Do contests help you as a writer? Are they frustrating? Is it necessary to enter contests to succeed?
I've entered my share of contests in the past, and have found most to be slightly helpful. Some were wonderful and gave some insight into my writing, both good and bad. But most have left me shaking my head and wondering why I wasted my time and money to enter.
Comments from contests should be well-written and logical. By what I receive, I shouldn't have to wonder whether or not the judge has been writing 2 days or 20 years. Guidance for judging should be given and understood. I expect some type of professionalism...and so should you.
I sent in a paranormal romance entry. One judge wrote she couldn't suspend disbelief. Huh? Why would you judge a paranormal if you can't "open" your mind to the unexplained? How could I find anything she said helpful...and there wasn't much she liked....so a low score was given.
A friend, a retired police officer, sent an entry...and the heroine was a female police officer. One judge gave her a low score and suggested she check police procedures and "fix" her pages. Huh? How could my friend accept any comment made by this judge?
I once had points taken off because I didn't put the number "1" on the first page. Huh? After years of being brainwashed about NOT numbering the first page, how could I accept comments made? And, this judge made some spelling errors.
Have I made changes after receiving credible comments? Absolutely. Would I enter contests again, knowing what I know now? Hard to say. I'd probably choose contests to enter very carefully and with a more critical "eye" as I tried to decide IF I could expect decent judge comments.
Does winning a contest mean you'll get published? I never won, so I can't say. But, I know people who have won and are still waiting to publish. We have to remember that whoever is judging is giving their OWN opinion, and not necessarily that of a seasoned editor or agent...unless you get to that final round where editors and agents do a "final" judgment of entries.
As a judge, I cringe when I get something that has spelling/grammar errors, lots of POV changes, too much/little character/scene description. I once read an entry and by the time I'd read 30 pages, I still hadn't met the hero. Very little had been said about the heroine and there was a travelogue given describing Alaska.
I remember reading another entry where there were 8-10 people in a scene...and few dialogue tags. I had no idea who was talking with every comment made.
Suggestion: Choose wisely. Don't enter every contest. Polish your entry carefully. Have someone critique it for you. Other "eyes" looking at your pages will help.
Do YOU enter contests? What do you think about them?
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