Contests are crazy things. Right now I know a number of writers who are polishing for the Golden Heart. I entered that a long time ago and didn't do so well. Looking back at that manuscript now, it probably should have been in the bottom as far as scores go.
Isn't it interesting to look at your writing today compared to five years ago, three, or even one. This is a constant learning process. I know I am always learning more about the craft.
Recently I decided to try my luck again with contests. I do consider it luck because what if you are matched up with a judge who really doesn't like your genre (even though that judge probably chose to judge that genre because they like it). Or, they don't appreciate your voice as well as your critique partners, or tend to be harsher judges marking off 10 points for a missplaced comma (that was an exaggeration). Or worse, you find out you really suck and your critique partners are just too kind to tell you.
I've heard wonderful stories about feedback and scores and I've heard some where I have gone "huh?" because I had read the entry.
I am sure judging is not an easy task, not to mention it is volunteer and all of these judges give up their valuable time to read your entry. For that we should be thankful. I've thought about judging, but it kind of scares me. Am I really qualified? I am all about bolstering someone's confidence, but what if I need to critique, mark things that need fixing, etc. A bad score can be crushing and send that author to the kitchen to grab a glass of wine in one hand and bag of chocolate in the other before she heads back to her computer to e-mail her writing buddies about how horrible and unfair that judge was. I don't want to be that judge. I will admit, none of my critique partners have ever reacted so strongly (at least to my knowledge) when they don't final. There is a round of sympathy chocolate and glass or two of wine, but soon they are back to polish for the next contest or to query an agent.
So, not too long ago, I took a deep breath, filled out my entry form, click the paypal button and sent the entry on its way. Well, I finaled! I think my jaw dropped and I stammered through the phonecall giving me this good news. I honestly could not believe it. I knew this was a contest with great feedback and that is what I was hoping for. I certainly didn't expect to final. In fact, I've never finalled in outher manuscripts I've entered. So, now I sit and wait to find the outcome in December. After reading my scores and notes, I had the judges that are really good at bolstering an ego, not to mention they made great suggestions for the manscript. Valuable feedback indeed.
How do you feel about contests? Have you had good experiences? If you haven't ever entered one, what is holding you back? If have entered a lot, what has been your experience? Are there some you would enter again?