03
Feb
10

Confessions of a Contest Whore

Last night, I came home to a nice little surprise in my inbox. My Fantasy Romance, A Soul For Trouble, was named a finalist in the OVRWA Enchanted Words Contest. I did a little happy dance and updated my webpage, adding to the accolades this unpublished, unagented manuscript has received.

Yes, I’m a contest whore. I freely admit it now. But I wasn’t always that way. About this time last year, I had just about written off writing contests, stating they only worked if you followed the “formula” and things like that. There’s still some truth to that. The only reason I finalled in the Enchanted Words Contest was because they got a 4th judge to settle the discrepancy in the scores. One judge marked me very low for not adhering to the “rules” of romance and queries. Apparently, not mentioning that this was a “complete manuscript” in my query and not having a HEA with one person (instead of a HFN with 2 men) were grave sins in her eyes. At least she liked my writing. 😀

But that’s why I bring this up. You’re not going to please everyone in a contest. You may get the judge who’s SO just left her because she was PMSing too much. You may get the NYT bestseller who offers some great advice. It’s all luck of the draw. But the key here is that YOU GET FEEDBACK. And you’ll get it from more than one person. The good, the bad, and the ugly — your opening pages will be finely dissected, and your story will be weighed and measured.

I’d sworn off contests in the past because I don’t write to formula all the time and have gotten some rather harsh feedback from judges because of it. But I took their advice, applied to my WIP at the time, and started entering A Soul For Trouble. At first I was a bit gun-shy, so I just entered my local RWA contest. I won frist place. Then I entered my specialty genre chapter’s contest with ASFT and another manuscript that had been ripped to shreds in the past and recently revised. They both finalled, and the revised manuscript won it’s category. I was on a roll. I started scouring the RWR (Romance Writer’s Report) for any contest I could enter. I became an addict, wanting to reap more rewards for my writing. I even started a spreadsheet for all the contests I could enter, listing the deadlines, the fees, and the final judges.

Then I had to take a step back. Contests cost money, so I needed to look at my list ask what I could potentially gain from entering it. If the final judge was an editor whose line I was targeting or an agent who is normally closed to queries, I seriously considered entering that contest. Why? Because in addition to the great feedback, you could also get your work in the hands of a publishing professional who may request a full… which could turn into a contract.  Or, as I recently discovered, winning an RWA contest could lead to an unsolicited request for  a full from an agent who wasn’t a final judge. 😉

What are you thoughts on writing contests? Are you a contest whore, too? Do you avoid them like the plague?

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3 Responses to “Confessions of a Contest Whore”


  1. 1 Tamara Morgan
    3 February, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    I think the key to “doing” contests correctly is to enter more than one at a time. Like you said, so much depends on who your judge is and what frame of mood he or she is in at the time of judging. Variation will help balance your feedback and allow you to really view the strengths and weaknesses in your writing with an unbiased eye.

    Case in point: I entered two contests last year with the exact same, word-for-word entry. In one contest I got last place. (As in dead last, and by a frighteningly large margin.) In the other, I won and also received a full ms request. And while I infinitely prefer the latter result, the feedback provided by the judges was valuable in both cases, since it helped me to understand what worked and what didn’t in the larger scheme of things.

    • 2 C.
      4 February, 2010 at 4:26 am

      I totally agree. Each contest I’ve entered focused on something new. I also like contests that focus on more than just the first few pages (the Between the Sheets contest is one that comes to mind). Thanks for the congrats, too.

  2. 3 Tamara Morgan
    3 February, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    By the way…SQUEEE on your contest win!!


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