Putting yourself out there by Candi Wall

September 26, 2011



OH! Super cool update! Laura Bradford confirmed she’ll be here for our November Agent Shop since

gremlins messed with our last run of e-mails and this Agent Shop was cancelled. She’s a stellar lady peeps!

“This is wonderful. I could feel everything your character was experiencing!”

“You’ve got a strong voice and the writing was sublime…”

Oh, yeah. You all know what I’m talking about. The big grin, the heart thumping that goes along with opening your e-mail, contest scores, comment section, twitter, or whatever venue you use to put your writing out there, and reading something like that!

It’s like CRACK!

More, more! Gimme more!

‘Course, the negative comments can be just as intense .

“You really should pick an author you like and try to emulate them.”

“Your characters felt cardboard to me, and your villain was nothing more than a clichĂ© device to throw in some failed tension.”

Kill me now!


Okay, so it’s not that bad. As with everything, we have to take any and all comments with a grain or bucket of salt.

As writers, we’re going to come across every personality, like, dislike, good day, bad day, that our readers have. We’re going to be held high by a reader that just adored everything we put into words, and we’re going to be knocked so low, getting back up will be a Herculean task.

Color me a glutton…

But I’ll probably keep putting my work out there, through contests, groups, sharing sites and of course my Beta readers and Crit partners.

Wanna know why?

Simple. Feedback, friendship and the chance at winning!

And believe it or not, that’s the order of importance I take when I enter any contest. Feedback is gold.

As most of us do, I started this journey alone. Through contests, writing groups, and networking, I’ve found the most amazing people and am lucky to have them. I don’t believe for a moment that without them, I would be as far as I am today. And that in itself is enough reason for me to feel justified in encouraging any writer, at any stage of their craft, to get out there, take a chance, let others see what you write and learn what you can from what you get for feedback.

Soak it up like a sponge, retain what you need, and let the rest evaporate.

I took my first tentative steps into networking waters by joining Charlotte Dillon’s Romance Writers Community. Best choice I ever made. That’s where I met Jenn, Marie-Claude and John. I took a chance, they took a chance, and we found a solid foundation of friends to share our journey with. That friendship and professional connection remains today!

Marie-Claude stepped WAY out of her comfort zone and entered Dorchester’s American Title V contest and WON! But if you ask her, she met and remains friends with numerous other writers to this day, and that’s something even winning can’t compare with.

My first public contest was Dorchester’s Next Best Celler contest. It was hell. Pure and simple. Vote tarting sucks, that’s all there is to it. There was some back biting, some down voting, oh – it was tough, but again, out of the great, not-so-great, and sometimes questionable comments, I gained a group of ladies as my friends, all of whom will give it to me straight when I’m doing well, or writing crap.

‘Kinda makes you feel all mushy inside, don’t it?

Yeah, me too.

So I’m on to my next contest.

The Mills & Boon New Voices contest

I’ve met one stellar writer already, and I know she’ll be a friend way past this contest. I’ve read some great entries, left what I hope are seen as constructive comments and gained some as well. I’ve been down voted too, and it’s still early in the competition. but I’m looking forward to it just the same, because regardless of the outcome, I’m coming out of it a winner. Either with feedback, friends or (fingers crossed) a win.

New Voices is open to any writer who hasn’t been published. the deadline is Oct. 10th, so swing in and enter!

So, have any contest experiences you can share, good or bad? I’d love to hear about them.


The Good, the Bad, & the WTF?! – Contest Comments That Leave You Speechless

May 12, 2010

Song of the day: Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) by Journey

We enter writing contests for a multitude of reasons.  Among those reasons are to learn of our weaknesses, to work under deadlines, and to gain exposure by possibly taking a final. We also enter to get a general opinion of our story. Do we have what it takes to nab a reader or do forty winks hit them faster than a sleep aid? Of course the grand Pooh-Bah of entering is to target a final round dream agent or editor.

MuseTracks has offered many tips on entering contests, judging the contests and hosting interviews with winning authors on contest wisdom.

Watch out. I bite!

One issue heard over and over with the very subjective nature of the contest beast is learning to develop a thick skin. I thought I’d share some comments that have earned me a cozy place among alligators, rhinos, and elephants. My hide has been stripped, tanned and leathered. Tranquilizer dart? Not my skin.

I laughed the first time I read some of these remarks. They were so ludicrous to me. Common decency had flown away. Who left the window open, damn it? Surely the judges meant well. I’m sure they did. But at times, it seemed the judges were engaging in a full frontal assault, and then attacking my flank for good measure.

I’m sure the following comments could have been worded more constructively.

  • The heroine’s mouth gets her into trouble. It would be an awesome flaw if her actions didn’t repeatedly show that she was an idiot.

At least my heroine wasn’t TSTL (to stupid to live), right?

  • Please, please, please watch the Yoda-speak.

    Need I say more?

It bothers you, my Yoda-speak?

  • There is an audience somewhere for this story, but I am not part of it.

An audience of mine, you are not.

  • Buy a good dictionary and use it.

Problem with this comment is the word she had been referring to WAS used correctly.

  • Reads like a B-version of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Did this judge even see POTC?

  • Reads like the author decided to enter the contest at the last minute and jammed out a quick story.

Seriously? It only took me a whole flipping year to jam out the story.

  • Q: What are one or two strengths of this entry?   A: The author tried to write a good story.

Does this mean I get an A for effort?

With remarks such as these, it is easy to see how a writer could easily be derailed. Some might have their dreams squashed, decide there is no hope and give up. I am firmly against this.

Say no to drugs. Say yes to the vice. (Pun intended.)

I won’t lie, I felt quite deflated after I let those comments sink in. Then I got mad. I have a pretty wonderful support system in my CPs. We rant, we rave, we decide the judges are on crack. I haven’t the time or inclination for the ugly, petty or disrespectful. Sometimes the barbs sting. I am human, after all. But I keep in mind the judges are human, too. They quite possibly did not intend for their annotations to be so hurtful.

I know what I like. I know how my tale is to be told. Any other way and it becomes someone else’s story. Well, that just won’t do.

Here are some conflicting viewpoints on the same manuscripts that show just how judging is subjective.

The heroine is unscrupulous and un-heroic.

The heroine is not perfect and that is always intriguing. I really like her.

Remember the Yoda-speak?  — Read some books from the time period for language.

The dialogue flows very well. I appreciate your grasp of period speaking.

There was no hook at all.

Wow. Nice hook. Interesting and unique.

The plot was not well-developed. There was a lot of action, but not a logical story structure to follow.

Fabulous plot and character development.

No hint of romantic conflict.

The attraction is shown well.

The story is over the top Pirates of the Caribbean both in characters and in the brothel scene.

I would like to read further, as the author has seemed to find a comfortable stride in what appears to be a commercially viable premise. (Written by an editor.)

The good news is when you have polar opposite comments and results it usually means you have a strong voice. Causing this type of reaction can be beneficial. For every person who hates your work, there is someone who loves it (besides your DH, best friend, or mom). When that someone is an agent or editor, it’s gold.

Have I made you feel better about your own contest comments? Ever endured an outrageously good or bad comment that blew your mind? Let’s hear from you.