Writing contests are SO FANTASTIC, y’all.
(I know I’m from Kentucky. I almost NEVER say “y’all.” I just need to make that clear.)
Contests are a great opportunity to get your work out there and have other eyes look at it. Usually contests involve agents- and in many cases, the agent will comment on every single entry so you’ll know what s/he did or didn’t like. You’ll also get comments from everyone else who reads that particular blog.
I know it’s terrifying to think of people actually reading your stuff. I. Know. But you have to get feedback to know what works and what sucks.
Having said that- here’s what I’ve learned from the few contests I’ve been in- my friend Maggie referred to it as a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen.”
My friend Maggie is SO SMART, y’all.
(I know. I did it again. It just seems like the right word.)
Remember that post I did about subjectivity? You have to keep it in mind when you’re taking feedback.
Some of the feedback will be legit—and especially if you are getting the same comments over and over, you probably need to address it. That doesn’t necessarily mean to CHANGE your work. But maybe you need to make things more clear if what you’re trying to convey is not what the reader is getting.
And some feedback will be, as my friend Leigh Ann says- “Nitpicky Nitpickiness.” It seems like some people NEED to find something wrong to prove they can offer critique. I get that. I think it’s weird, but I have to admit there’ve been times when I’ve felt that pressure too. Like, people will think I’m….what? Soft? I don’t know. I’m a hardcore writer, yo.
For instance, in my first 250 words, my MC Harper comes home to find her mom in the midst of one of her infamous cleaning fits. A cleaning fit can only mean one thing- something MAJOR has happened. So before she even goes into the house, Harper texts her brother Sam and is like- “GET HOME NOW.”
I’ve had a lot of people love it. I’ve had a lot of people hate it.
And I’ve had one person tell me that this is just not how teenagers would act. S/he said that it’d be more realistic if Harper texted Sam to say- “Come get me out of here.”
Well, no. That wouldn’t make sense at all. But that person doesn’t know Harper. S/he has no idea that Harper would just NEVER do that.
Which leads me to my next point- from my friend Jenny- “You know your story, you know your characters. Hold to that.”
Don’t I have smart friends?
You can’t address EVERY SINGLE critique. And you’ll want to. You’ll want EVERYONE to love your work. That’s normal. You can’t please everyone. You’ll go crazy trying.
So now that I’ve given ALL MY INFINITE WISDOM on writing contests….here’s a list of sites where you can find some great ones!
Ruth Lauren Steven (She has a contest this month- Entry window opens TOMORROW. Not sure if she'll be doing contests every month, but wanted you guys to know about this one!)