Contests Are For . . . (Part 1)

business,carrot on a stick,goals,incentives,metaphors,motivations,people,occupations

If you’re entering contests simply to snag an agent, you’re missing out on all the other things contests make possible. Whether you dive right in or cheer from the sidelines, there is A LOT you can gain from them- all things that can lead you on your path to getting an agent.

Here are five things contests are really for, in the words of your fellow writers. (Click here for five more in Part 2!)


Yup, that’s me (@writeforapples) in the middle, with @trionabmurphy & @fizzygrrl on our writing weekend. I met Triona and got to know Summer through twitter and contests.



1. Making connections.

“The cool thing is, the competition could become your new CP. I've met fabulous people through participating in contests.” – Emily @emcushi

“Making connections is, in my opinion, the greatest value of contests. I met all of my CPs either directly or indirectly through the contest that got me my agent. Think about it: You're likeminded writers in similar stages of the publication process - it's instant bonding!” –Dahlia @MissDahlELama

“I discovered some fantastic manuscripts, amazing new voices, and wonderful writers through contests. I met several CPs that way and betaed dozens of manuscripts, staying in touch with many writers. It's great to be allowed to share part of the journey.” –Marieke @mariekeyn

“I have met so many great people through contests. Some have even turned into perfect CP's because they knew my style from the beginning.” –Janet @MsVerbose

“I've met many writers in my genre and have had invaluable critiques from writers outside of my immediate writer's group.” –Karen @love8rockets

“I entered my first contest almost a year ago for a manuscript and query that, in retrospect, were awful. I actually looked back at that first entry and discovered that my first comment was from someone who has since become a good friend. While neither of us remembered that comment, it was probably the seed that started a friendship that I now value very much. I've found so many other friends and critique partners, and win or lose, it's such an affirming and positive experience to be cheered on by your competition. Contests, for me, reaffirm what a great community writers can belong to.” –Elaine @ElaineBVickers

“I stumbled upon some great people through a contest/pitch hash tag on twitter.  An agent I follow mentioned to his followers to use it to pitch their book and I jumped on the bandwagon.  This is how I met Summer and others.  I think it's how people thought we all met because of The Writer’s Voice contest. I jumped in using the hash tag without knowing what the heck was going on.” –Jess @muchadoabout77

“What was really impactful for me was finding those queries for stories I knew I would LOVE to read. Of course I told the authors just that in the comment box, but if I could determine who those authors were, I also followed them on Twitter and struck up conversations. It wasn't long before a few of those conversations led to MS swaps.” –Jen @jenniferlmalone

“This is my favorite thing about contests. They are such an awesome opportunity to make new writer friends and connect with people you otherwise may have never interacted with before. Some of my CPs and best buddies all stemmed from me entering a writing competition. I never "won" in the competition sense, but that didn't stop me from winning new writer friends. Friends who then supported me, read my work and gave feedback, talked me through the getting an agent process, and overall kept me sane. These people ultimately helped me land my agent and I will forever be thankful for them. (I <3 you Dee!)” –Kim @kpchase817 notebooks,budgets,fotolia,office,prints,reports,schools,writings,yes,pen2. Getting feedback.

“Maybe something (your query, logline, first 250 words) needs to be changed. Luckily, in some contests, you receive valuable instant feedback to let you know exactly what that change could be.” –Emily

“Let the comments sink in for a few weeks. Initially, you may disagree with them.  But eventually, you’ll find nuggets of truth, and common themes that point to areas that need to be addressed in your writing.  For me, looking back at feedback from a contest that took place a year ago, I can step back and see kernels of wisdom.  At the time of the contest, I was defensive.” –Stefanie @stefwass

“The amount of feedback you'll get is often determined by the nature of the contest, and those that allow public critique are often the most valuable. This includes non-contest sites like theqqqe.blogspot.com, where I got the feedback that made my query so much more successful. As an added bonus, public-critique contests help you develop the thick skin that you'll need regardless of how far your writing career goes. :)” -Elaine

“The feedback that comes from contests can be tricky to parse through, because it comes from so many different sources who really don't necessarily know any better than you do. I've seen terrible advice given in contests, and it kills me. BUT, when you see that piece of advice that totally and completely resonates with you and sparks a brilliant revision idea? Priceless.” -Dahlia

“Learning what wasn't working was as, if not more, important than the confidence boost that came from the supportive comments.” –Jen

3. Learning.

"If some entries receive a lot of requests, go ahead and dissect the query, logline, etc to see what's making it so darn appealing.” –Emily

“Analyzing what wasn’t working in others’ queries and/or opening pages often opened my eyes to similar mistakes in mine and the comments made on my entry caused me to look long and hard at what I was presenting to agents.” –Jen

“I love reading feedback for all sorts of entries. It's so interesting to see subjectivity in action, to see how different readers react differently to stories. I may not agree with all of it, but contests with live feedback are a fantastic insight in the mind of other readers/agents/editors.” -Marieke

“Reading other critiques is a great way to improve your writing. Also, studying craft: How did the writer nail the logline? What was it about his first sentence that had me hooked with just a few words?” -Stefanie

“There's a ton you can learn from contests if you really pay attention. They're often springboards for experienced betas and industry pros to teach invaluable lessons whether in comments or on Twitter.” –Dahlia

"I Learned about what writers in my genre are writing right now.” –Karen

"Again, public critique contests are a great way to learn, often by critiquing others' writing. Whether an entry worked or didn't work for you, the analysis of why can almost always be applied to your own writing. And this applies for non-critiqued contests as well. Which entries got the most requests? Was it the writing, or the hook, or a killer combination of both? What can you learn and apply from entries that were similar to yours?” –Elaine

cups,coffees,computers,desks,desktops,drinks,food,hot beverages,drinks,laptops,technology,workplaces

4. Finding out about agents.

“For me, it’s interesting to compare agent feedback on the same piece of writing. It is subjective, but I can tell so much about an agent’s style, personality, and whether or not he/she would push me editorially, which for me, is something I am seeking.” –Stefanie

“I first learned of my agent through a contest. No, I didn't win that one, but I noted what interested her and that's when I added her to my list of agents to query.” -Janet

“Of course, every writer should be researching agents on his/her own, but contests can be a great way to narrow down an overwhelming list and learn real specifics from an agent's wish list.” –Dahliacommunications,computing,emails,Internet,messages,New Message,Photographs,technology,text,World Wide Web,WWW5. Understanding the process.

“I quickly realized through these new connections that I didn't know bupkiss about getting published.  The contest allowed me to meet critique partners and new friends I'm constantly learning from, being motivated by, and motivating in return.” –Jess

“Contests helped me realize that a full request doesn’t necessarily mean an offer of rep or a publishing contract!  I now understand that this is a long, bumpy journey, with many other writers vying for the same goal.” -Stefanie

*A big thank you to the fabulous writers who contributed to the post! Go follow them on twitter. :)

36 comments:

  1. I think that's something some aspiring writers don't get, is the whole idea of making connections. I've learned so much from getting to know other writers, things that have led me to contests or good advice (and even Pitch Wars). I would add writers conferences alongside contests—at least the ones I've been to offered professional feedback and you get to meet other great writers. I networked like crazy and I'm still in touch with a lot of those writers. We encourage each other and we help each other out. I second, third, even fourth this post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Writer's conferences are GREAT for all the things on the list too. Thanks for sharing!

      Delete
  2. What a great collection of wisdom. The online writing community is amazing and contests tend to highlight the best of it. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comments, Sarah. :)

      Delete
  3. Great reminders--thanks for compiling all this advice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't have done it without all my writer friends. Some of whom I met through contests. ;)

      Delete
  4. I've made a lot of connections through recent contests. I love seeing the same submissions pop up different places online, especially when I can tell the writer has improved a pitch or opening words. Some of it can drive you mad though, because an opening line is still just the first page, and a whole MS needs to be solid. I suppose that's where the connections come in. I've felt very blessed by the help people have offered or responded to. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I definitely found you and your fabulous ms in a contest! Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  5. Just "talking" with people who have the same interest(s) is soooo much fun.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think making connections is my favorite part of contests! :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am overwhelmed by the generosity people offer in these contests - of their time and their insights. I haven't 'won' anything officially, but I've gained plenty in how much I'm learning about writing. So glad to have found this awesome writing community!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You better watch out or I will be using this quote in a future blog post!

      Delete
  8. Pitcwars has been my first contest so far, and it has helped me meet great people. It has also helped me go on twitter, which up until this point I found completely terrifying. Thanks for all of the great wisdom and advice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Twitter is fun and so helpful. Now go follow all the quoted writers in this post. ;)

      Delete
  9. Contests are great for all these reasons and much more! Thanks for such inspiring advice!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Part 2 with 5 more reasons tomorrow!

      Delete
  10. Indeed, I met my CP's through a contest, not to mention a busload of other great writing friends! I think that's part of the reason they can become so addicting to enter, the camaraderie of the writing community is a beautiful thing to behold!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love you, Dee, and love this post! Thanks for letting me be a part of it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for writing this. I feel like I've already won PitchWars as I've met a new CP and friend through it and she only lives 20 minutes from me! We bonded when the hashtag was born and it's been a fantastic experience. Also, I have to thank all of the mentors for their willingness to give feedback. I'm nervous about it but I'm looking forward to those nuggets of truth that may just help me find my agent. Thank you for writing this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I LOVE this! I see coffee/writing dates in your future.

      Delete
  13. Awesome post! I love that you put in quotes from a diversity of different writers.

    And thanks for visiting me over at B.E.'s blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Alexa. Yes, whether they are entering, running, or stalking contests, their quotes made the post. lol

      Delete
  14. I've only partially entered one contest so far (HLandS) because my MS wasn't done. It's in the revise and polish stages now. Still, I follow almost every contest I encounter precisely because of some of the reasons you've listed.

    I'm enjoying branching out and making connections with other aspiring and published authors while at the same time adding agents to my little black book of people to stalk... er... I mean query.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good for you! Sounds like you're getting a lot out of them already. :)

      Delete
  15. I LOVE this topic and I hope it gives tons more people the confidence to enter contests and let go of the fears that come along with putting work out there for everyone to see and judge!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great post Dee! This should be set in bronze. It's ALWAYS a win/win with the critique contests. Whether you are getting help with a query, or a first page.
    What happiness to have found you, Dee, and your band of merry makers, generously offering up these contests for the journey. okay, set it in Gold!
    Writers Rock the love! :)))

    ReplyDelete
  17. Excellent post, Dee! I've loved Pitch Wars so far because everyone involved is just as willing to be a cheerleader as they are a contender. I don't think there's a single mean-spirited person participating. Everyone has been so supportive of each other.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I loved this post and can't wait to read part 2. This is a great compilation of many voices and good ideas. Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I hope you don't mind, I'm linking to these posts (Part 1 and 2) with my first Contest Circuit post of the year! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kimberly! I'm honored you'd link to them. I love your contest posts. :)

      Delete
  20. So true. The connections we make help us keep going, make us better writers, lead to contacts, and so on. Snagging an agent would be icing in the cake.

    ReplyDelete