The 2013 edition of Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile marks only the fourth year of the event’s existence. It’s a small contest with relatively few entrants. But an impressive number of those have gone on to bigger and better things.
We shared a few of the success stories with you last year, such as that of Cheryl Linn Martin, who won our Middle Grade/Young Adult category a couple years ago with her YA detective story Pineapples in Peril. (I still remember searching for images of pineapple fields for use in illustrating the post that announced the win.) Since then, she’s published that story through Comfort Publishing as the first The Hawaiian Island Detective Club series. The second, Menehunes Missing, came out recently, and the third, Ukuleles Under Cover, is scheduled for release in August of this year.
One of our first entrants, Johnnie Alexander Donley, signed with Tyndale House for a historical romance, Where Treasure Hides. It made its debut this past December.
And let’s not forget Diane Moody, who has been ridiculously busy since winning our Contemporary Romance category not once, but twice. She self-published both of those stories (Tea With Emma and Strike the Match) in a series called The Teacup Novellas. But that’s just the beginning. She’s also published two titles in the Moody Blue Trilogy (Moody Blues fan fiction), Blue Christmas and Blue Like Elvis; general fiction The Runaway Pastor’s Wife; the historical novel Of Windmills and War; and two nonfiction titles: Confessions of a Prayer Slacker published by Sheaf House, and Don’t Ever Look Down, a book about surviving cancer co-written with Debbie Church and Dick Church.
But category winners aren’t the only ones who have found our contest helpful. When we sent the judges’ critiques to Julie Trimmer, one of last year’s Contemporary Fiction entrants, she replied: “Wow, this is the best contest ‘loss’ I can imagine. The critiques are fantastic!”
UK writer Magda Knight entered two stories in the Middle Grade/Young Adult category last year. Neither won. But her response couldn’t have been more enthusiastic: “At the risk of burdening your inbox I'd like to voice my appreciation of the incisive and immensely helpful critiques by the judges. I don't think I've ever had such pertinent and useful feedback. Absolutely game-changing. Please accept my thanks for setting up such a great competition. I may not have won, but thanks to those critiques I feel like I won anyway. Huzzah!”
These comments were altogether unsolicited.
At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, I’d like to share a few more snippets from our fan mail:
I can't tell you enough how much it has helped me. Just getting my work out has been hard for me, because I usually don't receive any feedback. Both of the judges’ critiques were extremely helpful.
I really appreciate experienced writers who take time to help newer writers learn. The feedback is helpful, and it's nice knowing there are people who want to help you succeed - including all of you at Novel Rocket!*
The comments were spot on. Some were very encouraging. It's given me new motivation to continue on. Thank you, thank you, thank you!*
You can count me as one who was excited about my feedback. :) I use contests as a measuring stick, to make sure I'm improving in my writing. And the feedback I got on this contest confirmed that I've taken care of most of the problems my feedback from ACFW's Genesis contest pointed out, LOL! I've still got a bit of work to do, but I was encouraged that I was actually making progress.*
And one more, if you can stand it:
The comments I received from both judges were incredibly helpful, providing plenty of concrete advice, great insights, and the encouragement so precious to debut novelists.
I don’t want to give the impression every entrant was as excited as these. Some asked for clarification (which we were happy to provide), one suggested we might want to choose different judges next time, and quite a few gave us no feedback whatsoever.
So we don’t guarantee you’ll be this enthusiastic. But you'll never know how helpful the experience might be until you give it a try.
Remember the quote above from Magda Knight? She wrote about the experience on her blog, and this is how she wrapped it up:
If a writing competition offers you a critique as part of either the prize or the entry fee, TAKE IT. Research the judges, obviously. Research the site/resource/publication in general. But they’re offering you gold, so TAKE IT.I entered the first chapter and synopsis for two unpublished novels to the Novel Rocket Launch Pad Contest.
I didn’t win, but the critiques I was offered were so insightful that I felt like I had won anyway. They ripped my work apart, those master butchers, and they had clearly been wielding their knives with skill and clear-eyed dispassion for some time. They dissembled my musty old cadaver of a first chapter and showed me how to rebuild it into something that will soon not only stand up but walk.
I’ve been on plenty of online writing forums and I’m sure you have too. They’re great. They’re tough. They’re loving.
But they’re NOTHING like this.
This was my very first taste of high-level feedback from industry insiders, with highlighting of action beats and DNA-level sentence structure and stuff I’ve never before seen covered in forum critiques. I felt like Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Aslan strips away his dragon flesh layer by layer, finally returning him to the form of the boy he was meant to be.
Industry-level criticism is objective and it is there to make you improve. If you see an opportunity to get it via a writing competition, you’d be silly not to take it.
So don’t take my word for it. Ask the people who’ve been there and done that. And then, if you’d like to get in on the action, check out the official rules on the Launch Pad tab, and prepare for take-off!
When she's not administering the Novel Rocket Contest, Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world.
Take the next starship through the Gateway to Gannah for some serious sci-fi adventure!