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:~: Thursday, March 08, 2007 :~:

The Contest Quandry


I'm trying this again. For the third time, I might add. The previous two times I posted, the site only uploaded the first two lines of my blogposts. The site didn't have any of the icons available for spell check, or linking or italics either. Me thinks the blogger gremlins were playing with me again.

But the icons are back-- so, lets try this again-- third times a charm, right? But if it doesn't post this time, I'm throwing in the towel.

As most of you know by now, we're doing a cross blog with the fabulous authors of Romance Unleased. We are chatting about misinformation-- or bad advice, if you will. I've been thinking about this topic since we signed up for the challenge. Like most of us, I've been on the receiving end of bad advice (no doubt, good intentions aside, I've passed along my fair share of bad advice as well) but the worst advice I've been given came courtesy of the Contest Circuit.

Yes, I'll admit it, I was a contest slut. For about a year I entered practically every contest offered. Each contest cames complete with at least two, but more often three judges. As you'd expect when receiving critiques from basically your anonymous peers, the range of comments often went from one extreme to another. Add subjectivity and various craftsmanship levels into the mix-- and you're sitting on a smorgasbord of advice.

Some of this advice was right on the money. The judge got what I was trying to do and offered up additional ways to make the work stronger. But some of the advice. . . eweeyeee. . . some of the advice was so bad it became a running joke with my crit partner.

Like the judge who told me to turn my paranormal romantic suspense into a first person Gothic-- because well she didn't like paranormal, but loved Gothic.

Some of the advice came to me because the judges had read the so-called rules to romance writing, and were insistently imparting their knowledge. My hero and heroine had to get together by the end of the second scene, even earlier if possible. Others told me you couldn't introduce another male to the heroine before she met the hero.

And then there were the elements in the story that pushed personal buttoms. Like swearing. I had several judges go through and count all the swear words, and insist that the work would never find a home with a foul-mouthed hero or villain. I had one judge add the word rape to her list of swear words, and tell me I needed to remove all instances of that ugly word because it was an immediate turn off. Ummm-- the hero is investigating a series of connected rapes. . .

I had other judges tell me that my villain was too dark, too ugly, too twisted-- and that I needed to scale back in his POV because romance writers wouldn't want to read such upfront ugliness.

But my favorite, absolute favorite piece of bad advice came vie three unpublished judges in the same contest. All three told me I should submit my 120 k paranormal suspense, with a swearing hero, and an dark/twisted villain to Harlequin Intrigue.

Harlequin Intrigue!!

They told me it would be perfect for Intrigue since the editors were looking for manuscripts with paranormal content. Keep in mind that this contest required a cover letter, and asked to have the word count along with targeted publishers listed on both the opening cover page, as well as the manuscript pages themselves. So they had to know the word count exceeded H&I's count by at least double.

I could see one judge not knowing the word count and offering this advice, but three of them? All from the same contest? Certainly makes you wonder, doesn't it?


Blogger Joan Swan said...

Oh, boy...contests. Don't even get me started! I've got a love-hate relationship with contests. It's absolutely maddening.

And it's kind of like promotion--does it help or not? How can you tell?

Ugh!! And there's sooooo much dis-information out there on the subject, because everyone knows once you've entered a few contests, you're an expert! And experts love to give their expert advice.

I've got to stop here, or I might never stop at all.

Glad you got your blog posted. :-)

8:33 PM  
Blogger MaryF said...

I've gotten the comment about not introducing another man before the hero, too, or another woman before the heroine. I ended up tired of hearing about it, so cut a good 10 pages from the front of the book, even though it finalled in the GH and the Maggies just as it was!

I still enter contests here and there, but I don't read the comments anymore - I just enter to final ;)

2:22 AM  
Blogger Kate R said...

Ha! And it's not always the judges' fault. I just ranted about this earlier in the week.


5:58 AM  
Blogger Eve Silver said...

Oh, dear. Contests...well, I suspect that anyone who has ever entered a contest has been exposed to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Probably the best bit of advice I ever heard in regard to contest judge's comments was to pass them through a seive (did I spell that right? sieve? seive?), and keep only the parts that had value. Everyone has an opinion. The trick is to look at that opinion with an unbiased eye, be willing to change what you truly believe needs to be changed and be strong enough to stand firm on the things that don't.

In a way, it makes me feel sad that someone spent so much time writing all over my submission in bright red pen (and on the backs of the pages, too), and in the end I wasn't able to use a single suggestion. Sigh. I didn't enter a lot of contests before I was published, but of those I did enter, only one was truly helpful in regard to judge's comments.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Jessica Trapp said...

LOL! Another contest slut here.

I think the funniest thing I ever got in a contest was a low score on description with the comment that it was "TOO VIVID."


I thought we were supposed to write vivid.


Anyway, the vast majority of my contest judges were FABULOUS! FABULOUS! FABULOUS! They were very, very good to me offering advice and tweaks for my work so I'm not going to fuss about the few ding-dongs that never should be judges. Really. I'm not. Really.

Well, okay. Sometimes it felt like I was picking seeds out of cow patties for nuggets of good information. So there.

Good post!
:) jes

2:36 PM  
Blogger Lori Devoti said...

I hated contests--only did a couple, but hated them. The feedback was just so bizarre. I did get some good feedback, but not enough to justify the $$ and "what the...?" questions after I read the comments.
Although I did LOVE the judge who told me my dark paranormal romance which I latter sold to Nocturne was too dark!! Since I had only written light before that I was thrilled. Her insult was the ultimate compliment to me. :)
Actually, right now I have a stack of contest entries setting on my kitchen table ready to be judged...

4:09 PM  
Blogger Edie said...

The only time I'd enter a contest now--and it probably won't happen--is if I'm targeting the judging editor. Contests are a crapshoot. Sometimes they're fabulous, sometimes they're the pits. But the main thing is I have wonderful CPs, so don't need the iffy feedback. And I can get a query out to agents faster and without paying any money.

4:57 PM  

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