Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Do Contests Really Help?

There must be a gazillion contests out there for pre-pubbed and published writers. I've entered a few and judged many as a first-round judge. So I know the frustrations and the joys of both sides.

As a judge, I get a little ticked with sloppy entries. Words misspelled, wrong verb tense or whole sentences all in CAPS to show emotion. My thinking being if you didn't care enough to proofread this submission, why am I taking time away from my writing to read it? Then there are the entries that blow me away. The writing is error-free, engaging and both clear and concise. And when I reach the end of the entry, I want more. In both the good and the bad, I take the time to leave lots of comments and "well done" notes. I also offer ideas to help them grow.

As a contestant, I recall the scathing comments I received on my first contest entry. One judge said my heroine was TSTL. Heck, I was so new to the writing scene, I had no clue what those initials meant! My entry was torn apart by one judge who knew how to crumble a writer's ego with snide, condescending remarks. Another judge was less brutal and more instructional. Guess which judge I learned the most from?

Over time as my skill set improved, so did my scores in contests. I began to final and win. But the question remains, do contests help our writing careers? Sometimes, yes. An editor had read something of mine and liked my voice. The story was not quite right for their line, but the editor asked my agent if I had anything else she could read. My agent told her I was working on a paranormal that had won third place in the Golden Acorn contest. "Send me the first 3 chapters and a synopsis," the editor emailed immediately.

A Highlander's Beloved is now under contract with Random House. It was a whirlwind month as I worked like a writer possessed to finish the book for this editor, who'd asked for an exclusive. Would she have expressed the same level of interest if it hadn't finaled in a contest? Who knows, but I like to think it helped.

Yesterday, I received my paperweight prizes for winning first place with two of my novellas. The IDA's are for published authors. I think they're fabulous, don't you?


Angela Adams said...

I have a lot of respect for contests and the folks who agree to be a judge for them. By the way, Vonnie, did you ever find out what "TSTL" means?

Thanks for the post. And, congratulations on the new deal.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Yes I did, Angela. My critique partner filled me in...Too Stupid To Live. Yikes!!! Talk about a lesson in character development.

Angela Adams said...

Gee...My grandmother would say, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

rbooth43 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rbooth43 said...

I have entered and won contests, especially book contests. I have also judged for the Inspirational Romance Writers of America for the last three years. I love your post Vonnie!

Georgie Tyler said...

A very good friend of mine and author came runner up in a competition. It was her first book and she ended up getting published by Samhein. Now 6 books later she hasn't looked back. I'd say it probably helped her out.
When do you expect your book with Random House to hit the shelves Vonnie?

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Thank you, Rebecca. I'm so glad you stopped by. Judges can uplift a writer while still pointing out areas that need work. It's the wise judge who know that...and it took me a while to gain that wisdom. I'm betting you're an awesome judge.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Georgie, I'm sure your friend's finagling in a contest did help her on her road to publication. Random House tell me the book will be out in eBook late August of next year.

Renee Miller said...

Vonnie, Great post. Like you, I've had judges that have helped me tremendously with positive comments, and a few that were so snarky I felt completely deflated. I've judged myself, and I think it's always better to point out where someone can improve.

I do think contest can be very helpful, not only with furthering a writer with publication, but helping them with their craft.