Status: Mildly optimistic! I’ve accomplished more than I thought I would today, and I have the whole weekend to get caught up on my reading. I should be feeling jubilant come Monday.
What song is playing on the ipod right now? HANG ON TO YOUR LOVE by Sade
Last night I gave a talk at the Denver Press Club for the Mystery Writers Western Chapter.
This always makes me laugh because I don’t rep mysteries, but they like to invite me anyway. And it’s too bad. Great bunch of folks. It does make me wish I did but to be honest, if a thriller or mystery is done well, I can’t sleep for days after reading it. I’ve got enough stuff on my plate that keeps me awake at night.
They asked some great questions but one stuck out in my mind. One person asked me about entering and winning contests and how important a factor does that play in my being interested in a manuscript.
I think I can sum it up with one simple sentence: I take contest winnings with a large grain of salt.
They’re fine but in the words of Shania Twain, “that don’t impress me much.”
Because I judge contests. I enjoy it, and you just never know when you might be getting a first shot at something good.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen as often as I would like.
So far, I’ve only judged one contest where I have asked for the full manuscript for the entry that won first place. This contest was an extra anomaly because I almost asked for fulls for second and third place as well. They were all so good. It was tough to choose the winner.
And then I’ve judged contests where the final entries were not in publishable shape—at least in my humble opinion. It made me wonder what all the other entries looked like if these were the top three picks! Then I have to pick a “winner” and I end up picking the best of the worst—so to speak.
Thank goodness this doesn’t happen too often. Besides, as you guys know, I’m ever the optimist. Good treasure can be anywhere.
So a contest win may not necessarily mean that the manuscript is ready for publication. That’s why I take contest-win mentions with a grain of salt (and preferably a margarita if one is available).
Then there is the whole other trap writers can fall into. Some writers do what we call “the contest circuit.” They’ve done an amazing job polishing the synopsis and the first three chapters, which is what most contests require. They place in contests, but what they’ve neglected to do is finish the novel to that same level of polish etc.
I’ve requested fulls from writers that had terrific opening chapters. I’m humming along, really enjoying it, and then suddenly the novel goes south in a hurry. It’s like the writer was kidnapped by aliens, and I’m left sitting there going “what the hey! What just happened?”
Contests aren’t a bad way to get noticed but don’t be seduced by their lure either. Finish that novel. Make it polished, and don’t be afraid to go after the bigger prize—seeing that novel in print.