What it takes to win the New Voices Contest

I’m a finalist in the Mills & Boon New Voices contest. Please vote for me at the New Voices website. (The site requires you to register to vote, which is easy and painless)

It’s not my first contest final but it’s a crucial one because the prize is so great – the winner receives the services of a Mills & Boon editor for a year and publication of their book. This contest has taught me a lot about writing, but the most important lesson has been about publishing, not craft. Lots of people can write and the fantastic entries submitted prove that. So what else will I need to win?

Mills & Boon designed the contest in a very specific way. Judges culled the top ten finalists from over eight-hundred entries because they saw something the Mills & Boon team calls a “…’New Voice’ . So that might be someone who doesn’t have enough dialogue, for instance, but we see a spark of something, a clear and distinct voice that we think that we could work with and help them to hone their craft and writing to publication standard.”

My mentor team, comprised of the fabulous Heidi Rice and Sally Williamson, took this concept to the limit. They didn’t like my second chapter. Or the next attempt. And so on. The version of chapter two I submitted to the contest is my fifth major rewrite and includes a point of view change in the first scene. I turned it around in a week. That’s what I think the judges are looking for.

Someone who can take direction, re-envision their story, but keep a distinctive voice and do it while under pressure. I threw every spare moment into this amongst real life challenges such as lingering bronchitis I can’t get rid of, a sick four-year old who kept me up at night, a birthday party for my nine-year old,and a husband who worked about ninety hours in the last week. I wanted to cry. I wanted to break things.I wanted to quit and find a nice job at Borders. But I did it. I’ve never felt more like a writer and I’ve never been more proud of something I’ve written.

I mentioned none of this to my mentoring team because while I’m sure they would be sympathetic, everyone has professional and personal challenges. This is the big time and I want to be a published author, not whine about my excuses. (I will pause here to say thank you to my friends who let me whine to them and are still speaking to me. I love you guys.)

At its heart, publishing is a business designed to make money. In addition to examining and providing feedback on how I handled the editorial and mentoring process, I expect the team to review my comments on other people’s entries (Is she professional at all times? Does she understand story elements and can she convey issues constructively?), my participation in discussions (Is she committed to this contest?) and now, my strategy for promoting the contest and soliciting votes (Can she promote herself and her book?).

Though I have no special insight into this, I believe all of these elements will go into the judge’s decision and also factor into whether I get a second chance if I don’t win. If not here, I’ll get a chance somewhere else. At the end of the day, being a published author isn’t about producing the most outstanding story ever written, though it’s critical to be proficient. It’s about being a dedicated professional who understands publishing is an industry but still loves it.

I love the chapter I wrote, not because it’s technically perfect or because it’s better than anyone else’s, but because it stretched me as a writer and showed me what I’m made of. I’m a winner even if I don’t win the New Voices contest because I know I have what it takes to be a published author.

16 thoughts on “What it takes to win the New Voices Contest

  1. Good luck in the contest and I totally agree with your post. Even though I didn’t move on, I got so much from the New Voices contest that I know will help me be a better writer and a better professional writer.

    • Exactly Sabrina! I may not move on past this round, but I’ll take the determination I discovered with me to the next thing. Or was it stubborness I found? LOL Thanks for the luck.

  2. I am so happy and excited for you, Kat! I can only imagine the stress this stage of the competition can create and throw in the real-life challenges of being a mother, wife, etc into it, it has to be near impossible at times. I’m so glad you got through the week. I’m rooting for you!

  3. As someone who’s only five months into the process of novel writing, your post is inspiring to me. 😀

    Reading that you had to work a birthday party into all that makes my heart pound! But you kept going, and made some major changes — some that I’m sure you didn’t anticipate. I’ve always heard that revisions are tough, but you took it seriously, and you worked hard, and I’m so happy that you’ve made it this far.

    GOOD LUCK! 🙂 *off to the NV site*

    • Well, you impress me! I’ve been writing for over twenty years, so for only being five months in, you’re doing really well! Thanks for all your support. You’ve gone over and above, esp with your own real life. 🙂

  4. I’m still so excited for you, Kat! You’ve really made the most of this opportunity, which is why you’re going to be a huge force to be reckoned with in the publishing world. 🙂

    You know I’ll be rooting (and voting!) for you!

  5. It’s wonderful you saw the rewrite as an opportunity for growth. This attitude will carry you far on your writing journey. Congrats on finishing the rewrite. And good luck!

  6. Yes, Kat!

    I came to this realization earlier this year, despite having hung around published authors and heard/read their success stories for the past seven years. The author who can push beyond their limits, who can take revisions and advice and retain their vision/Voice, and who are willing to go the extra mile, is the one who will go on to a lasting career.

    I want to be that author.

  7. Kat you impress and inspire me. I hope when I get back on my feet that I have the same drive, professionalism and creativity under pressure that you do. Great luck in the contest.

  8. As I read, I understood the pride felt in being able to produce in a short period without putting life on hold. I’ve managed to do a bit of that for nanowrimo.org and it’s an exhilarating feeling when one accomplishes the task.

    Good luck in the future.

    Write On!

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