Finally! I have the time to do a blog post AND something interesting to say.
See, this is the problem with blogging. You either have all the time in the world and nothing to say, or something you’re dying to tell people and no time to write it down.
I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I entered three contests in September. Two of them were sponsored by RWA groups in other states – Missouri and Florida. For those, I put the same chapter in for consideration – a romantic suspense story. Contests like these are usually split into two rounds. In the first round your work is read and judged by published and unpublished authors who are members of the sponsoring group. If you make it past them, then your work is read and judged by editors and/or agents. The winner is selected from the second round participants.
The third contest was different. It’s an annual national contest sponsored by Harlequin Romance – So You Think You Can Write. Anyone can post the first chapter of their novel. Harlequin editors then narrow the field to 25, then to 10, and then there’s a winner. And when I say “narrow” – I mean it. There were almost 400 entries this year. For this one, I returned to a story I loved that needs a home.
So, how have I done?
I missed the second round in the Missouri contest, and I didn’t make it to the Top 25 in the Harlequin contest. The Florida contest is still in the first round.
But that wasn’t the point for me entering any of these.
Contests are a wonderful chance for feedback from other writers who don’t know you. They’re also a way to get over the fear of having strangers read your writing. Yes, I missed the second round in Missouri. However, I got much better feedback than the last contest I entered with this same story. I’m improving. I also changed the entry slightly, so the comments from Florida will tell me if I made a good decision.
And no, I didn’t make it to the coveted Top 25 of So You Think You Can Write, but this is what I got from the experience:
- I was finally brave enough to put my writing somewhere for all the world to see.
- I had to promote myself and tell people where they could read my work – no more Twitter avoidance.
- I met a great community of talented writers who like my writing and want to work with me.
- The editing process is revealing how much I’ve improved.
- Not advancing means I don’t have to rush through editing and submission.
- Someone I respect and admire has offered more feedback.
If you’re out there and you feel like you’re beating your head against a wall, step back for a minute. Yes, not advancing sucks, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you lost. Take it as a chance to learn more about your craft or find another contest. Whatever you do, don’t stop writing.
A lot of the people who follow me here or on Facebook took the time to read my online chapter and comment. From every inch of my tired heart — thank you. And hang on just a little bit longer. This is all going to pay off eventually.