Writing Contests – What’s In It For You?

by Pamela S. Meyers
Wanda Writer signed on to the ACFW eloop and scanned
the list of posts. She kept her finger poised over the delete key, clicking on
it every so often, picking and choosing which posts to keep and which ones to
banish. She paused at a reminder from the Genesis Head Coordinator that there
was still time to enter the Genesis Writing Contest.
A nudge to click on the message kept her transfixed
for a moment, but why bother? She’d entered the writing contest a couple years
ago, and what did she have to show for her time but a lost entry fee and a
judge’s comment that all but said she didn’t know how to write and should find
another way to pass her time. It had taken her almost a year to get over that
and start writing again. Her finger hit delete and the reminder
disappeared from her computer screen and from her thoughts.
But, the next time Wanda opened her WIP to work on
it, the nudge returned. She had taken those workshops at conference last
year and joined a good critique group since the last contest. Maybe it was time
to enter Genesis again. But what if that same judge or another like him or her
got her entry? She never wanted to go through that again. She pushed all
thoughts of entering out of her head and never considered entering the contest
again. Weeks later, when one of her crit partners shared how a contest judge’s
hard criticism woke her up to a weakness in her writing and how grateful she
was for receiving the judge’s input, Wanda questioned if she’d been too hasty
in deciding not to enter the contest.
Does that scenario sound remotely similar to your
experience with writing contests? Or perhaps you’ve never entered a contest
before and get a case of jitters just thinking about it?
This is the time of year that writing contests for
unpublished writers seem to be everywhere. Currently, ACFW’s Genesis (of
which I am head coordinator) is in the middle of its first round. There are
other contests also going on for unpublished writers you may want to look into
by Googling.
Here are three great reasons that you should consider
entering a contest or two this year.
  1. Experience—no
    matter how many contests you enter, each one gives you more experience in
    preparing a manuscript for submission, following guidelines, and becoming
    more comfortable with strangers seeing and evaluating your work.
  1. Feedback from Judges—Contest
    judges can vary from veteran writers or published authors to editors and
    agents (usually in the later rounds). Yes, some judges can be blunt, and
    judging is always subjective. But, entrants can often times learn more
    from a candid judge than from a gentle judge. I experienced this when a
    Genesis judge gave me a low score for POV when my story was in first
    person. Of course, I wondered how she could give me such a low score when
    there was no POV shift or head hopping? I later learned the reason was
    that I hadn’t made my POV deep enough. That is where I first learned about
    deep POV and have incorporated it in my writing ever since.
  1. A Chance of Winning—Most
    contests don’t hold a promise of a book contract for the first place
    winner or even a monetary award. But, winning does give you bragging
    rights and something great to add to your writing resume. Placing in a
    contest shows you can follow writer’s guidelines and your writing is good
    enough to win. It says a lot about your character traits that appeal to
    publishers and agents.
You may be saying, “Okay this all sounds good on
paper, but I never want to experience the hurt I felt when that judge said . .
. ”  
Yes, it does hurt. But if you decide ahead of time
that you are going to put on your rhino skin and not fall apart if you do
receive a few bad comments, you’ll be better able to ignore them.
The best way I’ve found to deal with disappointing
judge remarks is to put the score sheets away for a while and not look at them
for at least a week or maybe a month. I then go to the Lord and pray through my
bad feelings. It’s especially therapeutic to journal about my feelings and get
them out on paper. Sometimes it has taken many pages of notepaper to get them
all out, but it really does help.
I always save any positive remarks I’ve received from
my crit partners that I can go back to and read during my moments of despair
over a bad judge remark. And you can be assured that such experiences don’t end
once you’re published. One bad review can send an author into a tailspin.
That’s when many will go to the positive reviews and fan letters they’ve
received and reread them.
I hope by now, if you’ve been on the fence about
entering a writing contest this year, I’ve convinced you to take the plunge.
For more information about the ACFW Genesis contest you can go to www.acfw.com/genesis.

Just remember that no matter where you place in the
contest, all entrants are winners in one form or another. So what are you
waiting for? 

A native
of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago
with her two rescue cats. She’s an hour’s drive away from her Wisconsin
hometown, which she visits often. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and
Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries, and her 1933
historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. When she
isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around
Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.