Who Was The Winner Again?

Quick!  Tell me who won that British talent show the season Susan Boyle lost?  What about the winner of American Idol the season Jennifer Hudson lost?  I don’t/didn’t watch either of these shows, but even I have spent money on work from these two ladies while I wouldn’t know the winners if they ran me over with their car.  Why?  Because winning isn’t always the best thing.  Jennifer Hudson made liars out of the AI judges the next year by winning a Golden Globe, Oscar, AND Grammy, as well as starting a hotter than fire career.  And do I need to tell you how well Susan did?  Pre-sold the HIGHEST number of CDs with her first album.

I’ve seen writers get discouraged because they didn’t place in contests.  So?   Tell you a secret.  When I first started, I took to heart that my writing wasn’t very good because I didn’t win in the OWFI contest.  But, surprise, surprise!  The manuscript that only placed second in ONE contest sold to Silhouette after only one rejection.  Guess which meant more to me?

Now, I’m not saying don’t enter contests.  Just choose wisely.  Enter the ones that offer quality feedback or who have editors as final judges that you’d like to see your work.  Take ANY placement as a small ego boost to keep you writing when things are going badly, but don’t let them be the judge of your writing.  Just as not every editor will like your work, not every judge can pick out a seller.  Stay true to your voice and your dream.  I firmly believe EVERYONE could be a published author, but those who don’t make it are those who don’t stay true…and give up.

So where are you along the road?  Or are you the winner no one recognizes…yet?

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17 thoughts on “Who Was The Winner Again?

  1. True story–Golden Palm contest:

    I rewrote DEMON for about the 36th gazillionth time–this was the one I was writing when I switched to middle grade and stopped writing romance, and yes, quit RWI– and thought, ‘What the HE**” I wanted to see how I’d do.

    I entered, didn’t final, waited 2 weeks AFTER the finalists were announced to finally get my scores–yes, this was the contest that inspired my two blogs about contest coordinating. I’m still of the opinion that the non-finalists should get their scores within 2 DAYS of the finalists being announced, not 2 weeks.

    The paranormal category had 31 entries, 5 finalists. The finalists scores ranged from 209-205. All entries had 3 judges, lowest score dropped (built in discrepency judging). A perfect score was 105/per judged entry.

    My total: 202 and I was 9th place. I scored 102 and 100, the lowest score of 99 was dropped. A LOW SCORE OF 99??? Unheard of in Margaret world. Shoot my high scores are almost never above 80-something.

    I’m not a fan of grids, escpecially for the poor saps at the bottom, and yes, I was 2nd from the bottom on one grid a few years ago. Been there done that, don’t like the humiliation, thank you very much.

    I entered this contest because I wanted to get in front of the editor. When that didn’t happen, I wanted to know what worked or didn’t work with the story. And, this is unusual since my feedback is usually all over the place, they all commented about a long narrative section that needed thinning. Okay, easy to fix.

    But the comment I enjoyed most?

    One judge mentioned that she burned her soup while reading my entry. And that, my friends, is WHY I write. I may not be the best word tech or grammarian out there, but if I can pull someone out of the real world just for a little while, then I’m good.

    Another true story–not mine. A writer friend had an agent who couldn’t sell her Colombian romance. An editor liked her writing and wanted her to try a cozy mystery. She’d NEVER even read a cozy before. So she figured it out and wrote a proposal. (3 chapters & synopsis). And got a three book deal from a proposal. She never won or placed in a contest.

    Every writer has different roads to walk to publication, but the two things they all have in common? Perseverence and willingness to learn.

    • I know, Mags. In one OWFI, my entry got like 98 points out of 100…and didn’t place. Plus, the judge had nothing but compliments. Since there were three places and 3 HM, made me wonder what the hell they were like! Since I did sell the entry, I’m guessing, so did they.

  2. I think I’m a winner no one recognizes, LOL!

    I know a writer who placed in 50-60 contests before finally selling her first book . . . and her career just sort of fizzled after that. I honestly believe it was because she started writing FOR the contests rather than publication, and she wound up writing rather bland, average fiction than had nothing of herself left in it.

    And how many of us have seen the polished-till-they-shine first three chapters . . . and the rest of the book is clunky and uninspired? Another contest problem.

    Contests are great IF you do them for the right reason: to target an editor and get feedback (and if your ego’s strong enough to deal with it and you’re savvy enough to pick the good feedback out of the dreck). But a lot of people enter to win, and that’s liable to hurt more than help.

  3. Wow, Jackie! This is an awesome post. It’s going in my “why do I want to be a writer again?” folder. I’d started tossing things out of it and it was thinning. Glad to have some inspiration to add.

    The hardest thing to do sometimes is believe in yourself.

    • I believe in you and so do the rest of your RWI sisters, so if nothing else, trust that we know what we’re talking about. And if you EVER change your voice for someone else, I personally will rip off your arm and beat you over the head. You have one of the most unique voices I’ve ever read. I can tell your writing without knowing who wrote it.

  4. Yeah, often when judging, I can tell the entries that have been through a few contests. Technically good, but bland and uninspiring.

  5. Great post. I totally agree. I was placed in the semi finals in one contest but that was all. It was the only contest that even told me where I got. I had no score or feedback from the others. I realised that the topics of my ss are kind of different, so people may find that enough of a reason not to consider them.

    I decided that for me, entering contests was a waste of time and money. After having no bites from magazines either, I realised that actually I’m not fond of either reading or writing ss. I’m concentrating on my novels now, becasue that’s where my heart is and hell, I’m not giving up on them.

    • And while working on your novels, check out our unpublished contest WHERE THE MAGIC BEGINS. We not only give feedback, but we make sure it’s helpful FB. And without snarkiness!

  6. Personally, Linda, I think you’re closer to an “engagement” than you think. But I too would rather see you “married”.

  7. Actually Boyle’s first CD was #1 in the WORLD for 2009.
    You can’t do any better than that.
    No matter where she placed in BGT, she clearly won.

  8. Jackie,

    I don’t guess I have the ego for contest entries. I almost quit writing the first time I entered a contest and got the criticism back. It took RWA people to help me understand what was good critique and what to ignore. I quit entering contests for almost a decade before I entered WTMB. The feedback I got from those judges was very consistent and useful. A bad judge can break a heart. spw

  9. Pingback: Writingsluts

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