I started entering writing contests in April 2009 and within the past (almost) 2 years, I’ve filled out about fifteen different contest forms. Some responses were good. Some were not. And some just hurt me like a kick to the gut.
But like a masochist, I sent out more.
What have a learned through this process?
Becoming a published author is not for the faint of heart!
These critiques build my endurance, toughen my hide, and help prepare me for the tougher critiques (and possibly reviews) ahead. It’s kind of like those Braxton Hicks contractions before labor. Either they help your body prepare for the massive pain of childbirth, or they give you a false sense of security about how little pain you are going to have 🙂
Critiques are a bit of a litmus test to your writing readiness – and the more I expose myself to the instructive critique of others, the more I prepare my heart for the publishing world.
Ciphering out truth is a wonderful teaching tool.
After the initial shock and near-trauma, digging through those critiques for truthful nuggets of insight can make you a better writer. I ‘see’ patterns of bad writing habits, I’d never seen before. One critique said my heroine wasn’t likeable (gasp) – so I broke apart the character to figure out what might bring her more to ‘life’.
Those comments made me reevaulate my story – and make it STRONGER!!
Fact and Opinion are NOT the same thing
Judges are people too. They have a favorite genre they write or read, varying perspectives, and personal opinions. All of those things play a part in the critiques they give. Weeding through the comments to find what areas you might need to work on is a big deal – especially if you want to grow as a writer.
I’ve found that if more than one judge mentions the same thing, then maybe I should take a honest look at that particular piece of my story. But if only one judge makes a comment, which seems more renegade to me, then I’ll read what they have to say – measure it against the other comments and my own understandings, check with a crit partner, then make a decision from there. Some things are fact, but some things are opinion. I am the one (or my editor) who has the final say.
Why do we enter contests? The answer to that question really makes a difference on what you’ll get out of them. If it’s to win that cute little pendant…well, that’s certainly something.
If it’s to be published – that’s a BIG goal, but in all actuality publication through contest entry is not in high percentages. But…
entering contest to get your manuscript in front of editor is still a FABULOUS idea – and gives your name exposure.
If it’s to learn and grow as a writer- you’ll almost always achieve this goal from contests.
I want to become a better writer. Contests have helped do that in so many ways. I’ve won a few along the way, but the best part has been the process of improvement from my first comments to the ones I’m expecting at the end of this month.
Laughing at myself, or not taking myself too seriously is an important goal
Yes, we send our precious little stories out into a cruel world – but no one forces us to. My granny used to say “Advice not asked for is advice not wanted.” – but when we enter a contest, we’re basically ASKING for advice. It may not always come in the form we expect, but we can learn from many of the comments we receive (not all).
And having a good attitude about it, PLUS placing the whole situation into perspective helps. I had to do this so I wouldn’t keep getting upset about the comments. This is one small piece of your writing in one very small part of your life. Laughing, learning, and looking ahead help manage the disappointment that negative comments can bring (plus LOADS of good chocolate – NEVER underestimate the power of very good chocolate)
For fun – here’s a little contest song to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies 🙂
Let’s listen to a story ‘bout a brand new writer’s plot
When the promise of a novel and a dream is all she’s got
So she sends away her ‘precious’ on a crazy contest spree
With the hopes of fame & fortune, and a load of cash money
Blind, she is
Round the bend
Well the first thing ya know, tons of judges have their say
And the dreams she had expected didn’t turn out quite that way
Said her characters were shoddy, and her plot just wouldn’t fit
So the poor deluded writer wants to just rare up and quit.
Mad, she is
And burnin’ things.
So when homicidal tendencies have left the author’s head
And the mention of the contest doesn’t have her seeing red
She can learn from those before her, who have made it into print
That the writer’s journey is a marathon and not a sprint.
Time, it takes
And lots of chocolate