We've blogged about contests (well, I have) a few times before on DWT, and usually when I talk about entering contests, I talk about the advantages of possibly getting good feedback as a beginner, of getting objective feedback, of possibly landing on the desk of an editor or agent you'd like to work with, of getting your name out there, of gaining the courage to submit, of learning how to accept criticism -- even sometimes very harsh and unfair criticism, of learning to discern between good advice and downright dumb advice.
And I still believe in all of those reasons. I think contests are great. I've coordinated a few. But at some point I decided, for me, none of those reasons for entering applied anymore. I had an agent, so no need to attract one. It's my agent's job to get me onto the desks of editors, so no reason to use a contest for that. Objective feedback is always good... but I've reached a point where I have enough critique partners with varied enough tastes, whom I trust to tell me the truth. (We've moved past the blowing smoke up each others asses when someone's clearly struggling and has blown it, stage.)
So, I just didn't see the point. Plus, I felt as if, when it comes to contests for unpublished authors, it's possible to get your name out there too much. I mean... I finalled in a few contests back in 2003... How does it look to be adding to that list of accolades now? I've finalled in the Golden Heart and in the ABNA contests, did I really need to enter chapter contests anymore?
I discussed this with a good friend in DC this summer. A friend who, in spite of being in a similar position of being agented for a few years, has taken the opposite approach to me and has kept entering contests, and in fact has about six GH nominations at this point. After talking to her, I decided it was time to shake things up. Clearly the status quo hadn't been getting me where I want to go, and so I thought maybe just tossing something into a contest would at least give me some forward momentum.
And guess what? I remembered another reason why it's nice to enter contests. Positive reinforcement. :-)
My women's fiction manuscript SWITCHING SIDES -- that's kind of Freaky Friday meets Will & Grace -- finalled in the paranormal category of the Get Your Stiletto in the Door contest! Yay!
It's a strange little book (well, not so little) that doesn't seem to really fit any known genre, but I love it. And now I know at least two other people who aren't my critique partners, two total strangers, love it too.