Contest Feedback – The Good, the Bad, the Confusing!

I have a confession. This past year, I have become a bit of a contest harlot. I entered Mystic Ink  and Ascension primarily to  get them in front of editors.

So far my fiendish plan is working.

Sort of…

To date, I have finaled in several of the contests. But along with contests comes the double-edged sword of praise and feedback.

With feedback comes an invitation for my  friend, the Doubt Monster, to pay me a visit. If you’d like to meet the Doubt Monster, please click here to become acquainted with him.

Of course, on the flip side are praise and the satisfaction of knowing that someone likes your story. Or at least the first chapter (or whatever the page limit is).

Often times, judges’ comments are the polar opposite – example – loved the prologue or lose the prologue.

It goes without saying that all feedback and praise are subjective – someone else’s opinion. As with all advice, I have had to take it or leave it.

Personally, I’ve decided to make the changes I agree with (small, grammar type stuff) and file the rest away (craft advice) for my future novels.

Beware of trying to please everyone – that path leads to madness.

Next time you’re reviewing feeback (either postive or negative) recognize that it will prepare you  for when you’re published and face the varied opinions of readers and reviewers.

Please leave a note telling us about your contest experiences. What did you find helpful? What was just plain awful? And how do you handle judges’ comments?

7 thoughts on “Contest Feedback – The Good, the Bad, the Confusing!”

  1. I’ve enetered very few contests, two to be exact.One did not give me any feedback and was three weeks late in announcing the finalist.The other was conducted more professionally but still I only found one of the judges feedback valuable. I guess it left me unfullfilled. I wanted to know why they liked something or why something didn’t work. I don’t like middle of the road scores and thats what the other two judges gave me without any explanation as to why. I guess the process left me cold. BUT I am willing to try again and will be sending out my work for the world to see shortly.

  2. I had similar experiences with contests. I’ve been a finalist in several over the last two years and it amazes me that there is always one judge that marks me as a first place and another who puts me in fourth, leaving me with a second or third place finish–the coveted first place title elluding me due to a judge wondering why I didn’t have my character described more fully in the first five pages, while another loved my descriptive prowess.

    Contests are great for getting exposure and often times you get several similar comments, so that’s a good indication a change may be needed, but I’m with you. I’ve learned to listen to my gut and follow my heart when it comes to my writing. I appreciate the judges comments, good or bad, but in the end, we really need to do what is right for us and kick the doubt monster to the curb.

  3. I just got my scores back today from a contest I entered…so this post is perfect timing for me. One judge gave me a perfect score. The other judge ten points off from one. So I did not final.

    The feedback I received this time contradicts the last judges from a previous contest I entered. I changed the material after that contest, before submitting it to this one, and apparently, didn’t need to.

    But I’ve moved onto another story now, and I just can’t go back. That would involve taking me out of my current wip, and I can’t do that.

    So I filed the responses away for another day.

  4. I’ve not entered any contests yet, mostly due to my not having taken the time to identify appropriate ones for the mystery genre (well, also due to some some visits from the Doubt Monster. Casey and I live near each other, so it’s a short hop from her place to mine!). I do have some thoughts on reviews and criticism. As Casey said, it’s all subjective. When I’m reading books, I generally read the on-line reviews after I’ve finished the book. That way I’m not biased as I read. Then I like to read the reviews and see if I have the same opinion as the reviewers. Guess what? I can always find reviewers who agree with me, and reviewers who disagree, and more often than not it’s split pretty evenly down the middle. So, I agree with Casey. Contests are a great way to get your work in front of editors, or agents if that’s your preference. But try not to get discouraged if there’s negative feedback. (If there’s a lot of it though, and everybody is saying the same thing, it might be worth considering, but remember, It’s Not Personal) Take what you can use and let the rest go. It’s your work, nobody else’s, and you’ve got to believe in it. No Doubt Monsters.

  5. The Doubt Monster is shrinking in fear (he doesn’t want to receive a swift, and no doubt, painful kick from PJ)! But seriously, contest feedback has toughened me up. The process has forced me to believe in myself and my writing so for that I’m grateful.

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