Monday, February 17, 2014

Writing Contests - What's In It For You if You Enter?


by Pamela S. Meyers

Wanda Writer signed on to the ACFW eloop and scanned the list of posts. She kept her finger poised over the delete key, clicking on it every so often, picking and choosing which posts to keep and which ones to banish. She paused at a reminder from the Genesis Head Coordinator that there was still time to enter the Genesis Writing Contest.

A nudge poked its way into her mind to click on the message, but why bother? She’d entered the writing contest a couple years ago, and what did she have to show for her time but a lost entry fee and a judge’s comment that all but said she didn’t know how to write and should find another way to pass her time. It had taken her almost a year to get over that and start writing again. Her finger hit delete and the reminder disappeared from her computer screen and from her thoughts.

But, the next time Wanda opened her WIP to work on it, the nudge returned. She had taken those workshops at conference last year and joined a good critique group since that last contest. Maybe it was time to enter Genesis again. But what if that same judge or another like him or her got her entry? She never wanted to go through that again. She pushed all thoughts of entering out of her head and never considered entering the contest again. Weeks later when one of her crit partners shared how a contest judge's hard criticism woke her up to a weakness in her writing and how grateful she was for receiving the judge's input, Wanda questioned if she'd been too hasty in deciding not to enter the contest.

Genesis Logo
Does that scenario sound remotely similar to your experience with writing contests? Or perhaps you’ve never entered a contest before and get a case of jitters just thinking about it?

This is the time of year that writing contests for unpublished writers seem to be everywhere. Currently, ACFW’s Genesis (of which I am head coordinator) is in the middle of its first round, and Novel Rocket has just kicked off its Launch Pad contest. There are other contests also going on for unpublished writers you may want to look into by Googling.




Here are three great reasons that you should consider entering a
Novel Rocket Launch Pad Award
contest or two this year.

  1. Experience—no matter how many contests you enter, each one gives you more experience in preparing a manuscript for submission, following guidelines, and becoming more comfortable with strangers seeing and evaluating your work.

  1. Feedback from Judges—Contest judges can vary from veteran writers or published authors to editors and agents (usually in the later rounds). Yes, some judges can be blunt, and judging is always subjective. But, entrants can often times learn more from a candid judge than from a gentle judge. I experienced this when a Genesis  judge gave me a low score for POV when my story was in first person. Of course, I wondered how she could give me such a low score when there was no POV shift or head hopping? I later learned the reason was that I hadn’t made my POV deep enough. That is where I first learned about deep POV and have incorporated it in my writing ever since.

  1. A Chance of Winning—Most contests don’t hold a promise of a book contract for the first place winner or even a monetary award. But, winning does give you bragging rights and something great to add to your writing resume. Placing in a contest shows you can follow writer’s guidelines and your writing is good enough to win. It says a lot about your character traits that appeal to publishers and agents.

You may be saying, “Okay this all sounds good on paper, but I never want to experience the hurt I felt when that judge said . . . ”  

Yes, it does hurt. But if you decide ahead of time that you are going to put on your rhino skin and not fall apart if you do receive a few bad comments, you’ll be better able to ignore them.

The best way I’ve found to deal with disappointing judge remarks is to put the score sheets away for a while and not look at them for at least a week or maybe a month. I then go to the Lord and pray through my bad feelings. It's especially therapeutic to journal about my feelings and get them out on paper. Sometimes it has taken many pages of notepaper to get them all out, but it really does help.

I always save any positive remarks I’ve received from my crit partners that I can go back to and read during my moments of despair over a bad judge remark. And you can be assured that such experiences don’t end once you’re published. One bad review can send an author into a tailspin. That’s when many will go to the positive reviews and fan letters they’ve received and reread them.

I hope by now, if you’ve been on the fence about entering a writing contest this year, I’ve convinced you to take the plunge. For more information about the ACFW Genesis contest you can go to www.acfw.com/genesis. For the Novel Rocket Launch Pad contest, you can read about it at http://www.novelrocket.com/p/launch-pad-contest.html.

Just remember that no matter where you place in the contest, all entrants are winners in one form or another. So what are you waiting for? 

 
A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago, an hour's drive away from her hometown which she visits often to dig into its historical legacy. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way,  contemporary romantic mysteries and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva,Wisconsin, released in April, 2013. She can often be found speaking at events around Lake Geneva or nosing in microfilms and historical records about Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.


6 comments:

Normandie Ward Fischer said...

Pam, I love writing contests. Not all are created equal, of course, and they're certainly not one-size-fits-all, but they serve a definite purpose. Back in 2011, I had just returned from living on board our boat in Mexico. I was discouraged because my agent had been unable to sell my stories. So, I took three completed manuscripts and loosed them on the judging world, hoping for feedback from more than my critique partners. Could I actually write? What would readers/judges say?

It was an empowering experience. Becalmed won The Catherine from the Toronto RWA for women's fiction; Heavy Weather, The Marlene from the Washington DC RWA for women's fiction; Sailing out of Darkness finaled in the mainstream category in the Rocky Mountain Colorado Gold; HW was a FabFive finalist in Wisconsin; and both Becalmed and HW were semi-finalists in the Genesis. The encouragement and feedback prodded me to keep on, to believe that something good could come if I trusted--and waited on God's timing.

And aren't I having fun now?!

Pamela S. Meyers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pamela S. Meyers said...

I remember when you entered all those contests!

Normandie Ward Fischer said...

I thought you would! I kept your phone message on my voicemail for at least a year!

Greg Miller said...

I do think I gleaned some valuable feedback from some of the judges' comments. The think what really got to me though, was when a judge obviously was hurried, and didn't understand or believe some of the factual parts of the book. In fact, he got it exactly wrong and then made points based on his error. I then wondered how he viewed everything else, based on the fact that he blew the premise.

The main thing I think is that you get another opinion and one that has no vested interest in your story or its success or failure.

Greg Miller said...

...The thing that really got to me...