The last several days I have been judging entries from two recent writing contests. I haven't judged anything in years and was surprised how much I enjoyed the privilege of seeing other writers work. At the same time I wonder how many will ever make it to publication. The publishing world is fickle and ruthless, and finding that perfect home for a book is so challenging that many give up when they should forge ahead.
And that's why I think contests are so important. Judges are encouraged to do no harm! But even more important is the words of encouragement they offer may be just what the writer needs to keep trying, discover how or where to edit the weak spots, and then push for that sale.
The first contest I ever entered was so long ago it probably doesn't exist anymore. Regardless I still have the placque that said I won! But it was a small victory because the judge who read my entry said if I wanted to know what I was doing wrong to give him a call. This is where I should tell you he never offered a phone number. He could just as easily have said ... find those passive verbs and destroy them... twist your sentences so they have more impact... anything would have been better than if you want to know what you're doing wrong ... his offer felt pompous and insincere.
We all want to know what we're doing wrong! We all want a pat on the back and a nod of approval. But this isn't sixth grade anymore, we have to find another way to get that feedback. Entering our manuscripts in contests is one of the easiest ways to get a real diagnosis of how our work stands up to others. Don't be afraid of the pompous judge ... I do believe they are all dead and gone now! So gear up your bravery and send out your manuscript to be judged.
Only a few win, true. But the knowledge learned from an objective reader is invaluable! I've read hundreds of books that never received an accolade, but that didn't stop me from enjoying them. And I bet you can say the same thing. Think of entering contests as a stepping stone to publication. Since judging these two contests, I have sent out a few to be judged too. Will I win? Who knows ... but I can't wait to hear what they thought of my characters, my plot. And I need to hear how I can improve my work.
So, where does one find contest entry information? If you have an internet access, then you can prowl the web in search of your specific genre. Magazines usually list upcoming contests ... good ones to look in are Writer's Digest, and Romance Writers Report. Many writing organizations post their upcoming contests on their home pages.
If you know of a great opportunity to enter a contest ~ post it here at Acme Authors Link and share it with everyone. I hope you take the time to enter a contest or two. Good Luck!
Til later ~
Here are a few contests to consider:
2007 Brighid's Fire Books/LughnassadhBooks.com (fiction)
deadline: April 30, 2007
2007 TARA Contest (formerly First Impressions)
sponsored by Tampa Area Romance Authors
deadline: May 1, 2007
Emerald City Opener
sponsored by Greater Seattle Chapter RWA
deadline: June 15, 2007