Contests. Love ‘em or hate ‘em they have their place. I’ve been entering them for almost a year and have crawled from the dregs to making the finals (not with everything!) although it is still a game of chance. Or - contests are like a box of chocolates!
Judge’s feedback makes you laugh, makes you happy, makes you cry. Sometimes you wonder what they were reading because they will say “Who is Pattie?” when one paragraph above you clearly introduced Ms. Peppermint. They will give you radical ideas for your story that make you want to give up writing all together. They will constructively point out all your problems and give wonderful ideas on how to fix them. They will tell you how much fun they had reading your work and absolutely make your day.
The best contests – my opinion only – are as follows:
1. Wide range of categories. Who wants to put their inspirational in competition with a sensual contemporary or their romantic suspense in with a paranormal?
2. Electronic entries, including payment. Folks like me have trouble finding the post office.
3. Closing dates on Sundays or holidays with the time zone stated.
4. Fantastic coordinators that immediately respond (almost immediately anyway) and say yes they did receive your entry and yes it did open okay.
5. At least fifteen MS pages and at least three synopsis pages. The more the better though.
6. Three judges or two judges and a discrepancy judge if needed. There is nothing more “fun” than receiving a contest entry that got 95 from one judge and 64 from another. A third judge could have also given a low score, yes, but maybe not!
7. Timely results and notification if the results are delayed. It is nice when the results are available on a wide group of lists, as well as the contest-holding-chapter's home page.
Synopsis vs. no synopsis.
Sometimes the first few pages (like the Gotcha! Contest) are great to try out a new idea. More pages, more of the story in front of the reader. I used to hate doing a synopsis and avoided every contest that mentioned it. Then an editor saw my work and thought “something” happened when “something” didn’t really happen. She said I could never have “something” happen in a romance novel and I didn’t! If there had been a synopsis involved then she would have known that “something” wasn’t anything at all!
I never used to look at these. I’d never make the finals. Then I did, oops. SO – now I look. And while I don’t care about who it is if they haven’t seen my stuff, I will avoid the editor above (unless there is a synopsis) at all costs. I think if someone sees your work, doesn’t like, but comments then you can fix it. If they don’t like it the second time then save your money!
There are a LOT of contests. My fave site to check them out is www.stephiesmith.com. She has a perpetual rolling list which is very useful.
My favorite "all about contests" group is CONTESTALERT (Yahoo).
Gotta go now, need to get my contest entries in!