Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Contests? Contests!

Obviously, I have had contests on my mind a LOT lately. Before I entered the two recent contests, I figured they were a ‘nice to do’ but not essential on the path to publication. I knew they were very subjective, scores and results could vary widely and feedback could confuse, or worse, send you off in the wrong direction. I still think all that is true, but I now think contests are ESSENTIAL on the road to publication if you look at them and accept them for what they are and what they can do for you. I may be a newbie at this, but at the risk of seeming arrogant the following are the things I’ve learned that might help someone else out there:
  • Be picky with the contests you enter. Look at those run by reputable groups and assess the end judges; are they whom you would like to have your work in front of? Perhaps you can jump the slush pile!
  • Contests are a MEANS not an END. They’re one more thing you can do to improve your writing. Your ultimate goal is to get published, not win a contest.
  • It’s not about winning (OK, this one’s hard for competitive me). Sure, it would be nice to get the accolade but it’s a good way to give yourself deadlines, ensure you’re continually producing and allow you to always have ‘something out there’.
  • There is absolutely no guarantee your full will ever be requested by an editor/agent judge even if you do final or even win. There’s certainly no guarantee of a sale.
  • If you don’t have a thick skin, grow one. This industry is about people reading what you write from your heart and don’t forget about reviews! They will love it, like it, be indifferent to it or hate it. Get used to it now!
  • Contest feedback is wonderful, but if it doesn’t sound right, it’s probably not. Take what resonates and discard what doesn’t. It’s not necessarily all good for you.
  • If you try to address all the areas of the feedback, you may end up rewriting your entire content and driving yourself nuts into the bargain (I think I may now qualify). It’s not always consistent.
 Any other pearls of wisdom around contests I missed?


  1. Great points, Kaily! I think you covered all the important things. I've known writers who didn't enter contests before selling, but I've also known authors who sold because of a contest. So...different strokes for different folks. :)

    And you're so right about developing a thick skin... *shudder* Not sure I'm there yet, but working with three critique partners has at least gotten me used to different kinds of feedback. Though all my CPs are sweethearts, so I'm not sure that counts. ;)

  2. Hi Cari, I've got the thick skin part down. Comes from career 1 of 2. I just have to learn how to be tactful to others! Haven't been brave enough to go the critique partner route yet. My mind keeps telling me - Danger, Danger!

  3. Great post, Kaily! I've only entered two contests and both for my fantasy. I have the thick skin (more or less) but not so much the time.