t the time or inclination for the ugly, petty or disrespectful. Sometimes the barbs sting. I am human, after all. But I keep in mind the judges are human, too. They quite possibly did not intend for their annotations to be so hurtful.

I know what I like. I know how my tale is to be told. Any other way and it becomes someone else’s story. Well, that just won’t do.

Here are some conflicting viewpoints on the same manuscripts that show just how judging is subjective.

The heroine is unscrupulous and un-heroic.

The heroine is not perfect and that is always intriguing. I really like her.

Remember the Yoda-speak?  — Read some books from the time period for language.

The dialogue flows very well. I appreciate your grasp of period speaking.

There was no hook at all.

Wow. Nice hook. Interesting and unique.

The plot was not well-developed. There was a lot of action, but not a logical story structure to follow.

Fabulous plot and character development.

No hint of romantic conflict.

The attraction is shown well.

The story is over the top Pirates of the Caribbean both in characters and in the brothel scene.

I would like to read further, as the author has seemed to find a comfortable stride in what appears to be a commercially viable premise. (Written by an editor.)

The good news is when you have polar opposite comments and results it usually means you have a strong voice. Causing this type of reaction can be beneficial. For every person who hates your work, there is someone who loves it (besides your DH, best friend, or mom). When that someone is an agent or editor, it’s gold.

Have I made you feel better about your own contest comments? Ever endured an outrageously good or bad comment that blew your mind? Let’s hear from you.

Jitters, Gerard, and Golden Heart®

March 24, 2010

Song of the Day: St Elmo’s Fire by John Parr


It’s that time of year again. The blurry vision, the twitching, the anxious pill-popping, no, it’s not pollen induced allergies brought on by the first kiss of spring. It’s time for Romance Writers of America to announce the 2010 Rita® and Golden Heart® finalists.

Bling for the unpubbed.

Tomorrow, in fact.

Tomorrow, many of us will either pace the floor by the phone waiting, praying, willing for it to ring with our ever-powerful mind control or go about our day blissfully pretending not to notice it’s the morning calls go out.

Tomorrow, for better of worse, we will be put out of our miseries. The months long wait will be over.

Sure, there’ll be crying.  Tears of defeat or tears of blubbering joy, it doesn’t matter. Just keep the Kleenex handy.

Please don't eat me!

This year will be hard for me. As a finalist last year, I wonder if lightning will strike twice. Do I have a better chance winning the lottery or being eaten alive by a great white shark than obtaining the coveted Golden Heart® distinction? Probably. But a girl can hope, right? And I can hope Gerard Butler will shower me with his undying devotion.

I digress.

As they say on the many cereal box contests, ‘many will enter, few will win’. There are up to 1200 entrants and only a handful, eight, possibly nine per category, will walk away finalists. Your momma is right – we are all winners. But some of the judges might not agree. And so we must remember the golden rule…say it with me class…it’s all subjective.

This is what I call women's porn. A naked movie star doing my laundry. And I cropped it!

Some will hate an entry and want to use it to line their kid’s hamster cage. Others will think it’s the next best thing since women’s porn. Move over Nora, Linda or <insert famous author’s name here>. This entry smokes! But the reality is it’s the luck of the draw.

Did I get the right batch of judges willing to decree me into the 2010 GH knighthood? Oh dear. I don’t want to think about it. I might take up drinking – more heavily.

Now if YOU final, I have a few suggestions.

First, celebrate! This really IS a big deal!

Second, connect with the other 2010 finalists. These are the ladies whom with you will share a special bond. Together you will create a major support system. We 2009 Golden Heart gals came together and formed the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood. We delighted in getting to know one another and trumpeted our sisters’ successes. Your new pals will grow, nurture and do a cheerleader pyramid of encouragement. You will swap advice, prepare for RWA® Nationals in Nashville and build lifelong friendships. You may even shop together. Anyone at last year’s conference in D.C. could spot a Ruby Sister. We wore red heels and Ruby Slipper pins.  And get hooked up with The Golden Network, an RWA® chapter devoted to Golden Heart® finalists and winners, past and present.

Next, polish your manuscript and query it within an inch of its life. Get it in front of as many agents and editors as you can. Don’t be afraid to mention your new title. Cue music – 2010 Golden Heart® finalist! Wear it proudly. Scream it loud enough and long enough and people will begin to take notice. Note: I do not recommend doing this in state or federal buildings or airports. You may find yourself in a cell lined with iron bars or soft padding.

"There's no place like the best sellers lists. There's no place like the best sellers list."

I raise a cyber glass of champagne to my fellow 2009 Golden Heart® finalists, the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood. Our reign has come to a bittersweet end. Wow! What a ride.

And I welcome the new Golden Heart® elite. Your journey has just begun.

Good luck to all who entered!

Order in the Court

September 3, 2009

Song of the Day: Listen Like Thieves By INXS


Here on MuseTracks, we’ve discussed a lot about contests. We know it’s all about love and hate. Er . . . no, I mean, subjectivity. We learn from feedback, embrace what we agree with or ignore what doesn’t work, trawl for overall opinions, and toughen up our skins like leathery old sailors.


We’ve discussed the benefits of contests. We root out problem areas, recognize our strengths, polish the craft, and aim for a coveted spot in front of agents and editors should lady luck smile upon us with a final.  The latter often leads to scaring household pets as we jump from our chairs and perform ritualistic happy dancing.


Whether fumbling through the first mazes of the writing and publishing community or seasoned to taste with years of experience, all-in-all, contests are great tools in bettering ourselves as writers.


But it’s not just in entering contests that we can profit from. There is another way, an even greater gain that writers can greedily snatch up. Become a judge. Sounds like a message from a public broadcast, doesn’t it? “You too, can prevent forest fires.”


Becoming a judge for a contest yields many advantages. Not only are you giving back to a unique kinship of people –  people who instead of stuffing out competition like a spent stogie, strive to lift one another up, stoking fellow writers’ dreams into  fiery blazes – you are helping yourself.


How? You’d be amazed at what you can learn from reading contest entries. Mistakes made, from simple spelling errors to major swirling, black plot holes, are easier to spot on someone else’s work than in your own masterpiece. This, in turn, makes you more likely to avoid making the same faux pas.


So what, you may say. I can do this with my critique group. True, but with contests, you are encouraged to elaborate and be constructive in an unbiased enviroment when explaining why you give the scores you think an entry deserves. Golly Molly, just why did you score a 3 instead of a 4? By backing up your claims, you are forcing yourself into a deeper insight into your assertion. You give yourself an honest understanding of not only the craft but of your own writing style.


As a judge, you will read entries that are complete messes, bless their hearts, and entries that are polished to an ungodly gleam. There is something to be gained from them and all those entries that fall in between. One may be completely written in a passive yawn. Here is your chance to gently guide the author to the right path, pat them on the shoulder and wave them on their way. You wouldn’t leave a comrade hemorrhaging on the battlefield, would you? There is a communal instinct to help. After all, someone probably once helped you when you needed it, right? All for one and one for all! Yip! Yip!  Then there’s the manuscript that leaves you to wondering why you haven’t seen it in the bookstores. Surely they are already on the Best Seller List. Take note of what this author did right and see if you can apply it to your own writing.


Contest judging isn’t necessarily easy, though. If you decide to give judging a try, here are a few tips.


Judge in the same category you write. This will allow you to experience what others are writing in your chosen genre. A touchy-feely way to explore what works and what doesn’t.


Judge in a category you don’t write in but enjoy reading. Maybe you write contemporary single titles but love curling up with Regency historicals. By doing this, you may pick up on strengths and weaknesses easier, ones that you might be prone to miss in your genre. Therefore, you can translate what you learn into your writing.


Pass on categories or entries that you may find moral or ethic issues with. For instance, if you are an inspirational writer, you probably shouldn’t judge erotica or paranormal manuscripts that could rattle or offend you, or make you want to scrub your skin raw in the shower. Likewise, if romantic suspense gives you heebee geebies, provoking nightmares, steer clear.


Remain open-minded and respectful.  Just as you covet, nurture and protect the stories you weave like a mother bear, so do the entrants. They, too, have put in enormous amounts of effort, time and love into their cubs.


Be fair. Judge tales based on what the contest score sheet is asking, not on what you think it should be asking. I’ve read manuscripts with multiple, cringe-worthy errors but still gave them average or better scores based on the score sheet questions. That said, I point out these blemishes in hopes to help the author fruitfully. And remember, comments should always remain productive.


Don’t get hung up on crafting rules. Many score sheets will ask about mechanics. Score accordingly. However, don’t make the entry suffer overall because you have a pet peeve over improper comma usage. Sometimes, it’s more about the entertainment value.


Explain every score, including the high ones. Don’t just point out the flaws; give the entrant reason to rejoice their strengths.  


Always be kind. Telling someone they need to retake 2nd grade English is a no-no. Most of us who’ve entered contests have come across a nasty judge or two. Ugliness is not constructive and a superiority complex will not take you far.


Don’t be too critical or too nice. The point is not to give false hope or to squash dreams. It is to follow contest score sheet guidelines and justly fulfill the expectations of the entrant.


By nature, judging is subjective. Each judge has their likes and dislikes and own beliefs. And of course, this will invariably affect an entry’s score. The key is to remain honest and fair.


Bottom line, being a judge can train us to become better writers in both what we perceive and what we achieve.


Have you ever judged? Do you have judging tips? What is your opinion of judging? Let me hear from you.


August 7, 2009

I’ve loaded a new chapter at :

Stop by and register to read/post/vote!

This is a great new way to network, practice, improve your writing and get your name out there.

If you like what you read of my story ‘STAY’ please give me a thumbs up! You can also follow me and you’ll get an e-mail when I post new chapters.


Fire & Rescue Captain Bracken Elliot’s life has just turned upside down. Not only has his sixteen year old, deaf son been kicked out of school, but the newest member of his F&R team is an ex-coast guard diver, whose one passion seems to be ignoring any order she receives. While his own guilt over the deaths of his wife and younger son keep Brack from truly living, her bright smile and lust for life bring a light back into his son’s eyes, even as she touches a place in Brack’s heart – he’d thought long dead. But putting his life back together – is scary as hell.

Thanks ~