Sunday, January 18, 2015

Contests Revisited

I know I've said it before, "No more writing contests for me." The best I ever did in five years of entering them was two second places and one third for Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball and Goals for a Sinner. None of those wins resulted in attracting an agent or big New York Press, but did give me a hint on which of my by then twelve novels to push forward to publication. Goals eventually started my career.  So why did I let myself be lured into entering a very prestigious contest open to both published and pre-published authors?--the ever present hope of being discovered by one of their star-studded final judges composed of major editors and agents.

How did I do?  About the same as I used to do though my scores were higher, proving I have learned some things over the past ten years. The results were based on a best score of 200.  My judges indicated they were a librarian (177), an RWA Pro (188)--I've been a PAN for four years myself--and an Other (190) whom I suspect must have editing experience considering her astute comments very similar to ones my own editor would have made.such as "You need to take out some of these hads."  Will do when I have the time.  My regular editor often does that for me. At least, it wasn't was. The judge giving me the highest score showed great generosity in marking the manuscript where she felt it needed improvement and making many comments. The middle judge commented on the score sheet. Hads didn't bother her. The low scorer appeared to find fault with my grammar and spelling which the other judges had given ten out of ten. I have no idea why, but she constantly marked every area lower than the other two mostly leaving no comments so I will forever wonder. In the end that eleven point difference sunk my chances of getting into the top six. All three indicated they would like to read the entire book and found it well-written, a sop to my frustrated soul.

What did I learn?  That there will always be a third judge with lots less enthusiasm for your work, probably a reflection of overall readers. That after all these years and fourteen books in print, I am still prone to get depressed because I cannot win a contest even though my scores were decent and the comments kind. I really don't know if Perfection will ever published because I no longer feel like submitting it. Now, I think it must be rewritten and that will have to be crammed between doing publicity on the new books coming out, Son of a Sinner and Courir de Mardi Gras, the reprint of Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, and working on the manuscript of She's a Sinner. I've got plenty to keep me busy. Do I really need to try to launch a new Regency series without the aid of that agent I hoped to attract? Maybe some day.

Would I recommend entering contests? I think they serve a purpose, among them raising money for RWA chapters, but also if you get a good judge like the editor, the advice can be valuable, especially for novice writers.  But prepare for the let-down and having your feelings hurt because they didn't love your magnum opus. As for me, I am done with contests. I will not yield to temptation again. I think I've said this before, only this time I mean it.