Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To Enter or Not to Enter

Let’s talk about writing contests today.

This has been a topic of discussion in several of my groups lately. I had hopes of entering Out of the Shadows in the Golden Heart this year. The RWA Golden Heart is kind of like the Emmys for unpublished writers.

I know, I have 2 novellas published (well, 1 comes out in December), but according to RWA guidelines, I’m not considered a published author. Except for this contest. Yes, I was disappointed at first, but I’m over it now. I’ll just wait until it’s published and then enter it in the RITA, the contest for published authors.

I have entered several other contests. Mostly last year. At the time, my manuscript wasn’t finished and in fact, the story arc is quite different then from now. I got a lot of confusing scores. Some helpful feedback and some not so helpful comments.

I never did final, although I got close a few times. It seemed that there would be one score that would knock me out of the running. In one contest there were only 2 judges. One judge gave me a near perfect score. The other was 100 points lower. 100 points! It was as if they had read 2 different manuscripts, or so it seemed to me.

I did get some helpful feedback. Some of the suggestions helped me clarify the story more and some gave me new avenues to pursue that would make it stronger. Some comments I questioned why they were included, even if the judge thought them. For instance, in my heroine’s POV, I described my hero as “tall, maybe 6’3” or 6’4”. The comment from the judge was “that isn’t tall”. Huh? Granted, I’m short, only 5’3”, so many men seem tall to me. But the average height for a man is about 5’10” or so. Anyway.

As I questioned my scores, or rather the vast difference between score 1 and score 2 for the same manuscript, I was told that often happens to writers with a strong voice. That’s good, right? Whether it’s true or not, I have no idea, but it helped soothe my battered ego.

After having the same experience time and again, I decided to give the contest circuit a break. I think, for me, this was the right decision. At least for now.

Have you entered any writing contests? What was your experience? Are there any contests you’re looking at to enter this year? What are your goals when entering contests?


P.L. Parker said...

I've entered a few. Was somewhat disappointed. On more than one, I was told I'd get a score and feedback and I never heard a word. I've debated entering again.

Gale Stanley said...

Early on I entered 3 contests and had the same disappointing experience. I've seen lots of discussion on the loops on this and most people have felt the same. I came to the conclusion contests are a waste of money. And they tend to make you keep polishing the same 3 chapters (or whatever) over and over instead of working on the rest of the ms. Recently I had a chance to judge and found it to be a much more rewarding experience.

Linda Banche said...

I've entered a few RWA contests. I never finalled or won. Some judges gave me almost perfect scores, and others gave me much lower ones, so I'm ambivalent. Especially since there are so many RWA contests. At about $25 a pop, you could go broke entering contests.

The one contest I finalled in was the EPIC Ebook Competition which is for e-pubbed books. In the 2010 EPIC contest, my LADY OF THE STARS finalled in the Science Fiction Romance category.

And one thing about the RITA's--unless they've changed their mind since last year, they want paper. If your novellas, like mine (all I have are novellas), are e-pubbed only, they won't take them. They wouldn't give my LADY OF THE STARS a chance

Cheryl said...

I am very careful about the contests I've entered. My goal is to get the ms. looked at by the final judge--if it is a judge for a house I would like to sub to. There are a couple of judges that, it seems, judge the categories that my writing falls under in some of these contests, that I WOULDN'T want to look at my stuff because I know from past experience they are not going to like it. So I'm not going to waste money on entering a contest where, if my entry makes it to the final round, the judge is someone who doesn't like my style in general.

Many of these contests are soooo political! I entered one this past year that was supposed to be a very diversified contest, etc. Well, there were three judges and the low score was dropped, so there was a possible of 200 points for a perfect score. I entered 2 mss. and one of them received 190 points, but still didn't final. Hmmmm. The other one...I think I must have had judges from outer space. From reading the comments I wondered where these people came from. Having been born and raised here in Oklahoma, and my family having been here for at least 5 generations (some longer, since I'm part Indian)I had to laugh when one of the judges made the comment that since my story was taking place in Indian Territory (in a white settlement) "there would be more Indians around." Really? REALLY????? Cause I'm pretty sure that wasn't the case, at least in my settlement that I created, and besides that, what in tarnation did that have to do with the action that was taking place? There were other "stellar" comments on that judge's sheet, too, so I had to just write that contest off and take a break. I did final in the 2010 EPIC contest, but then they put my book, FIRE EYES in the western erotica category, which it was NOT EROTICA, so it didn't have a chance at winning anything.

I'm taking a break from contests, too, at least for awhile. Good question/post here, Riley. And wow, going to Germany from Texas must have been a huge transition!


Susan Macatee said...

I've entered too many to count. At first, I did quite well and got a ton of great comments that helped me hone my manuscripts. But after revision, I found that I'd always get one judge who loved it and another who hated it. That's the strong voice effect, I guess. So, I stopped entering contests at that point and started submitting. But I'm still entering contests for my published books. Only difference there is, there's nothing to do if they don't win and if they do, I can just sit back and bask! LOL.

Riley Quinn said...

Thanks for sharing. It's nice to know you're not alone and it seems we've all had similar experiences.

I think it's easy to get caught in the contest loop and then, like Gale mentioned, you keep polishing the same pages over and over.

Contests are well and good, but you have to finish the darn manuscript at some point and submit. Otherwise, what's the point?

Cherie Le Clare said...

I've had the experience of both entering and judging contests(in New Zealand and Australia) and, like Cheryl, have had a judge questioning my well-researched facts. It's certainly made me cautious of ever doing so when I have my judging hat on!
I've also received widely differing marks from judges - which illustrates how subjective people's reading tastes are. Hard to please everyone sometimes. Contests prepare us for the different tastes/expectations of editors, perhaps?


Word Actress said...

In the short story/poetry market, I've done really well. Now that I have a novel almost done, I've found it's a whole different animal! I feel like the judges have to write something bad. Then lost in the review is some gem about the author's exquisite voice or the heroine's uniqueness.
I'm a Judge of a couple of contests but I realize I am much more a seat of the pants judge than a critical one. We all like different things as writers and judges. It's such a crapshoot!

Sherry Gloag said...

It's been interesting to read the comment re your post. And I agree, I've paid good money for contets either to get no response at all, or conflicting comments of such brevity I wondered why I bothered wasting my money. Answer to my question? I stopped spending mney on contests.

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