On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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Location: Denver, United States

RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Word About Contests

Image hosted by Photobucket.comNaturally I have contest stories. I've entered contests. I've judged contests. I've been a contest co-chair for a couple of years...

Yeah, I got back insensitive comments. Some I deserved. Some I didn't. If it isn't "Perfect" (that is, has any constructive comments at all) it hurts me. Or did. I don't have to look at scoresheets anymore and now I have reviews and readers comments on Amazon. Oh, joy.

But I think I'll talk about my most frustrating contest experience. It didn't require a synopsis so I entered HeartMate, Heart Thief and Heart Duel (I didn't have synopses for Thief or Duel). HeartMate took first place. Heart Thief was scored the highest by one judge (98 I think). Heart Duel missed finalling by .3 point. Yeah. That's right. And guess what -- one of my judges of Heart Duel didn't like that I didn't go a full third down the page and didn't triple space between the title and Chapter 1, and didn't double space between Chapter 1 and the body of the page. Lost .5 for that...

Everyone who enters a lot of contests has stories like that. Then there's the stories that you win a contest and you get a sale, or don't win, but still charm an agent who saw the entry.

What you absolutely need to know about contests is why you are entering. There are 2 very good reasons. The first is to get feedback when you are a new writer and want to improve your craft -- there are excellent contests with wonderful scoresheets out there to show you how to make your writing better. (Hmm, when I was co-chair we revised the RMFW scoresheet. It's since been revised a couple more times. I'll see if I can find an old one and put it up, RMFW had a great "troubleshooting" type scoresheet.)

The other reason is to get your work before an editor or agent who might buy/represent it. Let's face it, most of the time submission waits seem like centuries (and I spent a year on my first book once). Getting a manuscript to an editor/agent can short-circuit that wait. Sometimes. If they like the book and it's DONE. In this case, the contest scoresheets (like the Golden Heart and RITA) may only have a range of 1-5. No comments at all. As a published author I usually have the choice to receive the scores or not. I don't.

So research who is judging the final entries, whether you've submitted/been rejected from that house, etc. and whether it would be worth your time, money and sensitive feelings to enter.

May your work be first class today.


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