writing contests – when is it time to quit?

giphy (2) Well, everyone has a different answer to this. Some say never, other pick a number of contests and decide to stop after that. In my case, it was just the decision that enough was enough. I participated in yet another writing contest, this time called #PitchSlam and yet again, my manuscript wasn’t picked. I’ve been putting my adult paranormal mystery manuscript through so many contests, that I don’t even remember all of them anymore – seems like a blur now. All I know is that since August 2014, I’ve put this manuscript through all the writing contests (including Twitter pitches) I could find. Some often Tweet that not being picked bad since, while they had been picked for some contests, they didn’t find their agent that way, but at some point, I guess I finally realized that I had to face the truth: my manuscript is never going to be picked in a contest. It never has been picked once, and even though a lot of people have thrown ideas as to why that is: word count – which I fixed, and a difficult genre to sell – yet there are at least two other paranormal genres that were picked, so it’s not that either. I think that when you don’t get picked even once in almost a whole year worth of contests, in my opinion, it’s time to call it quits. giphy To me, this isn’t giving up – it’s just that at some point, if participating in contests brings nothing but misery, is there really a point to continue? If it makes you feel like your writing sucks, or even, is just “not as great as all the others we’re raving about in our Tweets” and that you’re pushed aside to watch as manuscript after manuscript is being praised for being amazing while yours just gathers dust and makes you feel like crap – isn’t that a good time to stop these contests? In my opinion, it is, because there’s nothing worse than being rejected contest after contest, and making you feel worthless to the point of not wanting to write anymore. I know a lot of you are going to go “Whoa there – you’re in the wrong business then!” but I can take rejections, it’s just that, somehow, this doesn’t feel like querying and receiving rejections. I’m not sure how to explain it, but it might be because, when you send a query letter, and you get a rejection, that’s it – you don’t have to receive a bunch of emails afterwards with everybody the agent who just rejected you DID sign on. And again, don’t get me wrong: I’m always very happy to see so many writers get closer to their dreams, but at some point, like the point where I am now, your own failures just start to weigh down and crush your spirits to the point where you hate contests, even if you are truly happy for those who have been picked. I know that there are always going to be writers who aren’t picked – it’s the way of the world in almost everything, but like I said before, I think that when contests are no longer fun, then it’s time to call those quits and stick to querying only. Out of 188 submissions to #PitchSlam only 48 were picked, meaning that only about 25% of the submissions are picked, while the rest are left out. And yes, people can congratulate writers for putting their work out there – it’s true, it takes guts putting our work out there – but again, there are just so many contests you can participate in and get ZERO results without starting to feel like you can only hate contests, and that you’re writing is just not good enough. I know some say they had manuscripts they really wanted to get through to the final round, but there just wasn’t enough place, but then… what made that manuscript stay behind while others were chosen over it? Obviously, it was good, but not good enough to replace another of the amazing entries – so it was not amazing enough. Again, it feels crappy (well, of course is does, I doubt anyone would disagree) and when it reaches the point of making you feel like shit, I think that’s when you know it’s time to call it quits. giphy (1) People always recommend I write something else in the meantime, since my genre is a hard to sell – ironically enough, what I love to read and write is exactly that genre, so even if I work on something new, it’ll be the same problem. And yes, the market does change, but if it doesn’t, I’m going to be in the same constant rut all the time? This is when I started thinking of self-publishing instead, or even querying directly to publishers since getting an agent seems to be the hardest thing in this whole industry. Only time will tell. For now, I leave here feeling sick to my stomach with the idea that I spent so much time and money on a manuscript that isn’t as amazing as the other ones out there, even after all this time working on it, and while I know that if I love writing so much, then it’s never a waste of time, well consider this: if my motivations were a hundred percent love of writing only, then I wouldn’t have spent so much money and time on editing it for publishing – my motivations are about fifty-fifty: love of writing + dream of publishing. With half the motivation gone, it’s difficult to want to keep going. I know I will – I always do – but I think I may start looking at publishing in a new light. original

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13 thoughts on “writing contests – when is it time to quit?

  1. Oh, no! PLEASE don’t let it get you down. This is the fifth (sixth? seventh? I’ve lost count) manuscript I’ve written. It totally, completely sucks to not get picked, but it really does just take time. Though first and foremost, you should write because it’s FUN–if contests are taking the fun out of it, then quit contests, and shelve your current MS (for now!), and start on something new and exciting. Don’t worry about the genre. Write for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. this is my 17th (or something) manuscript – and I’m not quitting writing, just contests. I am writing something else right now, but I really want this particular ms published – more than any others, so I won’t shelf it – if anything, I’ll self-publish.

      Also, like I wrote in my blog, I write for two reasons (both equal in motivation): because I love to write, and because I want to be published. So because one is failing pretty epically, it’s getting more and more difficult to keep the motivation to write, but I still do it – just not doing contests anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There are lots of avenues to the dream of publishing. Contests may just be the wrong avenue for you. Glad to hear you are changing direction rather than giving up. “Hard sell” just means you haven’t found the agent or editor that will love it as much as you. Probably that person isn’t on the contests anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve got a lot of thoughts about contests, most of which I’ll keep to myself right now. However, I’d like to point out that many of the contests use a lot of the same people as slush readers. I didn’t enter PitchSlam because I figured if they didn’t like my entries for the same book in prior contests, why would they like it in this one?

    I entered NestPitch specifically for that reason. There are a few of the same readers working it, but mostly different ones from the prior contests I entered. Still waiting to see how it turns out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I plan on avoiding contests with this type of format, but still want to try twitter pitch parties and some blog contests like the Mystery Agent contest Operation Awesome runs about every month. They use a raffle system to determine which entries the agent looks at, so it can’t be interpreted as a judgment of value.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Contests are so of-the-moment. I love them and I hate them. I’m not a competitive person except with myself, so I’m genuinely happy for the people who progress… yet I see the same stories progressing in contests. That tells me that these stories have authors who are very adept at 35-word pitches and 250 words, and that’s great. It’s one measure of skill, but the work as a whole still needs to meet a greater standard, right? Or we wouldn’t keep seeing the same ones as pitch contest winners.

    I’ve participated in a number of different Twitter contests with several different books. I never expect to be chosen, but I like to think my work is every bit as good as the others. I write literary adult fiction, and the character-driven stuff is nearly impossible to condense to 35 words (although I gave it a good try). But hey, at the very least I’ve made some new contacts. I would love to see a pitch contest that doesn’t allow entries that have been chosen before for ANY pitch contest. I almost want to start a support group for those of us who’ve never been picked. At least a reading group, you know?

    If there is anything I can do to help you out here, let me know. I don’t know what that would be, but I don’t like to see you lose heart.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree with you all the way. I have other thoughts, but as you say, the community is small, the number of slush readers is small, and I knew that the agents in this one weren’t going to be interested in my mss. I entered at the last minute after swearing I wasn’t going to enter any more contests. Mea culpa, right? I didn’t do NestPitch and like you I probably won’t be entering more twitter pitch contests. Rejection in these really does feel different from rejection from querying. It’s like being invited to a party but being told you can only watch through a window, which has never been something of interest to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I relate to this so hard. I too have decided to give contests the heave-ho, for very similar reasons. It sucks when it feels like one avenue of publishing is closed (or I guess over-crowded to the point of why bother). For me it started to feel like beating a dead horse after awhile, especially when I’d get lots of retweets in twitter pitch contests and no faves. I felt like I was wasting my time after a couple contests. And I mean on top of all the other stuff I must do to perfect my craft it’s a real pain to try and distill the essence of a full book into less than 140 characters (and don’t get me started on long pitch contest hashtags when I’ve already carefully measured out what feels like the perfect tweet beforehand). After all that and no bites it’s like, what am I doing wrong? Do I really suck that much? I don’t like feeling that way about my writing, especially when there’s so little of it out there to be judged in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

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