By Shirley Kelly
I’ve been reading romance novels all of my life, and have always wanted to write them. I had a few aborted attempts over the years but it wasn’t until last year that I actually completed one. Thinking I had written something wonderful I decided to enter contests listed in the national newsletter.
Some contests required me to snail mail my entry but most of them allowed for electronic submissions. Unfortunately, that made it easier for me to submit my work to one contest right after the other. I wouldn’t recommend doing this. Because while some judges thought my work was very good most of them thought it was good but needed work. Next time, I’ll submit, wait to get feedback, rework my chapters and then submit again.
I also made the mistake of entering contests that only wanted a small number of pages from a specific chapter. I had to cut and edit and cut some more just to meet their page requirement. I felt like I was butchering my work.
For each contest I was usually judged by three people. Out of all the contests I entered I received only one snarky reply - she didn’t like anything about my work and didn’t even bother to critique it in a helpful manner. So, let’s just forget about her because everyone else was wonderful! The support I received was simply amazing. The comments made about my work were insightful and really helped me grow as a writer. Each judge took the time to not only correct my work but make suggestions that would make it a better read.
A judge for one contest actually critiqued my synopsis which made me revise the last third of my book. She picked up on the fact that the main male character didn’t really save the day. I write Regencies, so while the heroine can help, it’s particularly important that the hero conquer all. Remember Mr. Darcy from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE doing what needed to be done so that he and Elizabeth Bennet could live happily ever after? I rewrote the ending and thanked the judge whole heartedly because this is a change that will affect not only my first book but all the ones that follow.
After many revisions I entered my novel into the Golden Heart Contest. I was only hoping to get helpful feedback but after I entered I found out they don’t critique the submissions - if only I had asked someone! But I must say I was happy to have a deadline to work towards and proud that I met it!
Hopefully you’ve written something wonderful, and your entry will make it to the finals or even win! That would be a nice addition to your résumé. But even if you don’t win, the feedback you get will be immeasurable. Because the judges don’t know you they’re reading your work with an objective eye.
So, if you’re debating whether or not to submit to contests I say, YES!
Do it intelligently and you will reap the rewards.♥
After years of reading romance novels, Shirley has finally realized her dream of writing one. She has recently completed her first Regency romance, TO CATCH THE WIND. Now she's working on getting it published, along with her children's book, WHEN I GROW UP, FROM A TO Z.