Sunday, June 19, 2016

Even Negative Feedback Can Be Good -- It's All in How You Look At It

By Pamela S. Meyers

I’m writing this on Father’s Day and I hope all the dad readers enjoyed a good day yesterday.

A few weeks ago I happened on an article I wrote about dealing with negative feedback from writing contest judges. This past week, the finalists were announced for the ACFW Genesis contest and the semifinalists that aren’t moving on to the final round, will soon receive their judged entries from the first and second rounds. I thought this article would be good to post to encourage anyone who has recently received not-so-favorable comments from a contest judge. I know all too well how such comments can put a writer into a tailspin of emotions.

It was five years ago this summer that I received my first writing contract, so the article had to have been written at least six years ago. Even so, the lesson I learned then is still valuable today. Below is the article.


Sometime ago, I began working on a romance manuscript, periodically putting it aside when new writing opportunities appeared. Upon coming back to it for the third or fourth time, I decided to switch things up and began converting my third-person POV into first person. A daunting task, as anyone who has done this knows. But I eagerly rubbed my hands together, anxious to begin. Since most romances are not written in first person that also meant switching the genre to Women's Fiction (at that time a category in the Genesis).

Because my crit partners had seen the story from its inception and I needed fresh eyes for feedback, I entered it in ACFW’s Genesis Contest. I told myself I most likely wouldn’t place, and that was okay. Meanwhile, I continued working on the new format, changing the beginning scene several times.

When the semifinalists were announced and my name wasn’t on the list, I felt a tinge of disappointment. Weeks later, as I was preparing to shut down for the evening, the judges’ score sheets arrived in my email box. I told myself not to not open them until morning. The hour was late and I didn't need to have that kind of thing on my mind. Did I listen? No. Bad mistake.

The scores were much lower than any I’d ever received with other stories. I skimmed the judges’ comments, reading some and ignoring others. They were brutal to say the least. I licked my wounds and shut down the computer. Determined I wouldn’t think about them until the next day, I went right to sleep.

An hour later, my eyes popped open, and my brain shifted into high gear as those judge comments materialized in my mind’s eye. Then the voices started:
  • You can’t write.
  • What were you thinking?
  • Time to give it up.

Ane & me in one of our not so serious moments
I tossed and turned, punched my pillow, and threw the covers off and back on, but the taunting wouldn’t stop. Then a Greater Voice broke through the clamor. It was time to get off my pity pot and focus on someone else. I began praying for a friend’s sister who was gravely ill. A short time later I fell asleep.

The next morning, I spent time in one of my favorite Bible passages—
Hebrews 10: 35-36:

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!  Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. (NLT)

I’ve never doubted my call to write, and God has promised me that at the proper time I will reap a harvest if I don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9). After a time of prayer, I called my writing buddy and one of my dearest friends, Ane Mulligan. She loves me enough to tell it like it is to me and not sugarcoat it.

She helped me realize that by switching genres (from romance to women’s fiction) I also needed to change how I began the story. We brainstormed and fresh ideas for a new opening chapter flew between us, almost faster than we could say them.

Our discussion also helped me to see that many of the judges’ comments were well founded, and some actually pinpointed issues others in my crit group had missed. That alone made entering the contest worthwhile. Grateful for all I had learned in a one-hour phone call, I got to work and outlined several brand new chapters that made the story stronger.

Rarely have I regretted entering a writing contest, even if I didn’t place, and this experience was no different. No matter how low your scores, remember there is always a nugget or two (or more!) in the comments to help point you in the right direction. You just need to keep your eyes open and on the Lord so you don’t miss the prize!


So there you have it. Advice given over five years ago and still applicable today. The irony is that the story is still not finished. A short time after I wrote this I received  a request from a publisher to work on a proposal for a story set in my hometown and I totally switched gears. That story became Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

I’d still like to finish the other story, and Lord willing, someday I will.

A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, which has recently been re-released on Amazon and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Love is All We Need (the sequel to Thyme for Love) will release in 2016, and Second Chance Love from Bling!, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, will release in January 2017. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.


Normandie Fischer said...

Peseverence seems to be the word of the day, Pam. Excellent advice on turning all those contest failures into success stories.

Pamela S. Meyers said...

Thanks, Normandie. I hope this helps some of those who are right now licking their wounds. We really need to develop rhino skin in this business!

Southern-fried Fiction said...

I always knew you could do it, my friend. :)

chappydebbie said...

Excellent advice. I'm not a writer, but this makes total sense.