Thursday, April 23, 2009

Contest Results and How To Benefit From Them! by DL Larson

The last of my judging duties for this season are finished. My last contest entry has been read, ranked, and the whole bundle sent back to the chapter coordinators. Soon winners will be announced and much ya-hooing will ensue. I'm tickled I could be a part of this process.

But what of the other 99% who did not win? What have they gained by having others critique their work? They competed, but they did not win. Yet, they have not gone home losers. Quite the opposite, really. I hope every contestant who entered a writing competition reads the comments and suggestions other authors/judges gave them.

My Number One suggestion to these contestants is:
Take whatever criticism you receive like a professional. If you don't agree with something someone said, that's okay, but don't disregard it, take time to think what they are revealing about your work. They (meaning the judges) wouldn't suggest something if they didn't think it would IMPROVE your writing. It's as simple as that.

Consider every suggestion, then proceed with re-writes, editing, whatever you call it, but visit those new ideas, write them down so you won't forget them. Usually three separate judges view your work in a contest, if all three say similar things, then this is a knock-up-side your head to change what needs fixing. It may take several attempts to feel comfortable with this new strategy, but don't give up, keep at it. Repetition is the best form of learning something new. So settle in, and don't rush yourself or become frustrated because you can't get it right the first try.

Feedback is designed to help writers, never, never to undermine their abilities to write compelling work. If you feel your judge was harsh ... THANK HER/HIM. They are not being harsh - you are being overly sensitive. They have taken time from their busy schedules to help you! You! They may have written in a clipped voice, getting their thoughts across as quickly as possible, but that is not to cause you hurt feelings. Flowery speeches are best left for family and friends. If you entered a contest, then you are searching for truth and each judge I know has given their contestants the best assistance they possibly can.

One last thing, most judges wish each contestant good luck. Those aren't empty words. They are meant to encourage each writer, whether they win in the contest or not. It is also a way of saying, "don't you dare give up!!" Keep writing, keep trying, it's what everyone must do to be a writer!!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: if you've recently won in a contest - share with us at Acme Authors.


June said...

I completely agree. You bring up some really good points and they are important to remember whether your are judging or a contestant. I think judging is hard, but I think it's harder for the contestants.


Deb Larson said...

Yes, judging feels like walking a tight rope - don't want to venture too far in either direction - but still the urge to help is strong, so we plunge ahead.
Thanks for sharing.

Morgan Mandel said...

Contests are great. If you win, it's great. If you lose, it's also great because you can learn.

Morgan Mandel