Being a teacher means that when the students get a snow day, so do I. When I was a student, I had no idea that the teachers were more excited than I was to get a day off for winter weather. Now that I'm a teacher, I know that it is absolutely true! This has been more like a "snow week", since we've been out of school for 4 days. It's given me lots of time to think.
I've been pondering writing contests again. A few years ago I swore off them. I'd entered a few from time to time, with three different manuscripts. Sometimes the feedback was helpful. Other times it was bizarre. A judge once told me that she "didn't like the use of contractions in my dialogue." What? Everyone uses contractions when they speak! My heroine was a twenty-something woman from the Lexington, Kentucky area who ran a bed and breakfast. She would not have said something like... "Maybe the next time we visit you you will be in a better mood. It is no fun being around you when you are being such a sour puss." It's much more believable for a woman like her to say... "Maybe the next time we visit you you'll be in a better mood. It's no fun being around you when you're being such a sour puss."
I decided the contest feedback wasn't wort the expense and the effort to enter contests. The entry fees were anywhere from $20 - $30, not to mention the expense of the paper for three copies of my first 50 pages and the postage to mail it all to the contest coordinator. The time involved may seem like a minor thing, but for a woman with a full-time job and a family at home, finding the time to put together a contest entry was sometimes difficult. There was the printing of the manuscript copies, the filling out of the appropriate paperwork, the trip to the post office. And really, I was getting the same quality of feedback from the talented ladies in my RWA chapter, some of whom comment regularly on this blog. Are you listening Teresa and Devon!?
But even after I swore off them, there came a time when I decided to enter contests again. I decided the feedback from people who didn't know me was valuable, as well as the chance of getting my work in front of an editor or agent I was interested in, should my manuscript final in the contest. So, I sought out contests with final judges that interested me should I be lucky enough to get a chance at publication. I didn't final in either of the contests that I entered for this reason, and the feedback was somewhat helpful.
I asked my KYRW chapter-mates about contests and feedback. I learned that many of them had had similar experiences, and that many of them had entered contests for the same reasons I did... to get objective feedback and to try to get their work in front of a certain editor or agent. I also learned something very interesting. Some authors and some manuscripts just don't do well in contests. Several published authors described entering contests and not finaling or scoring well with the manuscript that they eventually sold to a publisher.
I've come to the conclusion that some types of books do well in writing contests, and others don't. The reasons for entering contests varies, and for a long time I've not even considered submitting my work to a contest. But now, with all this time on my hands this week, I've started thinking about it again. I have a new manuscript, in a new sub-genre of romance. Maybe I could use some objective feedback?
Do you have contest experiences, good, bad or neutral, that you'd like to share? If so, I'd love to hear. Perhaps it will make my decision easier!