Friday, June 8, 2012

Top 10 Ideas for Beating the Contest Blues, Part II

How do you like the big honkin' play button on my nose? ;-) Hit it! Hit it!

(this does make me feel mysteriously like those toys in the stores that are always at the perfect level to temp little fingers. Hmmm... )

I hope before you check out the rest of the Top Ten list, that you visit the tips 10-6 that Sherrinda posted on Tuesday.

It's settling in. You didn't final. Didn't get a call. Didn't get to scream and bounce up and down. Didn't get to realize that OH MY GOODNESS, KAREN BALL is reading my story, maybe even RIGHT NOW!!!

It's been a week. You've gotten the scores back. Read the comments. And boy you stink. Writing is so not in your future plans and maybe you should just give up and take up surfing, or cleaning houses or a secretarial position.

Writing's not in the cards folk, just get over it.

That was TOTALLY me this last week (and yesterday after getting the Frasier results back. Sigh...) BUT, the end isn't over...yet. ;-)

#5 It is NOT the end. Even though we like to think it is. Contests are always one thing: opinion. The problem with opinion is that it is subjective. Before you think that anything your judges said was complete and utter tripe, let me say this: don't read your scores in a moment of passion. Open them up. Scan them. Set them aside. Wait two days. DON'T analyze what they said. Let it sit in the back of your mind. Repeat steps 1-5 one more time (or as many times as it takes before the impassioned frustration wears off) then open the documents and really read them. Not as an upset author, but as someone as objective as you can be. Make notes, keep points on what is being consistently scored low or what the judges are agreeing on. Review your notes and move on.

#4 Throw out what obviously doesn't work. But watch for those grains of truth that come through. In my first round of Genesis judging, my scores were all over the place. But I had one judge I did not agree with. Before I completely disregarded that judge, I looked over the comments, found that I agreed more with what had been said in a more constructive manner in later judges' comments and moved on. NEVER do this in a fit of passion. You might throw away something very valuable.

#3 Don't think you need to make EVERY change the judges suggest. It is just that: suggestions and ultimately the story is still yours. Pray about it. Talk with trusted friends and those further along the path than you. Think over your story, read a book on the craft or a novel by an author you love and see what does and doesn't work for them or you.

#2 Too often I think we get contest scores back and look for a reason to call the judge a liar. Become frustrated and upset. I've been there. Too often it's my first response every time I open those emails, but it's so important to know that just because a judge scored you low does in no way un-validates where God has you right now. I was chatting via email with a dear writing friend and I told her, "my not finaling in the Genesis does in no way make me question where God has me right now. He's plans are sovereign and I'm trusting in where I'm at right now. Took me a good solid week to get there, but I'm there. ;-)"

#1 It's okay to be frustrated. To not like what the judge has to say, ultimately it IS still your story. You can do whatever you want with it. But most likely if you've entered a contest it's because you want to get better. It's all part of the learning experience.

Besides, it's good practice for all the reader mail that will be flooding our inboxs and Amazon someday. ;-)

Time to chat: what were you're impressions from entering contest this year? Love 'em? Hate 'em?


Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people.


Unknown said...

Really good tips, Casey! I think another good thing to do is if you question a judge's comments, ask a trusted writing mentor--someone who you know will be honest and who seriously knows her stuff. And then also repeating the mantra, contest results (and even agents, editors, publishing contracts) don't make me who I am. They are not my ultimate validations. God has already validated us by infusing his creative spirit into us. Contests ROCK when they go well and when we get feedback that helps us grow as writers. But they aren't the be-all, end-all...we can't let them take the place of "truth-teller" in our life. We already know the truth--we're loved and validated and always growing!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Loved the vlog! How fun to hear your voice and see your beautiful face! :-)

My favourite bit: "It's a long road - we might as well enjoy it." SO TRUE!! The ups and downs are all part of the journey - and there are plenty of both. I've grown to believe the journey is just as important as the destination, for so many reasons.

Growing in character and humility and patience in the face of waiting/ rejection has been a big one for me. Thanks for sharing your heart and sharing the journey!

Heidi Chiavaroli said...

Great encouragement, Casey! It's hard not to let the ups and downs rule our writing life, but they will always be there (as I also learned last week). Better to root ourselves in God and His validation rather than anything else :)

I totally agree--if we can take the contest opportunities and grow with them, we can truly enjoy the long road ahead. The craft of writing can be learned...we just need to persevere. Can't tell you how many times I've been encouraged by this truth. :)

Thanks so much for this post!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Casey!!!! I love the Vlog! You are sooo cute and are so eloquent. I can't wait to give you a hug this fall!!!!

Great advice, girl. You are so smart and have so much to offer. I love that God has given you the gift of encouragement.

Krista Phillips said...

Awww!!! Loved seeing your smiling face, Casey!!!!!!

GREAT tips!!! I "only" ever semi-finaled ONCE in the Genesis... and ended up selling that manuscript, so take heart!

You'll find a TON of published authors like me, where they were never able to final in a contest but still went on to sell that "losing" story.

Contests are fabulous, but they aren't the end all:-)

Jeanne T said...

Casey! How fun to see your face and hear your voice. My kids wondered who I was listening to. A wise woman, truly, is who I was listening to. :)

I entered the Genesis and the Frasier. I didn't expect to semi-final in the Genesis because the story changed for the better after I submitted my entry. I unknowingly placed expectations on myself in the Frasier, so getting those results were harder to swallow.

My initial tendency is to see my lack as a writer, unable to see the positives the judges and scores reveal. I found that talking with a friend about the scores, strengths and weaknesses helped me to gain a positive perspective.

I plan to enter more contests, and to try to maintain an attitude of humility and being teachable. Thanks, Casey!

Lindsay Harrel said...

Sooo glad I'm not the only one who has felt this way. I tend to need about 48 hours after receiving feedback or a critique to decompress before I can objectively look at the feedback. So I'll do the same...scan it and set it aside.

In my results from a recent contest, a judge suggested something that would completely upend the whole plot, and in my opinion, wouldn't make it as powerful. But there were other comments about deep POV and stuff like that that were very helpful.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Oh Casey. Where were you earlier in the week?

I wasn't as bummed by the Genesis as by the Frasier. Whoa. One judge gave good advice in a really positive way. The next - well let's just say I felt like walking away from the computer and never going back. I hope when I've had some time to settle, I can go back and read the remarks again with some objectivity. Maybe they won't seem as cruel the second time.

You're right about being subjective. How can one contest rave about your work and give you a second place win and another one just decimate you - say you really don't know how to write - well it's hard to reconcile them. Sigh. Where is that thick skin I thought I had developed?

Anyways, watching your vlog cheered me up immensely. You are just too cute!! Hope you had kinder judges and that you get something positive from the feedback.

Maybe we should start a contest support group!! LOL.


Casey said...

MELISSA, SUCH a wise comment, you should have written this post! ;-) Ultimately, like you said, we can learn from contests, but they are not the golden ticket we so often make them out to be. They are just another step in God's plan and you're right, we ARE validated in being right where He wants us. Takes all questions away. :)

KAREN, it's a big one for me too. And I'm still working on having the right attitude. I LOVE this journey. The destination is exciting, but this journey, while pitted with struggles, has been a BLAST!

Casey said...

HEIDI, it IS encouraging that everything we need to apply to our writing can be learned. It's just a matter of one step in front of the other.

SHERRINDA, I can't wait to see YOU EITHER!!!! Squeeeeeee!!!

Casey said...

KRISTA, I think it was Katie Ganshert that said she never finaled in the Genesis and I can't say enough how much I loved her book. It's so possible. You'r our example!! ;-D

JEANNE, you and I had much the same expectations, so I completely understand your comment. My story too changed after the contests were entered, it's always hard to realize it's better AFTER you've submitted the entry. You've got the ability, you've got SMW's teaching behind you. It's going to pay off. It will.

Casey said...

LINDSAY, I've found that in putting my results aside and NOT looking at them seriously for a day or two really helps. Takes the passion of the power of those comments away. The plot is still yours! The changes are completely up to you, maybe there is bits of the changes the judge suggested that will work for you, but it all depends on your story. Hope it goes well for you!

SUSAN, where was I last week? Going through those emotions myself. ;-)

What REALLY helped me ALOT in the Genesis is the second round judges pretty much ALL agreed on points of my story. That gives me incredible validity in their opinion, so I'm ready to make some changes. For the better. I'm still mulling over the Frasier. I didn't get as much help from that contest this year. But I also knew only sending in such a little bit of my story would doom me and I was right. ;-)

If you want to chat more about this, you are MORE than welcome to email: caseym.writer(@) :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

I loved your video! Great encouragement for ALL writers! I had sort of a discouraging crit last night at my group, so I'm back to book buddying just for a night so I can get some perspective. If I don't have the perspective sometimes I can go nuts with the edits and then get new critiques for having the opposite issues.

Casey said...

JULIA, it's so easy to go from one extreme to the other isn't it? That fine balance is hard.

Ava Walker Jenkins said...

Great encouraging post. This is my first year to enter any contests and was thrilled to semi-final in Genesis. But like you, I didn't get that phone call, but then received the scores and wondered if the 6 judges were all reading the same entry. LOL
Thank God, I had Sherrinda to consult with and she assured me that the wide discrepancy of scores was normal. Your post and the comments confirm my experience was typical. Thanks

Mary Vee Writer said...

You are a techy guru. The vlog was fantastic.

One other help: have a group of friends to lean on. We here on the Writers Alley would love to help anyone with a cyber tissue, a warm hug and cyber chocolate.

Beth K. Vogt said...

Loved the vlog, Casey!
And I love your attitude. You also pointed out the importance of having others walking with us along the writing road -- writing friends and family who help us see the big picture when we get discouraged. They can make all the difference between quitting and continuing on.