Monday, July 21, 2008

Theme Week - Contests

Sexy Comments & Profile Graphics

Gack. Mondays are hard but Mondays are my day so let me just swallow another sip of coffee and I'll get us started :D

This week we're talking about contests. I'm not sure how the other ladies feel but I do like contests. I think they're a great advantage to the unpublished writer.

How so?

The most obvious is that if you final, your manuscript will land in front of an editor/agent judge. That cuts a lot of time from the old slush pile. And, even if that editor or agent doesn't want it for some reason, they'll often give feedback that could be advantageous for improving your story.

You finaled but didn't win. It's still a good thing though. You've now got some 'writing credentials' to use in your query letters. Don't say you came in third or fourth. Just say you finaled. How cool does that sound?

So...okay, you didn't final but you did get feedback. Now what? Look long and hard at any feedback you may have gotten. If it's constructive and if it rings true to you and your characters, you may decide to use it. If it's just 'hated the premise' or 'hated the characters' with no concrete reasons...well, we can't please every single person out there. Sometimes our stories or our characters just don't resonate with a particular reader. We have to accept that and move on. But if you get a lot of these comments, then it might be time to look really hard at the manuscript and see if there's a problem that you, as the author, are blind to. After all, we know our characters' motivations and goals but the reader (judge) doesn't. It could be that we need to do a little revision to make their motivations/goals a little more clear.

I've entered a bunch of contests, finaled in a lot of them too. How did I choose which contests to enter? I decided to select the contest by their final judges. If they had a judge in my category who I wanted my manuscript in front of, then I'd enter that particular contest. It's that simple. One thing you should do though is to aim at the more well-known or prestigious contests. A final in a well-known contest carries a better 'wow' factor than a final in a contest no one has ever heard of.

There are all kinds of contests out there for unpublished writers. Some are purely electronic, some only take electronic payment but want 3-6 hard copies of your entry. Clearly an entry that you'll have to snail mail is going to cost a bit more. You'll want to keep that in consideration -- how does the contest entry fit into your budget? Me? I like the electronic contests the best b ut your mileage may vary.

Good luck (and I'm anxious to see what the other Star-Crossed Ladies have to say!)

-- Lynda

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Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Lynda, luv the Betty Boop! Thanks for putting it on my MySpace page.
I entered contests for a solid year, but that was way back during 1999 before electronic entries were very hardly in existence. I just entered everything I could manage, and afford.
It was good discipline about meeting deadlines and organizing your entry. I learned how to do query letters, synopsis, blurbs -- or, at least, got an idea. I did final three times with three different stories, and won once. Which was really cool, since my writing wasn't mainstream. The best, though, was when one of the judges really liked my writing. I got a lot of helpful comments, and just a few I would consider nasty and snide.
Today contests for unpublished writers is an entirely different game!

Lynda K. Scott said...

Savanna, good point about learning discipline to make deadlines, etc. Contests really can be helpful in a number of ways, can't they?

Thanks for stopping by!

(Betty just jumped up and hollered that she was perfect for a Monday message :D Glad you liked her!)