07 May 2007

Proposed Changes at RWA

RWA members have received or will be receiving proxy ballots, with voting to take place during the National Conference in July. The package includes proposed changes to the annual RITA and Golden Heart contests. For we writers of historical romances, the changes are profound.

First of all, the Board recommends that the Traditional Regency category be eliminated, "...since there are no longer any major publishers printing this type of book. Any short Regencies remaining can be entered into the new historical categories."

Previous contest years split historical entries into categories by word count, with "short" defined as fewer than 95K words and "long" defined as greater than 95K words. The Board recommends submissions now be entered by time period. The proposed categories are "Best Historical Romance to 1820" and "Best Historical Romance from 1790-1945."

Anyone with a book set between 1790-1820 will be playing odds-maker with regard to placement. Which to choose??

The year 1900 used to cap historical romance eligibility, thus the most radical change regarding these new categories is allowing for entries through the conclusion of World War II. Good news for our 20th gals!

"Rationale for changing historical categories: Again, the board wished to eliminate the word count problem. With numbers dwindling, we examined merging both short and long historical into one category but felt that the historical novel could grow in the future. We hoped to allow for the change in popularity of one time period over another by providing overlapping years. An author whose book spans many years should determine where the novel best fits."

Dwindling numbers?? *pout*

Please see your copy of Board Recommendations for full details.

So there you have it, the proposed changes as they impact our work. Members will have a chance to vote, either in person or by proxy, in July. What are your thoughts on these changes?? Do they belie structural differences between shorter, category-style historicals and longer, single-title works? Are they placing an undo emphasis on era rather than plot structure? Is the decision to give 1790-1820 "double billing" a means of splitting a popular era into two (roughly equal) piles or an unnecessary complication?

UPDATE: Have something to say? The RWA is soliciting its membership to speak out. You have until May 15th to voice your opinion. Write to gh_ritacomments AT rwanational DOT org


Camilla said...

Why split the historical category by time period? What has it to do with the actual writing? I hold reservations about these proposed changes due to the whole "accuracy" debate(of how many people ding authors for perceived inaccuracies) and the tipping of the scales in the Regency camp(and the possibility that judges may pass on non-traditional settings because the Regency is more familiar).

And Question Marks all around for giving two categories for Georgian/Regency historicals.

The word count thing always puzzled me. There is no difference in plotting and pacing between a historical greater or shorter than 95K--what is the ultimate judgment based upon when it comes to word count?

I'm not an RWA member so won't be eligible to vote, but I am interested in learning the outcome of this.

carrie_lofty said...

With regard to plot, there is a difference between shorter, category-style historicals and longer, more complex, even multi-generational ones. I have been dinged by crit partners who see the emotion developing more slowly in my MSS; I tend to write longer books with multiple POVs. This is certainly taboo in category books where the POVs are restricted to H/H. Then there's someone like Karen Mercury who doesn't get rolling until she tops 120K ;)

The board makes distinctions between three types of contemporaries, all based on complexity of plot -- whereas it used to be based exclusively on word count. The proposed categories are short contemp (single plotline; H/H POVs only), long contemp (main plotline with one subplot; H/H POVs dominate but not exclusive), and single title contemp (lots of subplots; multiple POVs). This acknowledges a difference in how a book can be constructed based on complexity (sometimes equated to length), but that difference is discarded with regard to historicals.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has an outline of all the category changes.

Camilla said...

Ah...but are there any RWA members who submit to the GH/RITA who write multi-gen, 400+ pg romances(published regularly by big name NY houses under romance imprints/editors, I mean) anymore? I understand about Harlequin Historicals, but from what I've read, their word count/complexity is similar to what I've seen in Avon's and SMP's, etc.