Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Writing Wednesdays: My Thoughts on Contests

Oh Contests. We have a history, you and I. Our relationship this past year has been tumultuous, to say the least. We've seen our share of ups, and more than our share of downs. You manage to fill me with so much hope while simultaneously causing ulcers. You entice me with your possible rewards, and then crush me like a bug under your heel at the end of the day. I hate you, and yet I keep coming back for more.

See, I'm in two contests this week: Deana Barnhart's GUTGAA and Cupid's CAGI. I made it into the agent round of CAGI, and I'm still waiting to see on GUTGAA. But here's the thing: I've made it into most of the contests I've entered (at least the ones where I got through the entry round, which are generally so stressful they almost keep me from entering. Almost). I've won (or been one of several winners) in several. I know how frustrating it is to try to get into a contest and not even get your foot in the door, and I also know how devastating it is to make it through to the agent round (Xmas in July), and to not get one single request. I'm not sure which is worse. They both suck, frankly.

But how many success stories do we read from these contests? I feel like it's one a week these days. So clearly, the contests work. They bring great writers and amazing agents together, and I can't help but hope that one day, it could happen to me too. That's why I keep putting myself out there, even though I feel like everyone in the YA blogosphere has probably read my query and first page by now and is probably thinking, "Wow, her book must go downhill after the first page if she doesn't have an agent yet." I've seen the same titles in many of these contests, and I think those writers must be feeling the same frustrations I am. Clearly our ideas stand out, or we wouldn't continue to impress the judges enough to make it in. Our queries have been polished to within an inch of our lives. Like me, I'm guessing many of those writers have queried and received a good number of requests. But for whatever reason, it just hasn't happened yet.

I don't like to voice my writing insecurities online too much anymore. That's what critique partners and beta readers are for, I know.  But I just wanted to say, to all those other writers out there who continue to put themselves out there for public scrutiny, I admire your bravery and tenacity. And I feel your pain. It's a tough road we've chosen, but at the end of the day, at least we can say we tried.

And to the writers who hosts these contests (many anonymously), who selflessly go out of their way to help other writers and spend countless hours creating opportunities for the rest of us, I want to say THANK YOU. You are all amazing, and I hope I can pay it forward myself some day.


Heather M Bryant said...

Seriously Mara, I am a massive fan of your query and first 150. They are so good that reading them, and knowing you haven't snatched up your agent yet, makes me wonder how the hell I'll ever get there.

It seriously can't be long for you now.

Carrie-Anne said...

Recently I've begun getting a few bites from contests, though I still usually don't win anything if I make it to the first round. Part of me suspects it's because historical isn't a popular genre at the moment, and my YA isn't in first-person.

Elizabeth Briggs said...

The contests definitely work, BUT I have 2 friends who never got any requests in contests who now have signed with agents. I also got picked out of the slush pile. Don't give up!