Posts Tagged With: Operation First Novel

Writing Contest Update

operation-iconThis week I got the judge’s critique of my entry in the Christian Writers Guild contest Operation First Novel. Though I didn’t place in the contest, the critique was extremely helpful. It was worth all the angst of waiting and hoping.

If you haven’t had a professional critique your writing, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s putting your creative neck on the chopping block, but hey, that’s how we learn.

The critique confirmed a couple weak spots I knew were there. And it affirmed a couple strengths I hoped were there: two 10s out of possible 10! Woohoo! I admit it, I enjoyed reading the words “tremendous” and “excellent” in those two categories.

Onward. One more contest. The American Christian Fiction Writers also has a contest for unpublished novelists: Genesis.  You have till March 15, 2014 to get your entry in too.

So, congratulations to these five talented authors, the finalists for Operation First Novel 2013. One of them will take home all the marbles and be published by Worthy Publishing.

●  Assault on Saint Agnes by Joseph Courtemanche, Saint Paul, Minnesota
● The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance, Colorado Springs, Colorado
● The Orb of Oriston by Donna Myers, Nampa, Idaho
● Stolen Dreams by Sharon Sheppard, St. Cloud, Minnesota
●  A Ticket Bought at a Hazard by Debra Jeter, Clarksville, Tennessee

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Defeated or Devotional

The semifinalist list for Operation First Novel 2013, a writing contest sponsored by The Christian Writers Guild, came out this week. I was not on the list.

After the hot flush of disappointment and disbelief subsided, (I wanted it so badly!), my next thought was, “OK, Lord, now what?”

It’s no good pouting—that’s not going to get my novel published—so I might as well learn from this experience and move on.

I’m galvanized to action. There are agents to query, another Christian writers organization to join, another contest to enter. More revisions.

This rejection comes at just the time when my Facebook page has taken a turn that’s amazed me. Like Henry Blackaby says, “Look what God is doing and join Him.” There are women joining who live in “closed countries.” That’s thrilling!

So is this contest rejection a defeat?

NO!

It’s a devotional.

From the beginning I’ve said, if God is in this writing endeavor, it will be what He wants it to be. But that also means I have to learn the lessons He sets before me and not mess it up. He can, after all, find other vessels to use.

Two scriptures light my path right now, both given to me by friends.

May He grant you according to your heart’s desire,
And fulfill all your purpose. Psalm 20:4

A bruised reed he will not break… Isaiah 42:3

Oh, I cling to the idea of being granted my heart’s desire, but I know that doesn’t mean getting what I want. The more I align my heart’s desire with His heart’s desire, the closer I’ll come to fulfilling my purpose for Him.

And this bruise to my ego and my desires is really nothing in the scheme of things. The Isaiah verse was poured like balm over me by a family friend who prayed my family through the deepest of deep hurts. The Lord will not break me. Or you.

Would you like to share scripture verses that have encouraged you when you stood on the cliff of disappointment?

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Writing Contest Results

The five-month wait is over. I now have my score and critique in hand—the results of having entered my first writing contest. It’s been quite an experience so far. If you’re an aspiring writer, I highly recommend putting your work out there for judgement. Sounds ominous, but it’s a great way to improve in our craft.

I entered Operation First Novel, a contest sponsored by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. In the cover letter accompanying my critique, Jerry Jenkins encouraged entrants. He reminded us that many writers never get this far, actually completing a manuscript, and he spurred us to “press on”, (Philippians 3:12).

Having read that, holding my breath, I turned to my score and critique. I had mistakenly thought the score was based on 100 points, so you can guess my reaction when I saw my score that was actually based on 70 points. A 30 point difference in expectation caused a moment of angst before I caught my error.

Overall, I didn’t do too badly. I’ve participated in countless auditions and contests, so this is a familiar place—though I’ve never had to wait five months for results! (I’m of the school of thought some days that says instant gratification isn’t fast enough.)

My judge wrote helpful comments and suggestions for each of the seven criteria. The judge also had plenty of positive feedback which confirmed that I’m on the right track. I don’t know where the track’s going yet, but it’s the right one to be on.

So, with critique in hand, I’ve started the revision process—the fourth pass through. The judge suggested a resource book on revision: The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. Writers, trust me, you need this book.

I feel good, even a little exhilarated. I’m the Little Engine That Could. I’m pressing on. Revision. Agent hunt…

When I feel discouraged, thinking I started this writing game too late, I remember what an 80-something friend said, “but you wouldn’t have had the maturity to write then like you do now.”

Press on to take hold of the prize. Win the race!

Be blessed to be a blessing.

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Rejection #l

The wait is over. After three long months, the ten semifinalists, out of 102 entrants, for the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest were announced; the list did not include my name and the title of my novel.

Rejection #1. I can start the official count.

I’m disappointed, but not as much as I thought I’d be. I’m familiar with this process. I once responded to the psychological projective questions of—”I am___, People are___, Life is____,”  with “Life is an audition.” I have what seems like a life-long history of competitions and auditions—waiting for results. Now I wait for the critique and the score on my novel. Then I revise again.

In the meantime, I get busy. Since I now know the OFN isn’t the door I’ll go through at the moment, I keep preparing—developing my platform (social media), identifying agents for the query phase, trying not to fall off the path.

Rejection can do one of two things—discourage me and get me to quit, or galvanize me to action and improvement. I choose the latter. I remember the first time I was videotaped in preparation for a speech contest in high school and really saw my performance. I learned to welcome critical feedback and use it.

Rejection never feels good. But it doesn’t feel quite so bad when you trust the source of the rejection. The CWG is committed to helping writers do their best.

So, congratulations to the ten semifinalists. I know they worked incredibly hard to get where they are and that they’re obediently using the gift of writing the Lord gave them.

Cristine Eastin © 2012
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Writing as Worship

Dry, shriveled leaves blowing down the alley. Hard, scraping noise in the dark. The sound caught my attention and found a place to hold on.

I’ve felt dry. Since submitting my novel to the Operation First Novel contest, I’ve felt withered—disconnected—in general, and from the Lord. I thought it might be just the letdown of completing a huge fourteen-month work during which I was happily cloistered from reality. But it’s more than that.

I realized writing is an act of worship for me—a gift I give back to the Lord—and I miss it.

I’ve said and prayed that I rely on the Lord for every breath. And for every word.

“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 8:3 NIV

It was a blessed time, writing my novel—in a nearly constant loop of seeking and praising the Lord.

Now I’m in the praying-about-the-next-story phase, casting for the starting point. I have to remember that for some, the waters part before they take a step—others have to stick their toe in, and then the river parts.

I picture myself, sitting on my heels in the presence of  the Lord, with my gift of writing in a wooden box before me. I shove the box out to the Lord. The world pulls it back to me. But I keep pushing it out, until finally I take my hands off of it, close my eyes, and watch and pray while I wait. Worshipping.

Cristine Eastin © 2012
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Operation First Novel

Operation First Novel is a contest for, as it says, authors submitting an unpublished novel. The contest is sponsored by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

This year I entered my novel. 

Huh. When I pushed the send button on my entry form no flares went up, no confetti, no balloons, no champagne cork popped. Didn’t it register in the universe that I had just submitted my novel to a contest?

No—nothing. Then I remembered what a lonely business writing is. Really, it’s more alone than lonely. I’m not lonely when I write—generally I’m having fun somewhere on the fun continuum between good enough and a blast.

After submission, then a writer waits—and waits—and waits.

Years ago, while whining to the Lord about waiting on something else, the scripture came to mind “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41). Whether or not I get what I think I want, I don’t wait alone—I wait with the Lord—and I wait actively—watching and praying.

There are a lot of I‘s in that last sentence— enough to gag on. My fervent prayer is that the Lord helps me get out of His way so He can use me. But I’m no better than the disciples—I keep falling asleep when I’m asked to “watch and pray.” Then it’s—wake up—slap cold water on my face—and try again.

As Peter Leavell, winner of Operation First Novel 2011, said “…God knows the end (Jeremiah 29:11). He knew I would win.” Likewise, He knows exactly what will come of my novel. That’s weird to know while I wait, but that’s part of God’s process—teaching us to trust Him in the dark. But it’s still…well…dark, and sometimes my lower lip trembles.

I don’t expect to win the contest, but I want to win the prize. “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

© Cristine Eastin, 2012
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