*Sorry that this picture only has vague relevance to the topic, but I couldn't resist. By far, the funniest Saved By The Bell episode ever.*
A while back I mentioned that I would be entering a couple of writing contests for the first time and promised to share what my experience was like with y'all. Well, this weekend I got a call from the North TX RWA letting me know that my manuscript, Wanderlust, has finaled in the Contemporary Series Romance category of the Great Expectations contest!
I am so excited! Now I get a day to read through the judges' feedback and revise before the entry gets sent to the final judge--an editor at Harlequin. :) Woo-hoo!
So obviously I'm feeling pretty good about contests right now, but let me share a bit of my experience so far. First, I have to say that these results came back very quickly and the amount of detailed feedback from the three judges (two of whom were published) was awesome. They teased out things me and my crit group had not caught (and we're a picky bunch) and it wasn't just surface feedback--their comments showed they had put a lot of thought into it. This kind of feedback is worth its weight in gold and was a great return on my small contest fee even if I hadn't finaled.
In addition, I can't tell you how nice it is to have people who are either published or are trained as judges tell me such positive things about my writing and that my story is of publishable quality. I'm definitely going to save those files and pull them out when I go through my inevitable "I'm a Total Hack" days. So thank you to those anonymous judges who have given me that gift.
Now, although my experience has been very positive, I do want to give one word of warning about contests. Remember not to freak out if you get feedback you don't like or agree with. Even though these are educated opinions, they are still just opinions. Angi Morgan, who recently sold her first manuscript, wrote a great article on keeping contest feedback in perspective. So go into these things with that in mind.
But all in all, I think the positives outweigh that minor risk. So, if you're looking for some totally outside feedback and a chance to jump the slush pile of an editor or agent, consider entering one. They are especially helpful if you want to "test out" your beginning or hook because contests usually have a page limit (first 15, 25, 50 pages).
Most of the local RWA chapters run these contests and they're open to anyone--you don't have to be a member. And I know a lot of you write YA and may think that these don't apply to you, but almost every contest I've seen has a YA category. (Here's a list of some upcoming contests.) So take a chance and put yourself out there.
Also, totally off subject, but I'd like to give a little shout out to my New Orleans Saints for winning the Super Bowl! Sometimes the underdog really does triumph--okay so it took a few decades to get there, but still, I always believed. :)
Have you entered any contests? Why or why not? What's been your experience?