Monday, April 17, 2017

The Magic of Writing Contests

by Linda Thorne

Okay, I’m still inundated at my day job, but something happened that got me back to writing. No, not back to where I want to be, but back to spending hours at a time on my work-in-progress, A Promotion to Die For. Even though my job in human resources continues to deplete every iota of my energy, I’ve found a new way of relaxing. No more sleeping in on days off or staring uninterestingly at the TV. Instead, I take every available hour I have for writing and revising my unpublished novel.

What happened?

The good advice I’ve been getting from my author friends has been building up. I’ve listened, but it still wasn’t enough to get me going. Then an e-mail reminder hit my inbox notifying me of an upcoming deadline for a contest I'd entered in the past, one for unpublished novels. I didn’t want to enter and I didn’t think I had the time, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I avoided it for days then suddenly felt compelled to submit. I spent hours getting my submission ready and made their April 1st deadline.

I’d forgotten the power writing contests always had over me. For years I’d entered the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition with my first book. This contest is free for those mystery writers who have not yet published a novel. Their judges read your entire book. That’s an opportunity you don’t often get. Sometimes I think the motivation to win this contest was what drove me to get the finished product I needed to find a publisher. There is no second or third place winner in this competition only first place, in the finals, or out of luck. I never won the contest, but for two consecutive years I was among the finalists.

I also recommend: The Sandy Writing Contest, The PNWA Literary Contest, and The Colorado Gold Writing Contest.
Contests are motivational because there is a shorter-term possibility of getting something in return. You have a good reason to polish your submission. There’s the hope of a win of some sort. You’re given a deadline, so you meet it instead of dallying around. Then there's the invaluable feedback many writing contests offer.

So, I’m back to writing. I may be limited in time by my day job, but at least I’m back. My advice to new writers and those with writers block is try a contest. It’s always worked for me.


Beth Fine said...

After being under the gun for months on your hectic job, you now sound like pressure has morphed you into a writing machine. Go, Linda, go! I can't wait to preview "A Promotion to Die for" so I can write the first review. Often readers seem to resist or fear putting their names to a few complimentary or critical words, not realizing how we "content makers" covet helpful comments. Fortunately, authors who are readers have ego enough to want to see their names in print, even if only on an Amazon or Goodreads review. Their goal echoes the idea that modest recognition today may bring brighter lights later. :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

I had quite a lot of success early on in writing contests. A good way to get your feet wet for sure

authorlindathorne said...

I see you have had similar experiences, Charles. There's one other thing contests do and that's to break up the long, lengthy novel writing process with fun, hopeful breaks to possibly win an award, a prize, show-off your writing. I've enjoyed them.
P.S. I'm no longer inundated with work. Right before this post went live, my 9-year job was eliminated in a corporate restructuring. This is what Beth Fine is talking about that others may not yet know.

authorlindathorne said...

Beth, thank you for the offer to read my second book prior to it being submitted to my publisher. Beta readers are so helpful, but you would not be considered a beta reader as you are a published author of many, many books. So, I'd not only have someone pre-reading my book in a critiquing fashion, I'd have a known, published author doing so. You brought this up the last time I saw you last month. I'm excited about the opportunity.

Beth Fine said...

To have readers is not just part of our income or a game we play but it's a key to gearing our message to the public. All authors have an agenda whether they realize admit it, but that's a positive thing. I read books and watch shows that share a different opinion from mine. "Iron sharpens iron," and "Bruising garlic releases it potency." I continue to collect arguments to refine my own thoughts. By the way, I haven't found the right contest to enter my middle school mystery series but over the last 1 years have submitted a few of plays that received reviews. Putting our "babies" out in the sunshine can both eradicate germs or damage our skin.

Unknown said...

Linda, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your day job. It's good that you'll have more writing time now, but losing a job suddenly is a nasty shock. If you need another beta reader, or if there's anything else I can do, just let me know. I'm eager to help. And I know you'll come through this thing with flying colors!

authorlindathorne said...

B.K. Thank you so much. Yes, it was a true shock, and an unexpected turn since I'd been especially busy the past 5 months and "busy" gave me a feeling of job security. Not. But your offering to read my work-in-progress just made my day. It's something I don't ask others to do and now I've had two volunteers in the past month (Beth Fine last month and now you). Thanks again.

Liane Spicer said...

So sorry about the loss of the day job, Linda, but blessings often come in disguise. It sounded to me like that job had become very trying.

I've entered only one contest--for short stories--and was shortlisted for the prize. I never even considered entering a novel contest, but you've given me food for thought.

G. B. Miller said...

An excellent idea. However, I would like to offer a caveat: stay away from writing contests sponsored by literary journals. Unless your forte is literary, it's best to concentrate on those that geared towards what the majority of the general public are reading.

I Are Writer!

authorlindathorne said...

Liane, blessings do come in disguise. I would never have given it up on my own and now there are all kinds of alternative directions to go. The contests I entered were before my first book was published. The feedback, the scores from judges, all invaluable input to improve my work. This recent contest will not provide feedback although I could've bought it at a price. This contest served more as a motivating deadline for my WIP, something that got me back on track with it.
G.B., your caveat is a good one for those of us who do not write literary. The PNWA Literary contest seemed different and had lots of feedback, but I'd wasted money submitting to places like The Ledge and a number of college literary contests until I realized my work was far from their definition of "literary."

SJ Francis said...

Excellent advice here, Linda. I'm so glad you were able to get motivated enough to write. That is the key: Writing! I entered my share of contests. Won some. Lost in many, but at least I tried. For me, I think the greatest failure is to have never tried. To simply give up for fear of losing. You can't lost if you don't try.
Good going, Linda. I'm anxiously awaiting for what your protagonist Judy gets into next.

authorlindathorne said...

S.J. I agree totally. I think the greatest authors are often not ones with natural talent, but the persistent ones who NEVER give up until they've succeeded.

Thank you for stopping by.