The 2012 Royal Ascot is Complete
Please look for the 2013 Royal Ascot early next year.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Some of the frequently asked questions about the Royal Ascot:
1. Why do you care about the format of my entry?
If all entrants use similar formatting, no one is getting any special breaks from that, and the quality of the story itself is showcased instead of unimportant things like font. It's also easier for the judges to read if they are not side-tracked by unusual fonts or densely crammed paragraphs.

Sometimes contestants feel if they can just get the judges to read more of their words, they will have a better chance. Actually, the reverse is true. I've seen some really extreme examples of attempts to cram more and more words into an entry, things like not indenting paragraphs, running paragraphs together, and cramming extra lines on a page. In reality the entry becomes less and less readable. White space is good. It makes the words stand out.

2. Why do you have both a page limit and a limit on the number of words?
The maximum word count of 8500 words allows for 283 words average per page. If you have more words than this in 30 pages, you have a densely crowded manuscript, and it will be difficult for judges to read. That has a negative impact on a judge's opinion of your work.

3. Am I supposed to provide a set-up for my story in addition to my synopsis and manuscript beginning?
Only if you are entering a time travel that doesn't begin in the Regency period. In that case, give us a short summary of what happens between your story's opening and the time when it enters the Regency period. Begin your manuscript portion of the entry with the point where it enters the Regency time period.

4. Why can't I send you a printed entry?
We've tried having both printed and electronic entries at the same time, and we have received poor response for the paper entries. They add a lot of work and expense in relationship to their value to participants, and we believe we're giving better value to everyone, including those judges and coordinators who donate their time, if we just keep it all electronic.

5. Does an entry in the Hot & Wild category have to be both Paranormal AND Erotic?
No. Our categories are designed flexibly, to provide the most opportunities for the contestants and help find suitable judge for such a wide variety of sub-categories. Hot & Wild entries could be paranormal, or very spicy, or erotic. Or they could be both paranormal and very sexy. They might also include other elements that might make them fit into other categories, but generally if the paranormal or very hot elements are dominant in the story, the Hot & Wild category would be the best choice for them.

6. But what if my entry has no sex in it, and has some romance but is really more of a mainstream historical about the Peninsular War, but also involves angels on the battlefield? What category should I choose for it?
We'd like to find room for everybody who is endeavoring to write Regency-set romance, but sometimes that does create puzzles for us. You could probably choose any of the three categories. If the story is not all about angels, though, I'd suggest avoiding the Hot & Wild category. If it's an Inspirational Romance, you might want to put it in Sweet & Mild, where most Inspirationals will be. And if it's most strongly historical, perhaps the Regency Historical category would be best.

7. Will you disqualify me if I pick the wrong category? What if I end too many pages? What if the formatting messes up my page count?
No. We'll discuss it with you if we think another category would be a better choice for you, or if your story doesn't fit in that category at all. For example, an Inspirational romance probably needs to remain in the Sweet & Mild category because that's where its strongest judges will be. And a sexy story really should not go in the Sweet & Mild category.

If you have too many pages, again, we'll talk about it. I might be able to suggest something that will help you edit a bit more. The problem might be caused by different formats, or there might be too few lines on a page. If you send me 50 pages, though, I'll send it back and ask you to cut it down before submitting. All of this must be finished before the deadline, though.

8. Are your deadlines firm? What if I send it out on time but it gets there late?
Now that we're all electronic, this isn't much of a problem anymore. But we have to adhere to a tight time schedule if we're going to be done in time to announce our winners at the soiree in July.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Crafting the Winning Synopsis

The question has come up of whether the synopsis for the Royal Ascot entries is judged. Yes. I'm still surprised when I hear this question because it's only been recently that the notion of submitting something that's not judged has developed any popularity. But I'm an old contest maven, remember. I entered my first contest back when notifications of contests were done entirely by circulating flyers to other RWA chapters. They weren't even listed in the RWR back then (which by itself was a pretty primitive magazine at the time). Okay, that was 1993, if you really need to know.

Another thing about back then: You could read books on how to write a novel, but nobody wrote one about how to write a synopsis. Nobody taught any courses about it, and you couldn't find any information online. Heck, you couldn't find anything online. Chances were, you hadn't even heard the word modem then.

So I spent a lot of time trying to igure out how to do a decent synopsis. I still have one of my earlier ones, and I'll guarantee, it is awful. It's a 12 page list of events in chronological order, in sentences that all have the same structure, short and clipped, and bare. No wonder no one was interested in buying my stories then.

But no matter who I asked, no one could, would maybe, tell me what I needed to know. There was "You've got to get the emotion into it." Yeah, I did ask over and over how to do that and got what amounted to blank stares in return.

And mine were long. The first one I wrote was 42 pages. I did have the sense to not submit it, and realized it was really a story outline, the kind I'd use for myself. With great effort, I got it down to something almost useful. The above-mentioned 12 pages.

So what have I learned over the years? Well, most of that is covered in these three links to some great information for synopsis writers. I swiped this list from another author, Jenna Bayley-Burke, right out from under her nose, because I thought you could use them:

Synopsis Creation-Plot Revision by Alicia Rasley - example of how to fix a bad synopsis

Honing your Synopsis Skills by Joanne Rock - emotional landmarks make the synopsis, not just a string of events

Synopsis by Linda Needham - synopsis worksheet

What did I personally do to make my synopses work? Well, I started with my first tool, whiich was my first excited notes/outline of the story. Sometimes, if I'd finished the story, I'd go back and briefly edit to make the synopsis fit however the story had changed. Then I'd get out my YELLOW highlighter and mark all my major points- plot turning points, emotional turning points, motivations-- everything I thought needed to be in the synopsis. I'd then copy and paste them into a long list, which I would whittle down further by using the PINK highlighter in the same way as I'd done the yellow one. That makes orange, by the way. Delete the stuff that's still only yellow. I'd re-phrase next, trying to consolidate sentences. This usually got me down to the 12-15 page stage. Still too long, and it didn't exactly make exciting reading.

Next, I'd look for ways to generalize the plot. Instead of the detailed interaction of the hero and heroine going fishing, I'd just say they went fishing, where he rescued the trapped otter-- whatever, and she saw a softer side of him.

I discovered that by making a separate emotional plot line, which sometimes I run in a separate column side by side with the physical plot, I can see how it's the emotional line, the romantic growth, that makes the story strong. Then it's much easier for me to write sentences that combine the two, while minimizing plot and maximizing emotion.

A number of times my first plot sketch has been good enough to work into a synopsis. This has usually happened when I set out to keep my story-teller voice in the sketch. I just act like I'm explaining-telling- my exciting new story to my best friend. Somehow it ha better voice and shorter, too.

Another approach when I'm stumped, and need a much shorter synopsis but it wont trim down: I go to the extreme in shortening it. All the way to a blurb that would fit on the back of a business card. Sometimes not any more than a sentence. The question I ask: What's the essence of my story? Think Elevator Pitch. How would you describe your story to an editor if she asked you in an elevator, and you know she's getting off on the eighth floor?

An example: Sunrise on the Cornish Coast: Two ladies. One spyglass. Two naked men dashing into the surf. One of them is the man Lady Juliette hoped would never find her.

Sure, there's lots more story after that. But this captures the theme, suspense, setting-- go from there.

This one better encapsulates the entire story: What was intended to be a restorative tonic for women turns out to have an entirely different effect on men. And the bachelors of the Ton re running scared.

The object is to keep your tiny blurb in mind as you expand it. Build your synopsis from that point, maybe occasionally checking with your long one where you think you had it just right before. But build like you're putting up house framework, then adding on the remainder. Stop with the framing for a very short synopsis- just the emotional guts with clear but very general plot line. Add more detail for one that's 3-4 pages long, more emotion and motivation, more plot. Then your 7-10 page synopsis can be your mainstay that fleshes thing out. But again, keep your concentration on motivation and emotion.

Hope this helps! Now go get busy and polish up your synopsis!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

NIT-PICKY STUFF: All about Entering

I've given you the basic rules for the Royal Ascot in the Side Bar. But here is some more specific information on submitting, formatting, eligibility, etc:


Regency Definition: set between 1785 and 1830
Setting must be at least partially in the British Empire during the Regency period, or any setting which includes British citizens in any other part of the world during the Regency period.
Entries with strong paranormal or erotic elements are best placed in the Hot and Wild Category. Entries without explicit sex in the story lines would be best placed in the Sweet and Mild category.


Open to all authors who have not been published in romance fiction by RWA PAN standards in the last five years.
Published authors may enter for feedback, but will not be eligible to participate in the final round of judging.
Entry must not be published or contracted in any form at the time of entry.
A previous entry may be entered again if it was not a previous winner of the contest.
An entry may be entered in only one category
Participants may enter more than one manuscript but must submit a separate entry form and fee for each entry.


SIZE: Maximum 30 pages and 8500 words (computer count), to include the story opening and a synopsis not longer than 10 pages. Time Travels should begin where Regency setting begins, with a one-page summary to that point.
FORMAT: Use standard fonts and standard sizes, preferably Times New Roman or a Courier font, at least 12 pt, and standard margins and indentations, please.
HEADER: include title and category, and sub-category if applicable.
NO AUTHOR'S NAME anywhere on manuscript or synopsis.
ATTACH SYNOPSIS to the end of your manuscript pages.
USE Word or RTF. Please don't use Word .docx because many judges can't read it. Coordinator will help if you need help.
No cover sheet needed. Your email serves this purpose.


ENTRY FORM is found at http://dellejacobs.com/royalascot
If you can't access this, contact the coordinator for help. Fill out entry form and submit it.
PAYMENT: Check or PayPal. Use one of the links on the entry form. Follow instructions on the link. Any checks must arrive by the contest deadline.
EMAIL: to contest coordinator at theroyalascot@gmail.com
Entry Form, attached to email
Complete entry, attached to email
Subject Line of the email: RA- plus the title of your entry (may be abbreviated).
You may put a message to coordinator in the message box.
Please keep an un-altered copy of your submission in case of problems

Each entry will receive three judges in the first round, at least one published in romance fiction, and another published or a major contest finalist. Royal Ascot Score Sheet is used and judges are encouraged to write on the entry, and the entries and score sheets will be returned to the entrants after the first round of judging.
Discrepancy judging will only take place if there is at least a 30 point spread between the two lowest scores, and the entry would have a possibility of finaling with a higher total score.
Only three entries in each category will become finalists. If necessary, any ties will be resolved before the final round , using a fourth judge.
Note: If the sub-genre of any finaling entry is not one acquired by the final round judge, an attempt will be made to obtain a read from an editor who acquires that sub-genre. This editor will not participate in judging. All final round judges place priority on story quality, not acquirability.

ANY QUESTIONS? NEED ANY HELP? JUST ASK: theroyalascot@gmail.com

Thanks for your interest! We look forward to having you in our contest.

Delle Jacobs,
Royal Ascot 2009 Coordinator