Overall, writing contests get a bad rap. Oh, when a writer finals, places, or wins, it’s all good. But if they don’t . . .
First, there’s the whole deal of score sheets. Really, on a scale of 1-5, you expect someone to put a point system to our works of art? And feedback? If the author is published, how good is the feedback if the book’s published? Can’t exactly change a character arc because the score sheet showed the hero’s journey was a bit too slow.
And judges! Who are these unnamed, faceless people? If a writer gets a good score, they’re wonderful, brilliant and insightful, of course. But a bad score? Oh, the judge didn’t “get” the story. Had to be someone unfamiliar with the genre.
But I like contests, always have. Unpublished and published. I like feedback. I like score sheets. Call me strange, but I like to know how my story interacts with the reader. A very wise person once told me that your story is just a story until a reader interacts with it. Stuck in my head. I like that—to think that readers are interacting with my story, my characters, my settings.
How to cope with bad scores? Don’t. No, I’m serious. If you get a bad score and there’s nothing useful you can use in the feedback, shut it right out of your mind. If you can’t get it out of your head, here’s a thought—praise God that particular judge didn’t feel compelled to go write a review of your book up on Amazon!
I’m blessed. I finaled and placed in some amazing contests. I’m in a group of writers who are so talented, I’m awed to be listed with them. Will I ever win? Probably not—hey, were you not paying attention? I said those who finaled with me are awesome! But it’s enough for me just to make the list. Have I NOT finaled in a contest as a published author? You bet. The Edgar Awards. Didn’t even come close. But you know what? I’m proud that I had enough guts to enter.
Contests are what they are—subjective because each reader/judge will interact with your story differently. Good, bad, or ugly, I love ’em. I just like to know that readers ARE interacting with my story. That’s enough for me.