Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Submission is a Dirty Word

Shame on you if you thought today’s topic was sex. It’s not. I’ll give you a hint – two hints in fact as defined on RhymeZone

Submission - noun: something (manuscripts or architectural plans and models or estimates or works of art of all genres etc.) submitted for the judgment of others (as in a competition)
Example: "Several of his submissions were rejected by publishers"

Dirty - adjective: (of a manuscript) defaced with changes
Example: "Foul (or dirty) copy"

You guessed it. Today I want to talk about writing contests.

There are many, many contests out there; each one is different. Some want the first chapter and a synopsis, others ask for XX pages, synopsis optional. There are fees involved and they can add up quickly. It pays to be selective and check the rules, fees and judges to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

I entered my first contest in May. It asked for a title page, the first five pages of my manuscript and a synopsis which would not be judged.

Let me just say that it takes nerves of steel to submit. I suffered a severe case of agida before I finally dropped my entry in the mail. I tried to put it out of my head; it can take a long time to get results back.

Some people enter to win. Not me. I knew that wasn’t happening. I write book reviews and short inspirational pieces. This is my first novel and my first attempt at the dreaded synopsis.

So why did I enter - first and foremost to receive objective feedback from other writers. To find out where I’m going wrong and what I’m doing right.

Secondly I wanted the experience of formatting and submitting a manuscript. Its excellent training for the day I submit to an agent or publisher.

While I waited for the results I was still making changes and wishing I had another six months to work on my entry. Imagine if I had to enter a whole chapter.

Okay, finally the names of the finalists were announced and I was not among them – no surprise there. But now I knew my entry would be coming back shortly and while I waited I chewed off all my nails.

When the envelope appeared in the mail I grabbed it and locked myself in my office. I held my breath, tore it open and looked at the first page.

The comments were not unexpected - no dialogue in the first five pages, bringing the hero in too soon, etc. Three of the judges gave me good scores on formatting, the fourth not so good. In her opinion I should have used underlining instead of italics. I’m still not sure about that; I thought either was acceptable.

I’d been hearing a lot about contradictory feedback on my listserv. You gotta remember one thing - you can’t please everybody. I’ve reviewed more than one book that I loved and then found out another reviewer hated it.

I read all the comments from all judges and appreciated every one. The advice and encouragement was really helpful. One judge was exceptional. She gave me the reasoning behind her comments and critiqued my synopsis which wasn’t even part of the judging. I’m very grateful for her thoroughness and the time she spent on my entry.

The whole process was a very positive experience. I’ve already begun incorporating some of the ideas I’ve been given and I’m reworking my synopsis.

So I’ve gotten through my first contest and survived to tell the tale. I may even enter another one.

I've entered the title for this post on ProBlogger Killer Titles - a Group Writing Project
The contest is over Thursday Aug. 28, so if you hurry there's still time to enter. I'll be posting the winner and some of the best entries. Check back.


Laurie said...

That was a really good post and a perfect title for the contest! I'm glad I checked the submissions page today - this was great!

Drizzly said...

I found your site because of the problogger contest,,,I added you to a list of my favorites from the contest on my blog.

Her is a link to the post I entered...

I like your post!