By Laura Drake
Whenever the subject of contests comes up on writer’s loops, it’s guaranteed to be a very lively discussion. People feel very passionately about them -- either pro OR con. And why not? I’ve experienced both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat at the hands of judges.
Up to now, it's just been a challenge to me to final in a contest (hey, I'm a writer - I like pounding my head against a wall!) Now that I've finally won one (and finaled in three-results yet to be announced), here's what I found...
The judging is so completely subjective that not placing does not mean you don't have a good book. Unfortunately, winning doesn't ensure you have a saleable one either.
Not all contests are created equal - chose a contest based on its reputation, or, better yet, if they give feedback - that's what you get to keep at the end of the day.
Unless an agent judges your entry, a win really doesn't gain you much traction in a query letter. The one exception to this is the Golden Heart Contest.
Please don't assume from the above that I don't think contests are worthwhile - I do. But to keep your heart intact, you must go in with your eyes open, and without overblown expectations.
What I like best:
- The feedback (also what I like the least, depending on the reviewer!) I’ve heard of writers who stopped writing for up to a year after receiving negative comments on their entry.
- Always keep in mind – this is one person’s opinion. In most cases, you don’t even know who the judge is, to be able to gauge what value their opinion is to you. Someone told me once that one out of two doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class – it’ll help to keep in mind that the same applies to judging.
- It gives you an idea of how your MS stacks up against the competition -- that's who you'll be fighting with for attention in the marketplace.
- If you win, it gets your name in front of your peers (hopefully potential buyers) - win enough, and they’re recognizing your name before you're published. Be careful, I’ve found these things can be addicting!
- Contests give you impetus to get the darned thing polished and sent out!
- It gives you something to look forward to. That shining announcement date reminds me that time is passing; a yardstick by which to judge my writing progress.
Love them or hate them – as long as you go into the competition wearing your titanium panties and with your eyes open, contests can be a great experience!
How do you feel about contests?