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Friday, October 30, 2015

Writing Contests—The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

by Robin Caroll

Writing Contests—The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Overall, writing contests get a bad rap. Oh, when a writer finals, places, or wins, it’s all good. But if they don’t . . .

First, there’s the whole deal of score sheets. Really, on a scale of 1-5, you expect someone to put a point system to our works of art? And feedback? If the author is published, how good is the feedback if the book’s published? Can’t exactly change a character arc because the score sheet showed the hero’s journey was a bit too slow.

And judges! Who are these unnamed, faceless people? If a writer gets a good score, they’re wonderful, brilliant and insightful, of course. But a bad score? Oh, the judge didn’t “get” the story. Had to be someone unfamiliar with the genre.

But I like contests, always have. Unpublished and published. I like feedback. I like score sheets. Call me strange, but I like to know how my story interacts with the reader. A very wise person once told me that your story is just a story until a reader interacts with it. Stuck in my head. I like that—to think that readers are interacting with my story, my characters, my settings.

How to cope with bad scores? Don’t. No, I’m serious. If you get a bad score and there’s nothing useful you can use in the feedback, shut it right out of your mind. If you can’t get it out of your head, here’s a thought—praise God that particular judge didn’t feel compelled to go write a review of your book up on Amazon!

I’m blessed. I finaled and placed in some amazing contests. I’m in a group of writers who are so talented, I’m awed to be listed with them. Will I ever win? Probably not—hey, were you not paying attention? I said those who finaled with me are awesome! But it’s enough for me just to make the list. Have I NOT finaled in a contest as a published author? You bet. The Edgar Awards. Didn’t even come close. But you know what? I’m proud that I had enough guts to enter.

Contests are what they are—subjective because each reader/judge will interact with your story differently. Good, bad, or ugly, I love ’em. I just like to know that readers ARE interacting with my story. That’s enough for me.

“I love boxing. I love Hallmark movies. I love fishing. I love scrapbooking. Nope, I've never fit into the boxes people have wanted to put me in.” ~Robin Caroll is definitely a contradiction, but one that beckons you to get to know her better. Robin’s passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others and come alongside them on their faith journey—aspects Robin weaves into each of her 25 published novels. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends quality time with her husband of twenty-six years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character-filled pets at home. Robin gives back to the writing community by serving as Executive Director/Conference Director for ACFW. Her books have finaled/placed in such contests as the Carol Award, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, RT Reviewer's Choice Award, Bookseller's Best, and Book of the Year.  

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