Monday, January 26, 2015

Contest Entries: Cleaning Those Babies Up

Hi there! The weekend was filled with swim meets, fundraisers, writing and family, so I thought I would dig up an archived post to resonate with all the contest talk going on right now! 
Happy Monday!
It's about that time. For a few GREAT contest opportunities out there...Namely, ACFW's Genesis Contest and the MBT Frasier.

Many of you might be tidying up those babies for contests as you read this. I know I am! And many of you might be reluctantly looking at last year's feedback, planning to tweak your entry based on “some” of that feedback.

Are you just “tweaking”?

lots of messiness in my house!
Do you go in with the mindset of taking the grammatical suggestions, the edits here and there...Maybe a misplaced comma or changing a word that's been used in the sentence above? Kinda like dabbing at a baby's food-caked face, but not really scrubbing away the mess?
Are you willing to make that BIG change...possibly rearranging entire scenes, OR, Heaven forbid, DELETING a scene altogether? Getting that big super-duty washcloth and start scrubbing? Maybe, your last feedback is a sign that the scene you love and hoped would attract the judges' favor, is not the scene for that moment in the not what hooks the reader after all. by pod pad
Now don't get me wrong, I have certainly had some bogus feedback over the years. Don't go slashing away at your entry according to everything a judge says. You may have scrubbed that baby's face clean, and that scrutinizing mother-in-law type will still criticize (and to be clear, I have two of the best mother-in-laws, so this is pure third-party metaphor ;) ) No need to listen to that type of feedback...unless, of course, it rings true to you (insert cring and gnashing of teeth here).


Do consider BIG changes, and DO brainstorm different starts of your chapter. This last entry I “tweaked” had me delete the first TWO scenes of my manuscript and start with a different character's POV. UGH!!!!! It was hard to do, but deep down, after receiving critiques and contest feedback over the past year, it had to be done. AND, I love it now! And I thought I LOVED it then, but just because it came out that way the first time I wrote it doesn't mean it has to stay that way.
It is art, after all. by jomphong
We can start to mold the story and keep it in the perfectly simple shape that our hands first squeezed it into...OR, after smoothing it down, sloughing away the excess, we can create something more... evolve our creation to an even more beautiful work of art.

In other words...
Let's not coddle our baby so much that it never gets the chance to succeed to its fullest potential!

Let that baby GROW!!

Comment below and tell us the latest BIG changes you made to an entry or your manuscript. Have you reaped a contest win by using feedback from a previous year? Please share!

Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written five Historical Romance novels, has a Historical underway, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one-sheets, selling Jamberry Nail Wraps, and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check out her author page at and her personal blog at 


Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great post, Angie! It's always good to consider what judges say and weigh them with what we know of our story and the ms. As for changes for me, I had two people I respect suggest I change my POV of my subplot to make the story more unique. So.....I'm praying regarding this character so I can figure her out. It will mean a major re-write, but I'm okay with that.

I've had some good feedback and I've used it, but I haven't submitted the same scene to contests again. Hmmm. I can see the value in doing that. I just never thought about it. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

This is such good advice. I love brainstorming different starts. And that's the best advice, don't coddle your baby!

Unknown said...
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Angie Dicken said...

Wow, Jeanne, what a change! That's awesome that you are going to make such a big shift. I bet the journey of rewriting will just bring you deeper into the story!

Sorry I am just now commenting. We have family in town so it's been a busy day! Hope you have a great week of writing!

Angie Dicken said...

I have always liked the word, "coddle"...I used to use it too much in writing, speaking, all the time...I think I had a judge question what it meant once, actually. HA!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

It takes guts to make big changes, especially on someone else's advice which we may not see the value in straight away (often, until we try it!) Great advice not to just pick out the "easy changes" and rest on that. You're absolutely right that often the big changes end up making the story into something we love even more. An excellent reminder!

Christen E. Krumm said...

Oh yes. My 'baby' is completely different looking from last year. After getting a completely tough (but necessary) critique, chopping the first three chapters and re-working the entire first part of the book, I think (*think*) it's ready for an editor before contest! haha!

This was a fun read! Yay for archives!


Angie Dicken said...

Glad you are loving your re-worked story this round! It's so hard to let your baby grow. ;)
Good luck!


kaybee said...

This is so important, the "killing of darlings." I've been working on the MS I'm shopping around for about 10 years, and after feedback at a conference I gritted my teeth and cut two chapters (and six months in my characters' lives) and Started In the Middle. I put it in a few contests last year, applied the feedback and got a second in my category in the Maggies, my First Final. I was thrilled and glad I listened. My attitude to contest and other feedback is to Hit It Hard, like cockroaches, a lousy comparison but you get the idea. When I get judges' notes, I address them with my MS the next day if not the same day, so I don't lose my nerve. (Assuming they are right, that is.) When I was in a crit group I used to stop for coffee on the way home and edit my hard copy in the booth with the feedback from the crit group. Crit partners and judges aren't always right, but when you've been at this long enough you get a feel for when they are. And listening to a judge is cheaper than getting an MFA in fiction...
Kathy Bailey

Angie Dicken said...

Absolutely, Kathy! It might sting, but if you really understand that this is all about refining, then cutting and slashing just becomes part of the process and feelings toughen up! It's great to push yourself and get it done, because you just don't know what brilliance is opened up at the next slash! HA!
Thanks for commenting!!