Writing Contests- Trick? Or Treat?

This autumn there are several writing contests on the horizon. I've participated in loads over the years and overall have had a positive experience and recommend writers participate if (a) they have the interest/the manuscript is ready and (b) have thick skin and a discerning mind.

I say have interest because for some, putting their work out there is akin to getting egged. There's a level of investment and participation that doesn't appeal and that's okay. If this is you, dear reader, and you haven't already done so, investigate this only insofar as how contests in some ways mimic writing for a real live audience (fans and critics) who will pick apart every single paragraph, word choice, and the plot itself. (And either toilet paper your house or give out the king size candy bars.) If you're anything like me, you'll read contest entries and be amazed at how many outstanding stories there are out there and temporarily feel a low similar to eating all my Halloween candy at once. The other part of a is obvious. If your material is not ready, do NOT enter. I've been guilty of this on more than one occasion. Have I mentioned I'm not patient?

As for b, buckle up. When queries, loglines, the first 250, etc are available for public critique (not just via an agent or mentor) most of the time respondents (anyone from "anonymous" to Jane Doe to Aunt Millie) are kind. Awesome. Validating. Hugs and kisses galore (except on Aunt Millie's left side, that mole makes me think she is bonafide witch.) I'm thankful not to have run across any jerks. BUT sometimes the critiquers have no idea what the heck they're talking about.

For whatever reason (I can think of a few- he, he) they'll make comments like,

"Where  is this happening." 
Uh...It says it in the first sentence. 

"How old is the MC. 
Uh. Did you read the second paragraph?"

"I really don't see where this is going." 
Uh. You've only read the first 250 words, but it does say they MC's vacation was canceled. So...

Maybe those were dumb examples. But, you get the idea. Thoughtless? Harsh? Unreasonable? Whatever the case, there is a careful balance between brushing this all off and also taking a closer look at the submitted materials. If readers don't get it on the first go- it may just be due to their lack of experience critiquing, being in a hurry, or carelessness. Don't scrap the project. It could be a case of writing farsightedness. BUT it is also an opportunity to take another look and ask ourselves if there is any more work to be done on our MS. Just sayin'. Contests that involved rounds of peer editing/comments/feedback prior to the pitches falling into the hands of agents are great for this purpose. It allows us to really focus on the all important first impression. See below for logline peer critique. Some blogs also host query crits that aren't contests, just forums for feedback.

Contests can be full of treats—offers for partials, fulls, opps to meet critique partners, a chance to shine or sharpen...But then can also be a time for tricks—lousy respondents, the realization that the work just isn't ready, or writer's low ("Woe! Why doesn't anyone get it?! I'm a failure as a writer and will never put finger to keyboard again.") Like entering a haunted house, proceed with caution, but when you make it to the other side, jump with joy!

Here are three upcoming (and awesome) contests this autumn that are worth checking out. I'm not etching it in blood, but I think these will be my last round of contests for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I'm ready to get off the roller coaster—the ups and downs of participation, at least for a while—and focus on the proverbial craft. But until then check out these amazing opportunities to get your writing out there and also a big, chocolatey, sweet thank you to the hosts for the tremendous amount of work they do behind the scenes!

Halloween YA Pitch Party hosted by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Literary Agency. She wants to see steamy and sizzling YA romance in her inbox. Find out more on her blog (which also has some great query tips btw.)

Nightmare on Query Street - hosted my Michelle, SC, and Mike. This happens on Oct. 19. Be prepared! And maybe a little afraid ;)

Trick-or-Treat with agents - hosted by Kimberly Chase and Brenda Drake - check out her shiny new website! Get your bowl of candy entries ready for Oct. 22. it's going to be a howlin' good time. 

Baker's Dozen Auction: EPIC contest in November. Involving these agents. Stay tuned for details. But hone those loglines NOW

And if that weren't enough, there's another Pitch Wars in our future. Load the marshmallow guns. This going to be complete with mentors AND agents.

If there are any more coming up, please add them in the comments below. And forgive my silly analogies.
© Deirdre Riordan Hall | All rights reserved.
Blog Layout Created by pipdig