Saturday, December 29, 2012

Contests -- a fun and interesting experiment


Up until this year, I'd only entered one contest, the 2011 Golden Acorn. This year I have two completed manuscripts I need to get out there. Due to a nice little bonus from my husband's work, I was able to send them off to four contests.  Well, three really, because Bump in the night is a flash fiction contest, so I sent a funny zombie short.
Now that the last of the entries has been returned to me, I thought I would evaluate my experience.

Here is how I placed, I made the finals for Heart to Heart Hot Prospect, and Bump in the Night flash fiction, and I didn't make the finals for the Emily, but I was very happy with the score. 

What I've learned- 

  • I loved, loved, loved the feedback, but judging is subjective
What one judge loves, another will suggest changing. Sometimes, however, a judge can give a wonderful suggestion. Plus, you get a level of honesty you don't always get from family and friends.

  • I shouldn't get my feathers ruffled.
Some judges may not know what you have learned from hours of research. You may get docked for things that are regularly seen in your genre, especially if you write historical romance, simply because the judge is unfamiliar. Don't let this upset you. It's not your writing they dislike, so take the good, and don't stress out too much over the bad.

  • I can see this as a great way to try out a storyline.
The unbiased feedback can help you to see how a story would be received. It's an inexpensive way to try a new genre, voice, plot, or character without committing to it fully. Most contests require anywhere from a scene to 50 pages, and some ask for a synopsis, so you can commit as much to the story as you want before sending it in. Then when you receive judges responses, you'll know if you should change things or not.
Nervous gif

Would I do it again? 
Probably. I really enjoyed the feedback, and the writing credits are great, plus I had editors and agents reading and requesting my work, which might not happen when you're floating on the slush pile.

What would I suggest looking for in a contest?

Lowest score dropped, or at least a contingency judge for divergent scores. -- Since judging is subjective, this will help if you get a judge who doesn't get your voice.
Editors and agents you want to see your work. -- If you final, you want to have someone you respect reading your work.
Where they advertise winners -- another great way to get editor. agent attention is to look for contests that take out RT/RWR ads to post winners. Posting on websites/social media/blogs is also helpful. The more your name is out there, the better.

 Reasons I to try it.

  1. You are pretty confident in your work and want editors and agents to see it
  2. You aren't sure of a story and want unbiased opinions
  3. You are ready to submit to editors and agents but are afraid "My mommy loves it" will be your only credential.

Reasons not to try it.

  1. You are particularly sensitive to critiques.
  2. You haven't shown your work to a soul.


Feel free to share what you love/hate about contests, or just share a contest with great perks. I'd love to hear what you have to say.


  1. Wonderful post, Robin.

    I started entering contests after submitting several stories and getting simple tell-me-nothing 'r's . . . okay, so they did tell me something--I wasn't ready.

    While whining my misfortunes on a forum, a wonderful author came on and suggested contests. Despite being ultra-sensitive and my tendency to mull every objective opinion to its painful death, I did.

    Nothing has helped me more, of course nothing has battered my over-sensitive self more either. But still the rewards far outweigh the abuse to my ego.

    Wishing you many successes.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Amity.

      That's the beauty of contests; by the time you've experienced a few random judge comments about your "baby", your ego is less sensitive and far more ready for the editor and agent comments you'll get. :)

      Good luck to you.