Contests Con’s and Traps
What happens when you enter a contest? Well, today, most are electronic which cuts down on shipping costs. Still, a good portion require mailing. Postage adds up.
Then, there are the contest fees themselves. Too many, and they can add up so fast it’ll make your head spin.
This is one reason I advise checking out contests carefully. Make sure you’re getting something, a lot of something, for your money. Get feedback from multiple judges. Final round feedback from agents/editors.
And if you’re rich, ignore me.
The second pitfall which commonly occurs with contest entrants is the readiness of the manuscript. There are people, contest groupies, who focus on their first three chapters. They’re polished, shiny and awesome.
Then the final round call comes and they need to send in the rest of the manuscript.
The rest isn’t polished because it took so much time to get those first chapters into shape, and the rest of the story didn’t seem quite as important.
Most contests require the entire story be complete before entering the first pages. But, there’s no requirement the whole thing must be polished.
So, if you’re going to enter your first pages, don’t forget to edit and polish the rest of the story. It’s important too.
Another, much less common, pitfall I’ve seen is with the feedback.
On occasion, you’ll get a judge who is flat out spiteful. Maybe they were having a bad day (or a bad year). Maybe their spouse just left them. The agent rejected them. Maybe they woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
This can happen with both the first round, and the final round judges. Agent and editors are not immune to having a bad day.
Again, this is not very common, but it’s something to keep in mind.
With writing being so subjective, maybe the judge doesn’t like your character because he/she reminds them of the high school bully.
Your character is awesome, but this judge is never going to like your story.
So you miss out on the final round, because of the judge’s issues.
Fair? No. But it can be reality.
Luckily, the odds of you getting one is rare. Two? Astronomical. But it is possible.
You’re stuck out the money, poor feedback, and no win.
Still, I think contests are one of the great ways for writers to improve. The feedback you get is honest because they don’t know you, and thoughtful because they care.
Judges are volunteers with nothing to gain by doing this. They just want to help others succeed.
And on that note, I recommend that even if you get the judge with PMS, send a polite thank you for their time and feedback. It’s just a nice thing to do.