Saturday, January 30, 2010

Contest Heirarchy of Novel Warfare

Ah, contests. They either lift you up or grind you into the ground. It takes pretty thick skin to enter writing contests. The judges have no vested interest in your work like a crit partner or friend might. But that's not what I'm writing about today.

Why enter contests? Almost every RWA chapter runs a contest for unpublished authors every year. For them it's a way to draw attention to their chapter and make money for the programs they provide for their members. For the person entering? It depends on where you are in your writing career. Because it's usually not for the first prize. Which can be your entry fee back or a cool trinket (I've gotten a crystal heart pendant and am getting a cake serving set)

When you are just starting out sending out to a contest is a test of sorts. How well received will my first pages be when I send them to an agent or editor? The feedback from 1st round judges vary. Some make you think you could be the next Sherrilyn Kenyon and others make you think you'd be better off as a fry cook. But these are people who don't know you and that's important. They don't have to be harsh, but they can be real about what they think. If they are allowed to be feedback. Something to be aware of when looking for a contest. This can be a testing ground for an idea you aren't sure about.

When you start to get better at writing (which you should always be getting better), you enter contests because of the final judge or judges. Maybe it's your dream agent or editor. This is the real prize. Some editors will tell you what they like or dislike about your entry, but generally they'll just rank you among the other two entries. However, the real prize is the request for a full. This lets you bypass the query stage and the editor slush pile. You get to write "Requested Materials" on your envelope.

Obviously, the MS needs to stand up to the expectations of the piece you submitted to the contest. When L.A. Cinderella won the Marlene, I got a cool heart pendant and a full request. This eventually led to Silhouette Special Edition buying my book. With Fallen, I placed 2nd in the Golden Gateway which gave me a free membership to FTHRW, but I also got a request from the final editor who is on my list when this MS gets done again.

Finally a Bride contest is an interesting contest. You can enter this contest if you've finaled in a contest during the year but didn't get 1st place. So the entries are all top notch to begin with. Making it to the finals was amazing. Winning and getting a request is crazy. So I'm happy as a peach.

One final note on contests, the Golden Hearts is the contest put on by RWA National. You get a number score and that's it on your MS, but if you happen to final, you get noticed by agents and editors. It's the equivalent of winning a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. You may not get the keys to the factory at the end, but the ride will be really cool.


Jill said...

Have I mentioned that I think the fact that you write actual novels is the COOLEST thing in the whole world? Just very, very cool...

Amanda said...


Shawntelle Madison said...

Great post Amanda! :)