Writing Contests: My Experiences

Wow – the number of people watching my blog suddenly shot up! Is this, perhaps, because of the #SunVsSnow contest? Me thinks it is….. 😀

Well, to the point then! WELCOME AND THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING MY BLOG!!! *happy dance*

Since most new followers found me because of the contest, I’d like to take a moment and share my experience with these. My first contest was a Pitch contest back in the spring of 2014 – now, this may not seem like very far, but to me, with the way my manuscript has changed and my understanding of the publishing world grew, it feels very far.

First of all, I didn’t really understand Pitch contests, and when I did participate, my pitches were so generic that I now refuse to even look at my old ones out of pure shame! Generic will kill your chances, and even though I know this, it doesn’t make me any better at actually writing good ones. My suggestion is to get it edited and looked at by an editor, a beta reader, a CP, a writer friend – whoever really! The reason our pitches don’t seem generic to us, is because WE KNOW our story, so it’s really important to get an outside source! (same reason to have someone read through your manuscript – we miss plot holes!)

So here’s the story. The contest I had been looking forward to the most was the Nightmare on Query Street. I worked very hard on my submission, even canceled an appointment to make sure I’d be home at the right time to send it (a little insane? When it comes to my dream of being published, I’ll do almost (I DID SAY ALMOST!) anything!). I stalked the Twitter hash tag without ever stopping, including while eating dinner, in class, in the bathroom – everywhere! I was really obsessed and it became what my world revolved around. I saw the hints at what had been chosen, and one of them, I was sure was my manuscript. I went to bed at 11:00pm the night before the winners were announced, and as I do every night before actually lying down on my pillows, I checked my phone and – the winners were announced in advance as a special treat! …special treat to those who had gotten in. I had not been chosen, and I remember going back to check a few dozen times (I’m not kidding!) to make sure I hadn’t just missed my title. I cried myself to sleep that night, and seriously considered quitting writing for good.

This may seem extreme, but I think a little background info on my writing path up to this point is needed. I had just put a manuscript on the shelf – one I was really happy with, but when that received almost 200 form rejections, I couldn’t keep trying with that one anymore. Now, was my manuscript that bad? I don’t think so, but I didn’t know how to write a good query at that point, and I didn’t know about Beta Readers, etc. But still, I think that all those rejections mounted up, I put my manuscript on the shelf, and then worked really hard and obsessed over a contest for a new manuscript and it just…well, I fell into a deep dark hole.

So why am I telling you all this? To scare you? Discourage you? NO! OF COURSE NOT! (silly billies!) No – I’m telling you this because contests are great and everything (the best part is making new friends, getting to know the writing community even more), but you CANNOT obsess over them! First of all, let’s face the facts here: in #SunVsSnow, there were 216 entries, and 30 are being picked…You understand that’s about 14% chance of getting in, right? If you get in, GREAT! But if you don’t, remember that others also haven’t gotten in, you’re not the only one and instead of wallowing in self pity like I did, go reach out to the others who did win, congratulate them (imagine if you get in and people don’t say anything, or they’re pissed off – how would you feel?), and then go form a group of non-winners and have a pity party on Twitter or something!

Let’s not forget that, not only are contests subjective, but they also put a lot of strain on the hosts who create them! Imagine having to pick 15 entries out of 216 without feeling guilty, or bad for the ones who didn’t get in? It takes a lot to put yourself out there as a contest host, and I think they deserve our gratitude and appreciation! What kind of ‘thank you’ is a whining, self-pity contest participant who didn’t win? (I’m talking to myself right now!). So thank the hosts – they do A LOT – and again, throw a Twitter self-pity party in a private group. Better yet, you just made a ton of new writer friends? Why not see if you can’t exchange manuscripts with a few of them and get fresh eyes?

Does this mean if I don’t get in I’ll be happy? No, I’ll be disappointed, and sad, and I’ll go watch some videos to cheer me up (maybe something in the lines of a Saw movie), and I’ll get back into the next contests, and I’ll keep querying. Life goes on and you just give the best story you can, and hopefully, one day, an agent believes in you and takes a chance on your manuscript to make your dream a reality. Until then, do everything you can to make it happen!

Good luck to everyone participating in #SunVsSnow #AgentMatch #AdPit #PitMad and to all querying, editing, revising, beta reading, writing, and plotting!

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