Friday, November 18, 2005

The Contest Roller Coaster

So here I am, the last to blog this week. Like Kira, I've watched the witty and philosophical posts of my playmates and thought to myself...I'm last. How am I possibly going to be able to post something THAT good? I guess, as Ms. Sabrah always says, "I can only write about what I know."

So what I know this week is that I've been riding the roller coaster of contest drama. Several months back, I received a call that I had finaled in the Smoky Mountain Romance Writers' "Sweet, Spicy, Spooky & Suspense" contest in the Spooky category. The winners were to be announced November 15th. At least, that's what they planned.

I've been on pins and needles ALL week! At first, I thought, no one called = I lost. All day Tuesday, nothing but a telemarketer. Sigh. I lost. Soul crushing depression that only another writer can understand. They didn't even call to tell me how badly I did. Never mind the fact that I FINALED. Never mind the fact that I already have a full request from Silhouette for this manuscript. They didn't call. My manuscript is crap.

By Wednesday afternoon, I emailed the contest coordinator in desperation. They hadn't announced who HAD won yet. Sensible playmates insisted that was a good sign - that perhaps they didn't have the scores in yet from all the judges. Of course, my negative brain argued with them. They didn't call because my manuscript is crap. Then the email from the coordinator - they didn't have all the scores in from the judges. "I told you so," they taunted.

So here I am, early Friday morning. No one has called, no winners posted to the website, no emails coming out from the contest divas. I tell myself to be patient - but the kid in me is dancing around screaming "I mailed this in JUNE! Please don't make me wait another day to find out!" To find out what? If my manuscript is crap.

Never let it be said that Smarty Pants is the optimist of the group. And honestly, I know better. I'm Smarty Pants - well educated and practical. I try not to get wrapped up in the emotion of rejection. I know that I shouldn't rely on external validation for my work. I know that some contest and the judges that determine who wins are not the final say on whether or not this MS will ever sell. That's what I say on the outside. That's what an experienced Maven will tell me. I say it is a hard lesson learned and one I still need to work on.

And yes, I know...regardless of how this contest turns out, I did final. I still have an editor to mail it to if I ever finish the silly thing to my satisfaction. But still, on the inside, the kid is jumping up and down waiting to hear if she's "done good."

Smarty Pants


Maven Linda Winstead Jones said...

LOL Smarty Pants. This sounds so familiar. When I mailed off my first partial and got back a request for the full, I grinned at my husband and said, "It doesn't suck!"

There are a lot of opportunities in this business for people to tell you that your writing is crap. Readers, reviewers, editors . . . and I've probably missed someone here. Oh yeah, contest judges. But we have to remember, deep down, that one person's opinion, or one contest placement, doesn't mean the writing is crap. It doesn't mean you should give up, on writing or that book. I have had a book that received a lousy review go on to be a RITA finalist -- more than once.

Now, if everyone in the known universe tells you your hero is unlikeable or your heroine is TSTL, it might be time to listen. But one contest/review/opinion? No. Mavens say, steel your spine. And yes, your heart, too, because criticism of a book is like someone telling you your baby is ugly. :-)

Good to know that you haven't heard about the contest yet. I've been checking the site a couple times a day to see if you would post here before e-mailing those who want to know.


Problem Child said...

I think part of the allure of the contest is the chance for validation. Since feedback is almost non-existent from agents and editors (and yes, I do understand they have very good reasons not to get involved), contests seem like the one place where a newbie might be able to find out if she sucks or not.

But it seems to be a bit of a crapshoot. The last contest I entered, I got 2 perfect scores, one that was 2 points off perfect, and one that ripped the entry apart and pretty much told me to get a new hobby. Who do you believe? Are some judges just not wanting to hurt your feelings and just being nice? The pessimist in me wants to believe the lowest judge, but the optimist says "3 our of 4 loved it--even if that last judge killed any chance of it finaling."

I tell myself that plenty of books that sell never so much as final in a contest, and some that final over and over again will never sell. Still, when you're looking for feedback, you'll take it where you can get it. But, the contest circuit can be soul-crushing for the thin-skinned newbie who simply wants to know if she sucks or not.

But not me, of course. Problem Children have rhino skin and the Mavens to cry to.


Angel said...

Speaking of contests and feedback, I learned something about myself with my most recent wip. I'm too easily swayed by negative feedback. I love to have some clue as to what others think about my work. Who doesn't? But as someone who takes everything far too seriously, I have to be careful WHEN I get it.

I decided this go around to wait to enter my manuscript after it is finished. I get some initial feedback on the storyline from my fellow playground members in our brainstorming sessions. Then I write. I write until I'm done with the first draft. Thus, I'm not tempted to change what I've written to accomodate anyone's comments. (Yep, I'm a people pleaser.)

With this in mind, my newly finished manuscript will be making a few contests appearances this year and I'll be happy with whatever feedback I get. Hopefully it will final some and land on an editor's desk. My new wip will have to wait to make its debut until it's fully grown and all decked out. But hopefully it will be worth the wait.


Maven Beverly Barton said...

I’ve entered my share of contests, before I was a published author and afterward, too. Validation is the key word, as y’all know, and until we reach the point where we receive enough reader feedback—fan mail and sales figures and bestseller lists—we have to find a way to repeatedly prove to ourselves that we actually have talent. But unless winning a contest puts your manuscript on an editor’s desk, the most you get out of winning is validation and a major ego stroke. I was a finalist in several contests before selling my first book, but didn’t win a single one. However, I’ve never forgotten how important those contests were to me because not only did being a finalist provide me with validation, but with encouragement and hope. --BB

Maven Linda Howard said...

Yo, Smarty-Pants. I wouldn't have the guts to enter any of the writing contests these days, so you have my respect. The bottom line I always ask myself is, "Can anyone who reads this manuscript buy it?" If the answer is no, then WHY put yourself through the agony???? Writing is painful enough just in itself!

I know there are benefits to contests, such as learning what your strengths and weaknesses are, getting feedback, etc. What I don't know is how y'all suck it up and send those babies out time and again.

Instigator said...

It is hard to send our babies out there and chance critcism.
I'll be honest, I've never revised any of my stories based on first round judge comments. I don't know who they are, what their level of experience is, or if they truely know what they're talking about. All I can tell is whether or not they liked my story. I take the good points and completely disregard the negative. I have three trusted CPs (and the other children). I take their opinions, weigh them, and then decide what changes I need to make if any.
I enter contests in the hopes of finaling, adding some credits to my cover letter, and getting in front of an editor (and hoping for feedback from that editor). The rest of it isn't important.

And, you've got nothing to worry about SP. You have a good story. You have talent. And whether or not you place first in this contest you will succeed.