I found out this week that my book, Rock Bottom, is a finalist in the ACFW Genesis contest. With that news has brought some mixed emotions. First, I'm proud that I've made the second round and I will honestly say I needed the encouragement. I've been a bit overwhelmed with doing my freelance jobs and still finding time for the fiction. I've doubted my ability lately and will benefit from the confidence booster.
Having said that, on our member forum there's been a huge discussion about this year's judges and whether or not they were too harsh in their critiques or unfair in some way. I got to thinking about the whole concept of a contest and what it means to final. Ironically my scores are actually lower than they were last year (for the same story) but because we have a stand alone Chick Lit category this year I still had a better chance...which brings to mind the question how subjective are contests and are they worth our time to enter???
Here's my two cents for whatever it's worth, and as late as it is it's probably not worth much. LOL. Anyway, I believe that any type of art-- and our writing is an art form--is very subjective in and of itself. Just as I may look at a painting and think it's beautiful and glorious and envy the talent of the artist, another spectator may look at it and see distorted lines and bad use of color or whatever...a judge may read my story and think it's crap and then the next judge reads the same exact story and may say "wow this is great"...but then as writers that's exactly what we set ourselves up for when we submit to editors and hopefully the general public if we make that first sale. So I believe that even if we don't agree with the comments and the scores, isn't it at least good to get the feedback and learn whatever we can from it? Good or bad. Even if all we learn is to be a little tougher.
For instance if a judge says you don't have enough conflict set up in the first 25 pages and you're thinking "but it's coming later" The judge is right, the story needs to start from page one. A reader may not necessarily read all the way to page 48 to find out whether the story is going to hold their interest. You don't have to agree with the judges, but if you pay to enter the contest and it's with an organization you respect, then shouldn't you at least take the comments into consideration? That's what I did last year. (even if my scores are lower this year, LOL)
I'm tired and I'm rambling so I'm probably not making much sense, but I just hope everyone who entered got at least something from the contest and can find some value in their experience. I didn't final last year but I can't tell you how many times I took out my scoresheets and re-read what they said and thought about how to apply the concepts they suggested. It was even a help to me with my other book, Prescription for Murder. I used one of the judges examples and reworked several scenes in PM.
It's tough and disheartening when the remarks are less than favorable, but I truly think it's at least worth the experience to enter contests. (as long as it's from a reputable organization)
Next week I'm going to be interviewing Ramona Cecil and we'll see how a contest changed her life when she won the top prize. They published her book Larkspur. It's a fab book and she's generously offered to give a copy away. Stop by to meet this very kind woman.
Oh, and I wanted to congratulate all the Genesis finalists. Especially Jenny Cary and Georgiana Daniels. You both rock!