The Valerie Parv Award and how contests can mess up your head

My computer crashed a couple of weeks ago, so I didn’t get to see the results of the VPA until several days after they’d been sent to my email inbox (I use Outlook Express, which is a bugger – impossible to access unless from the home computer).

It’s a good thing I was a few days late. My life’s been hectic and I wasn’t in the mood for bad news during the week of the computer repairs.

I was in a more philosophical frame of mind when I finally opened the email to find my entry hadn’t reached the finals but was ranked 58 out of 104 entries. This was disappointing, but not soul destroying (which it might have been several days earlier).

The three judges’ scores were 135/135 (yeah, there’s always one judge who adores my work – a shame they can’t all feel the same way), 94/135 and 105/135.

The judge who gave the highest score was a ‘contest finalist/winner’; the lowest came from an ‘avid reader of the genre’. Bloody avid reader deducted a mark for spelling mistakes. But there weren’t any – I had perfect scores on spelling, grammar and punctuation from the other two judges. Sometimes avid readers get my goat. This one didn’t like my entry at all.

The middle score came from a ‘published romance author’ and I think she neatly summed up the flaws in my story. Funnily enough, these were things I already knew deep down in my squishy belly. I just didn’t want to acknowledge them because they mean more hard yakka.

By the way, the criteria for the VPA is the first 12,500 words of an ms, plus a 1000-word synopsis. I knocked off the synopsis the night before the entry was due and expected it to get criticised. Avid reader pulled it to bits but the other two judges were much kinder. Figure that one out.

Here’s what the published romance writer had to say about my story. High points first:

‘I do get a good sense of who (hero) is from (heroine). Well done. And you always give a clear sense of (heroine’s) situation and anger. She does come across as a little brattish, but no one’s perfect and obviously she is going to grow up by the end of the book. Should be an entertaining character arc. You do a good job showing her fury and frustration.’

Here’s the low: ‘Pacing. Telling sometimes rather than showing … ‘ She also pointed out that I did a flashback when the hero and heroine first met. This interrupted the talking and slowed down the pace.

To make me feel better, she ended with: ‘Keep going, keep writing. Start/keep submitting. Good luck.’

I will, I will, I will! But first a cuppa and a rethink. Also, do I put this ms in the drawer for a while and get moving on a new one, or do I finish it, fix it and submit? A good friend and fellow writer suggested I look at another sub-genre, which might better suit my writing style. I’ll do that first before making a decision on drawer it or do it!

I may not get to wear a Valerie Parv crown this year, but my goal is now 2012.

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