Contest Results and Learning From It

Utah’s chapter of Romance Writers of America  just completed their first round of judging. The results are out. And this writer choked on her scores. The usual feelings flowed through; despair, depression, questioning my ability as a writer and then anger. Yes anger. Come on, every person who gets bad scores gets angry. We decide that person shouldn’t be a judge. We think, what does she know anyway? We decide to ignore every suggestion they’ve put on it. Yeah I did.

Then, we set it aside. No? Well, we should. A few days later, look at them again. The despair has quieted, the depression is gone and so you should re-evaluate your entry. Read through what the judge said. Does that sentence sound rather blah? No action words, huh? Well then, pull those passive puppies out. Read you entry out loud. Where you cringe, fix it. Because, you can bet that’s what your judge did. Cringe, not fix it…that’s your job. We edit because there is always room for improvement, so look at it again and again. Maybe what they’ve said does make a little more sense, right?

Now for the hardest word that our results bring… Humbling. Yep, I entered this contest fully expecting to final. We all do or we wouldn’t enter. Then, there could be an exception to the rule;  knowing when entry is not ‘ready’ and I knew it but, I got what I paid for…a critique. Which is why I enter in the first place – the critique, the validation that, “yeah, I can tell a story.”

So, today I am going to Shake It Off, Learn From Their Suggestions, and then…Write! Right?

ROW80 check in:

I’ve put my ‘depression’ aside and will be blogging and writing up to 1,000 words a day until I change my goals again :). I think we’ve noticed that I do it every week. shhhh- dang writer, make up your mind.


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19 Responses to Contest Results and Learning From It

  1. Joelene says:

    There always seems to the “troll under the bridge” who picks apart our work. I remained in the fetal position for hours after my first contest. I still have that critique. It had the best suggestions. Anyone can stroke us with praise, but it takes that brutal honesty to make us push ourselves to improve. I literally get nauseated before opening scoresheets, but that’s why I enter. I need someone else’s eyes to show me something I’m blind to. You’re a great writer! Go ahead. Fume. Then fix it, if it applies, and be prepared to be surprised. Love ya!

  2. Em says:

    I can’t imagine how hard it is to hear criticisms but there are definately lots of positives to take from the experience and I am glad you are already finding the positives I hope your blogging and 1000 words a day go well, enjoy the rest of your week!

  3. Wow – can I relate! After reading the harshest of critiques on my last contest entry, I turned off my computer, watched several movies, read a book, took a nap, and indulged in some major (and truly tragic) food therapy. The next day was better. And I can’t say I didn’t agree with said harsh critique, no in fact, my agreement made it much worse. But like you said, you then must shake it off, get back in there, learn and grow from it. Sigh.This writing gig is tough…

  4. Lesli says:

    It works out best when that troll doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Bully for you, for finding something helpful in the attack. And sometimes that’s exactly what they are.

    Active words, huh? Maybe I’ll learn from yours…


  5. Interesting that we all put ourselves through this, time and time again. Just goes to show… writers want to know how thick their skin is – constantly testing :).

    Clancy, yes…this writing gig can get real tough. If you’re breathing easy, you’re not working hard enough.

  6. Jewel Adams says:

    The only thing worst than the depression I sank into the first time someone butchered my manuscript was the chocolate shock that came afterward. 🙂

  7. lisadeon says:

    Let me tell ya, I loved how one judge highlighted a character’s last name, like they wanted me to make sure I was spelling it correctly. I wonder how many time Willem DaFoe got that when he started sending out his head shots and resume…Or Brendan Fraser…or Brian Setzer of the Stary Cats and the Brian Setzer Orchestra…

    Oy! That’s all I have to say. Oy!

  8. lisadeon says:

    That shoube be “STRAY Cats…”

  9. Lisa Deon says:

    and THAT should be SHOULD …
    (bangs head)

  10. Sorry, I’m still laughing from Lisa’s comments.
    Okay, I’m better. Depression, followed by a chocolate binge, followed by renewal of spirit.
    Yeah, I am guilty of it. I consider the critique and try to be honest with myself. If they don’t say anything good, I toss their view as the vicious attack it is and move on.

    Move on and write.
    I know you have talent. I’ve seen it.

  11. Catie Rhodes says:

    Lisa–I’ve had those critiques. My favorite was the one who read a scene out of my third chapter and needed to inform me that some character had not been introduced properly. Of course she was…in the first chapter.

    Doree–you’re doing the right thing. Give it a few days, then read again. I’ve yet to have a critique where I didn’t get at least one useful piece of advice. 😀

  12. Exactly. We have to move on. Lisa, character names shouldn’t even be considered a judging thing. Nobody should tell anyone what to name their characters = how rude!

    Gee, maybe my parents got it wrong when they named me Doree 🙂
    Thanks for all the great comments everyone.

  13. Doree, you have a great attitude. Sometimes those judges can teach us. Sometimes they just don’t get your story. I’ve gotten scores in the 60%s and perfect scores with the same ms in the same contest before. Go with the comments your gut tells you are right and disregard the rest. Contests are a crap-shoot. You have the right attitude, so keep it up!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Great attitude, Doree. The reality is, criticism hurts. But the strength you show when you pull yourself up, look and assess, and then lay down more words proves you are truly an writer!
    Love the blog…

  15. Jennifer Beckstrand says:

    Doree, Only the brave put their work out for people to see, to criticize, to tear apart, to love, to hate. So, congrats on taking a chance. The only way to get better is to figure out what we’re doing wrong. You rock.
    Jennifer Beckstrand

  16. Julie Glover says:

    It sounds like you went through the stages of grieving in a brief time. Maybe we writers do that a lot, with critiques, rejections, reviews, etc. Acceptance is where you are! Whoo-hoo! And then you take what you can use, discard the rest, and become the writer you know you are! Great attitude. Good luck on the ROW80 goals!

  17. Liz Jakes says:

    Hugs on the scores, Doree! You have such a great attitude. Kudos!

    I agree, you can always get something out of a thoughtful critique, even if it’s just, this judge doesn’t get my work. But I often find after the sting of the numbers fades, there are some genuine truths to be found. It’s all about making the book BETTER.

    I like contests for the completely fresh eyes factor–the judge doesn’t know you, isn’t your friend or relative, and has no investment in YOU, so it’s all about the story. Which is going to be the case with agents, editors, and readers anyway, so…

    Former conte$t addict Liz.

  18. Liz Jakes says:

    And speaking as a contest judge, ahem…

    Contest judges volunteer their time and energy to help out their chapters, and put lots of thought and effort into judging. Granted, some judges are unduly harsh or negative, but most are not. I’m always conscious of writers who spend good money for valuable feedback. As I know firsthand what it’s like to get tough critiques, I work extra hard to be positive and fair. OTOH, you want to give good value–there’s no point in saying something works if it doesn’t, just to be nice.

    If you’ve never volunteered to judge a contest, you might want to give it a try. It’s interesting to approach contests from the ‘other’ side. Honestly, I think I’ve learned more from being a judge than from getting judged. Uh, getting my work judged that is. ; )

  19. Looks like we’ve all received our “Gee, ever thought about play-dough?” this may hurt, but it won’t kill you. You simply use it to better your education. Its credence when you put your self out there and accept the criticism with a nod and a shake and then continue on with a positive attitude.

    Thanks for all the wonderful insight – looks like we all agree, we learn from doing so keep on judging and submitting.

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