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.
So, you’ve decided to enter some contests. You’ve polished your first pages/chapters until they shine. You’ve found contests that give feedback, with at least 3 judges, and final round is with editors and agents.
So now, what can you expect?
The feedback from first round judges is normally pretty useful. Sure, sometimes you’ll get the judge who was having a crappy day and took it out on your pages, but overall, it’s usually a great experience.
You got a critique from experienced people.
Now, you advance to the next round.
Congrats, you’re a finalist. One of the few.
You’ll probably get feedback from the agent/editor judges, though it won’t be very expansive. It’s still usually enough to see what a professional thinks of your work, and the area’s you need to improve.
This is invaluable.
BUT, keep in mind, as with everything in this industry, it is also subjective opinion.
Now you get the call. You won!
The agent and editor both want a full.
Are you ready?
This leads me to the con’s about contests and traps to avoid.
See you next time.
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I always see questions about contests around the net. Are they worth it? Do you get anything out of them? What are the drawbacks?
So, I thought I’d share my experience from both sides of the fence (entrant and judge)
First, my suggestions:
-Why are you entering? To win? To get feedback? To get in front of an Agent/Editor?
Know your answers to these questions before picking the contests to enter.
If you’re entering just to win, remember, tastes are subjective. There can only be one winner.
From the judge’s perspective, I try to look at each entry as its own, without comparing it to anything else (published, my own stuff, or the other entrants). Since the contest coordinators send a checklist, with points for very specific categories, it’s pretty easy.
Still, I can only state my opinion on the categories. Some is technical, some is craft, and some is concept.
Are you entering to get feedback?
Most contests offer feedback. Most judges are a mix between published and unpublished writers. This isn’t a bad thing. Your feedback will be different things each judge specifically thought to point out. It’s almost like a mini critique (although some can be more expansive).
Keep in mind, as with any critique, it is subjective opinion.
Also, I would suggest only entering contests who give each entry at least 3 judges. That way, you get more feedback, and there’s a tie breaker. If all three say something, you probably want to look at it. If only one of the three mention something, it could be spot on, but it might fall in the ‘opinion’ area.
Are you entering to get in front of an agent/editor?
Most contests have agents and/or editors as final round judges. This is great.
But for two things.
1, you have to get to the finals.
2, I’ve found, as a writer, agents and editors judging a contest are sometimes more critical than if you just query them. They’re looking specifically for everything wrong, rather than with a query, they’re hoping to find enough right to offer for it.
As I sit down to begin Dragos 3: Blazed, I can’t wait to hit the keyboard. Book 1 went fast (like superman fast). Book 3 has caught me, I can’t wait to write the characters. I know the plot.
Book 2, on the other hand, was a pit of mud mixed with quick sand. It took me forever to get the first part down.
Now, I’ve written enough to know every book is different. But I still don’t have that connection to Scorched that I would like. The funny thing is, everyone tells me it’s wonderful, better than book 1. But I’m just not feeling it like I did Burned, or like I’m feeling Blazed.
I guess we’ll see what my editor thinks when she gets back to me, right? 🙂
Anyway, I’m off to start pounding the keyboard with my newest tale…
~mumbles bye, head already in the clouds of Blazed.
The wonderful world of Erotic Romance. Could there be anything better?
Oh, yeah. Add in the paranormal 🙂
That would be me. I write Paranormal Erotic Romances. Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to update my links with links to my books.
And for more about me, check out my alter-ego, Higley Browne.