Wednesday, November 7, 2012

IWSG: The value of writing contests

I have mixed feelings about entering my stories into contests. On one hand, it's great exposure if I get an award, or even final in a contest. On the other hand, it can open up a can of worms I may not be prepared to deal with.

A few years ago, for instance, I entered what I thought was a wonderful paranormal romance into a romance contest. Some writers look down on romance writers as not serious enough, not dedicated to their craft, etc., but that has never been my attitude, or my experience. The judges in this particular contest made no bones about picking apart my entry. They slashed the hero, and pretty much everything about the story.

Now, I am a serious writer, and I am always appreciative when another writer takes the time to critique my work. It hurt, of course, because I'd considered this a good story. But I went back to the drawing board and revised it, and revised it a few more times, and after I finally published it, reviewers gave it top ratings. In retrospect, I'm glad I invested in the entry fee.

This year, I entered several of my stories into another annual contest. Every year but this year, my stories have finaled in it. This year? Zip. Nada. Nothing. I scanned through the list, and, not finding my titles, checked it again more slowly.

I have to admit, it rattled me. What does it mean? Has my writing declined?

This, by the way, is not a contest that provides feedback from judges. The entry fee is a little steeper than I normally would spend, but again, the finalists and winners get great exposure.

But now, I'm second-guessing myself in every aspect.

Do you enter writing contests? Do you agree they have a value?

Thanks again to Alex J. Cavanaugh for sponsoring this group! Now go lend a supportive shoulder to another author.


Yolanda Renee said...

There are more and more contests, and they seem to get more and more expensive. I can't afford a lot of them, but I think the good ones are the ones that send a critique back. Then you have something to go on. I have entered those, but unlike you I haven't won, yet. But you are an excellent writer! You should never doubt your talent! IT IS AWESOME!

Good question!

Maria Zannini said...

I'd speculate it was a numbers game.

Most contests are judged by a small group of people--very often the same people. I know because they often blog about their judging duties like it's a part time job for them.

On top of that, more new writers than ever are flooding these contests as a means of getting their work evaluated.

I wouldn't worry about it.

1. You don't need to be evaluated. Your work has already proven itself.

2, You have something the newbies don't. A following and a fan base.

3. Unless there's money or a publishing contract involved, I don't think contests help established authors all that much.

The exception would be really BIG contests. The last one I finaled in brought me offers from two agents. Unfortunately, I was no longer interested in getting an agent so it was a moot point. Figures!

Never second guess yourself. I'm still a fan! And I'm a picky reader.

Cate Masters said...

Thank you, Yolanda. I so appreciate your support!

Yep, I've been feeling that squeeze for awhile, Maria, lol. Thank you - compliments like these are better than any award!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I haven't entered one for a while. The last one, I received a few critiques and they were completely opposite of each other. I didn't find the value worth the price.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Different judges mean different tastes, so I wouldn't worry too much. And as Maria said, there are so many more writers now, and the entries could've been a hundred times greater than before. You're still a great writer, Cate!

Cate Masters said...

Thanks guys. It's been a crazy tough couple of years personally, so I worried it impacted my writing and my mind immediately went to that conclusion. I appreciate your kind words!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Cate,

Yes, I enter contests and I just recently entered a story I had finaled with for a NYC publication.

This contest, with a high fee, gave no feedback and didn't even list the winners. I was surprised and felt very cheated. I may never enter another again. Many are a waste of time and money, I believe.

I know your writing hasn't gone stale, perhaps the judging is biased or they are not reputable. If I should ever enter another contest I will research their reputation to see if they are fair and on the up and up.

Cate Masters said...

That's awful Michael! Contests can be pitfalls in that way. It's always good to contact other authors who've participated.

J Q Rose said...

I am not into contests anymore, especially paying a fee for entry. I think you have to study the winners and then write something like that to win. Not my cup of tea. I appreciated many of the comments here on your post. They were right on!