About two weeks ago, I took the plunge and entered a novel writing contest, known as First Chapters Romance. Yes, this contest is strictly for romance novels. I looked at some manuscripts that I'd been working on and decided I had something that might just qualify. Moreover, I wanted to get some more feedback on the draft of this novel.
My entry is called Summer Days of Desire and is posted on Gather.com for about one more week. The rules are simple. Any member of Gather can review the entries (of which there are roughly 300) and rate them. In this contest, only "10" votes count. Many new members have joined Gather in order to enter the contest, or, to read and rate the entries.
On the whole, it has been a good experience. I have gotten 80 comments so far, which is more feedback than I've ever gotten on any of my fiction writing. I'm learning a lot about what readers like and what they'd like to see change. However, as an author, there is a certain pride in your work, so it requires a thick skin when reviewers take a hard line on your beloved text.
Before this, I did not know too much about the Romance genre, but I have been learning a lot. I just read a book called "Writing Romance Novels for Dummies", which is actually an excellent book, written by Catherine Lanigan, an editor for Harlequin Books. Much of what I learned in the book would have been great to know about 2 months ago, but so it goes. The good thing is that even though my chapter has not adhered to all of the normal conventions of romance novels, it has still received a good response. For a blurb on the novel and a really cool cover concept, go here. I'd love to hear your comments. You can read it even before joining Gather, but if you want to vote, you'll need to go through their short signup procedure.