After being ecstatic by a win, I'm now devastated by dismal scores on the last contest I entered. Ok, yes, I know it's all subjective, but coming off a win with the same entry? One judge says my dialogue is stilted and not real, another says it's really strong. One judge questioned the definition of every word and couldn't spell worth a D***. (Whose vs. who's, loose vs. lose) Makes me question their level of dedication to literacy. Who to believe? These are the worst scores since the first contest I ever entered-and that entry needed serious help. I wasn't part of an awesome crit group back then and really wanted results as feedback. Anyway, since my DH isn't happy with my 'hobby', maybe I'll just give up on my dream. Not! I guess I just need some time to...become a better writer. Sorry for the bitter post, but this has left me feeling a bit out of sorts. And there are two other contests out there I'm waiting for results on. Ugh. Maybe he's right and I should put it away and go back to my 'career'. If I could only find a full time job...
Sad and Blue-Raven
8/24/2010 11:49:32 pm

Hi, Raven! I gave up entering contests for a while and judged them after a lot of my judges said things like "I don't really like this story because your main character sounds like a kid. I'm judging Young Adult to see what it's all about. You need to get the romance into the first chapter." Okay... I do read YA. And I had entered contests, not necessarily to win--although that would have been nice, but to get feedback. (Gee, wasn't feedback like that helpful?) So I decided I need to judge YA not submit and, for a really long time, that's what I've done. I'm over being P.O.ed. I've learned some stuff--like reading the scoresheet prior to entering is a really smart idea--I've judged YAs that didn't fit the YA scoresheet and it would be impossible for those entries to win the contest no matter how spectacular the writing is.

YA is so big right now, surely there are more well-read judges out there now... so I've finally braved up and entered a couple of contests recently. We'll see how it goes. I figure it's a little like tossing money to the wind. Yeah, gambling on a horse you own and love and want to believe in.

Hang in there. Your dh might be frustrated, but I bet the minute you publish, he'll dance you around the house. My dh wants me to send, send, send. I hear it every single blasted day. "Did you submit today?" I remind him, I must finish, finish, finish (the novel) first... the previous books were just "practice."

I'm sure he's frustrated with me--but I'm learning to ignore it and hang in there. One day he stuck a bottle of really good champagne in the fridge and said it's for The Big Sale. That was two years ago. We have a small fridge and that bottle of champagne is taking up valuable space--but it's always there reminding me--KEEP WRITING!!

Hold onto your dream, Raven!!!

8/25/2010 12:09:18 am

It never gets any easier, Raven. Never. There are going to be those who love your work and those who don't. There are going to be those who feel you are on the cusp of publication and those who think you have miles and miles to go. Trust me.
What you've got to do is listen. Listen to the criticism and determine if there is a pattern, if you need to adhere to the advice. Listen to the praise and know what you are strong at. It bears repeating. Use the comments and advice that sem to ring true for you and toss the rest. Let the negative roll off your back. That goes for home life, too.
Being a writer means growing. You never stop growing. And perserverence. Don't give up your dream. Ever!


8/25/2010 12:25:57 am

Raven, I feel your pain. I entered several contests back in 2007 and had very, very mixed results. 1 thing I learned from a contest where I placed 2nd, was that 1 of the judges had absolutely no sense of humor and made odd, unsubstantiated criticisms (said my entry was riddled with grammatical and typo errors, which it wasn't, and the other 2 judges gave it top scores for that aspect, saying it was perfect!). Then there were the 2 contests where it was clear that, even though I had entered my futuristic erotic romance in the erotic category, the judges either didn't read a lot of it or considered "spicy" as hot as it should go. They also didn't appreciate the BDSM aspects. After that I ended up both judging and finally being a coordinator for several contests. What I learned? There are some great judges, some OK judges, and then there are opinionated, unprofessional and sometimes ignorant judges who cannot read an entry outside their "zone" without ripping it apart. Or there are lazy judges who simply don't take the time to help a contestant by including the reasons for their low scores (beyond "boring", "hate this subject", etc.). I think that it can be helpful to enter those contests that have really good reputations and great coordinators. I think it can be useful to take the information (and a grain of salt) as what a general reading public might think (you can't please all the people all the time). But ultimately, I think finding the right critique partners, who "get" you (including your voice, sense of humor, writing style) and people who read, in depth, the genre you write, who write the same genre, and are constructive and helpful in their criticism. Then? You take the good with the bad and walk away. DO NOT GIVE UP! I write stuff that has gotten me lots of great feedback - and lots of "uh uh" feedback. Because of my voice, my style, my envelope-pushing genre, and my extreme characters. Ultimately finding a publisher will be the real acid test. Hang in there! The world of books needs all the wonderful and distinct authors it can get!

8/25/2010 12:42:41 am

Oh, Raven, honey, I'm there with you! *grin* I have a feeling we entered the same contest. If you're going to the conference, we'll have martinis. I'll mix.

Lise's right though. It's a taste of the reading public. I've finalled or come within one point of finalling with previous books that weren't as strong and tight as the one I just got back. By the same token when I judge a contest, I give a detailed explanation if I give a less than perfect score. I had several low scores with no explanation. If I wanted no feedback, then shoot! I might as well just query.

As for hubby, quote him Will Smith. "A happy mom means a happy family."

8/25/2010 02:01:38 am

Raven, I have had the same experience--maybe the same judge! She made lots of spelling and grammatical mistakes, and accused me of making spelling and grammatical mistakes, which I most certainly had not. She said I used the passive voice; I had not used it even once.

She and another judge criticized the graphic language in the sex scene I submitted. Get this: the contest was for high-heat sensual scenes only, and I submitted in the erotica category.

One of those two judges said I introduced too many characters ... but it was a scene halfway through the book; there were only two characters and the POV character mentioned the two other main characters--not confusing at all; I had included the required synopsis, which was evidently never read.

Two judges gave me very high marks; one failed me. Again, it was interesting that the one who hated it made many mistakes, and clearly did not know the guidelines or parameters of the contest. I vowed never to waste my time and money on another contest, and I have kept that vow. But I'm certainly not going to stop writing! Those are two different activities.

Incidentally, I'm now in a critique group with similar dynamics. The member who makes the most and pickiest complaints is the one with the worst grammar/punctuation/spelling. I understand now that the issue isn't so much my writing as who's reading it.

Susan M
8/25/2010 05:17:57 am

Hey Raven, I think we had the same contest and the same judge so I know EXACTLY how you feel. Since she didn't see fit to offer any constructive criticism, let's ignore her and consentrate on the ones who liked us.

8/25/2010 10:30:00 pm

Raven, ouch! I am so sorry this hurts! I'm pretty sure we all feel your pain. (In fact, I blogged about just this the other day on Musetracks.) But if you love it, if you simply can't *be* without writing, then you'll keep doing it because you've just got to.

An True Story I hope will help: A contest judge once told me she despised my heroine. She gave me a 55/100. Another judge in the same contest gave me a 100. That manuscript sold to Avon and recently received a Top Pick review from RT. The other day a total stranger tweeted that it was the best debut she'd read in ages and she loved loved LOVED the heroine.

Contests losses do not determine the worth of your writing. You do. If you've won one, you've got something to put in your query letters to agents and you may now stop entering them. I give you permission. ;)

Keep your chin up, and keep writing if you love it no matter what the nay-sayers tell you.

8/27/2010 10:39:42 am

Thanks for all the support guys. It's comforting to know I'm not the only one going through these things and nice to know I have the support of my writer peeps. Love you guys.

Meghan Polansky
9/15/2010 06:51:04 am

Never give up!! Keep writing you're really good and should always pursue what you want to do. If you don't listen to me then you should take your own advice and do what makes you happy!!! :P
I love you!!

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