Most of you know of my recent contest experience but for those of you who don't, here's the short version.
A major publisher sponsored a contest in which three winners get an indepth editorial critique and possibly a request for partials. They required the first chapter and synopsis. Since this is a market I want to break into, I sent them all they asked for and began the very long wait. They were to announce winners last week. Naturally as the day approached I got a bit excited. My chapter and synopsis had been polished until you could practically see your reflection and the story fit the contest line. I was hopeful. Now, fast forward to "winner announcement day". No winners list on the website. No phone call or email of any sorta. I'm left hanging...did they not announce the winners yet? Did I not place? Did my email eat the notification of winning or possibly did they snail mail the winners and I just haven't received the letter yet?
As most of you know, I sulked about this for a day and most of another. But this reminded me of several things about contests. I thought I'd share them:--)
First...contests are subjective. In fact, very subjective. We can't really know for sure what the judges are looking for, even with their guidelines.
Second...judges sometimes wouldn't know good writing if it reached up and smacked them. Many times judges choose what they like instead of the best entry. I've seen major writing contests have the strangest, worst written winners. I don't enter many contests just for this reason.
Third...contests won't make or break your career. Sure, some contests carry more weight than others but most just aren't that important.
So...when choosing whether or not to enter a contest consider a couple things.
Is the contest one that will make a difference in the long run. The contest I entered would have given me a foot in the door so met this requirement. The Romance Writers of America have a great contest each year and making it to the final round is very respectable.
Who is judging the thing? Again, the judges were editors of the line I want to break into so it would have been nice to impress them.
What are the judges looking for? Get some guidelines and follow them. I read three books in the line then reworked my entry to meet the expectations of that line.
What is it going to cost to enter? Many contests have entry fees and that shouldn't be a problem. Unless the fee seems high for the amount given back as winnings. Some very good contests are free. Charging a fee isn't a sign of a good or bad contest, just something that should be taken into consideration when deciding to enter.
So, will I enter another major contest? Depends on lots of things. Right now I'm working on an entry for a flash fiction contest. The judge is very good, the entry fee is low, and there is a nice prize package. While not the most prestigious contest, I'm having fun writing the piece for it.
And we should enjoy our writing whenever we can:--)