Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No News Is Not Good News

"When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

I decided to enter ITS into a few contests this summer. Four to be exact, all with editors/agents as the final judges that I wanted to target. Most of the editors you need an agent to get in front of and this seemed a good way to get around that while I tried to find an agent.

Naturally that meant making the finals, but I was hopeful. I had made changes to ITS that I believed made it a better story. It had already placed second in the Toronto RWA contest in 2009, and while it didn't final in the other contests I entered in 2009, the comments for the most part were helpful and encouraging and mostly had nothing but good to say about it. With the exception of the one judge who indicated she did not like my heroine and did not care whether she lived or died.

Unfortunately my plans are not coming to fruition. The New Jersey contest finalists were to be notified by August 9th. Given that I have not been contacted, one can safely assume I did not make the finals.

This morning I awoke to a notice from the Heart of the Rockies contest informing me I did not make the cut there either. The scoresheets were attached, so I opened them (with trepidation - it was 6:30 am and who likes starting their day with bad news?). The first two scores were 99 and 92. They had nothing but good to say about the entry and no major concerns that required fixing and wished they could have read more. The third score was a 79. Ouch. The main concern here was that while I hinted at the scandal and gave some detail, by page 25 I still had not fully revealed what the scandal was. Also I used too many words ending in 'ly'. Points to consider, so I guess that's something. On the plus side, no one wanted to throw my heroine under a bus.

At this point, I'm not holding out a lot of hope for the last two remaining contests, but we'll see. It's frustrating, that feeling of banging at the door and never getting in. Actually, I feel more like I'm doing a full body slam against the door and just bouncing back onto the concrete walk.

I have made a few story tweaks since entering, shoring up the backstories to strengthen motivation and conflict, but alas these epiphanies occured too late to help me with the contests. Although none of the judges seemed to feel the GMC I had entered lacking, so who knows.

Perhaps contests are not the way for me. At least with this manuscript. It looks like I'll have to do things the old fashioned way and fire off my agent queries again and keep slogging away.

I think it is a testament to my complete lack of sanity that despite all of this, I'd still rather do this writing gig rather than the day job, which pays a decent salary and doesn't reject me at every turn. Perhaps I need a 12-step program for Gluttons of Punishment Anonymous.


MJFredrick said...

HUGS HUGS HUGS!!! I know just how you feel. Never give up, never surrender!

Bev Pettersen said...

Ah, Kelly, the feeling! But the contests are geared for safe, industry-standard books unless you're lucky and hit judges that all happen to love your particular book. And every once in a while that happens and life is great!

Best of luck with the remaining contests but more importantly good luck finding an editor that loves your writing. One is out there for you.:)

Jennie Marsland said...

Ah, contests. Chin up, Kelly. As Bev says, they're looking for a pattern. Best of luck with the agent queries!

Julianne MacLean said...

Hang in there. And you know, the fact that you didn't reveal all the details of the scandal... personally I like it when stuff is revealed slowly over time. It keeps me curious and turning pages. Maybe that's what the other 2 judges liked best, and why they wanted to read more. It's all so subjective.
Good luck on the other ones!

Michelle Helliwell said...

I think there is no single road in, but the roads are narrow and hidden it seems. And that's frustrating.

I'm not convinced that contests are any more or less helpful than doing it the "old fashioned way". I've read more than a few interviews with agents/editors who've said they've never picked a book they've judged, even if it's a winner.

I second, third and fourth everything else here people have said! Good luck - and I'd be happy to look at your pages anytime, just let me know.

Anne MacFarlane said...

Just keep moving forward, Kelly.

One contest with one judge who didn't like one little aspect of your book is just a blip on the road to finding an editor that loves your book.

Julia Smith said...

I'll join Gluttons of Punishment Anonymous with you. Because I'm a lifetime member of Active Non-Accomplishment, and I think they go well together.

Janet said...

Keep moving forward, Kelly! And think of those two judges who loved it. You're obviously doing something very, very right!!

Lexi said...

So sorry about the contest results. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you on the last ones. Yes, we all need that 12-step program. You are not alone and we'll all help each other through the madness!

Cat Schield said...

I feel your pain. Contests are a great place to get all battered and bruised with little reward. The good news about your scores is that you are causing emotional reactions. That means your voice is strong. The last contest I finaled in, I got 100, 98 and 62. I've learned to put my stuff into contests that drop the lowest score. Good luck with the two you're waiting to hear on. Got my fingers crossed for you.