the downs and ups of writing contests: Little Gems Garnet 2011

I’m ‘a bit of’ a contest junkie (addicts find it hard to make a full admission) and over the past few years I’ve entered a couple of Romance Writers of Australia contests. 

I didn’t make the finals in any until last year, when my short story scored a place in the annual Little Gems Topaz Anthology. It was one of 14 short stories with a romantic theme to make the cut and ranked 7th out of about 45 entries (I can’t remember the exact number).

I entered RWA’s Little Gems this year with high hopes. I was sure my story was better than my 2010 effort. I was so confident that I shared it with two non-romance readers – my partner and a good friend.

They both liked it and said they found it an easy read. My friend said she was hooked from the start and keen to find out what happened at the end of the story. This buoyed my hopes of success. Surely, I thought, the three contest judges would feel the same?

This morning THE email arrived, announcing the stories that made it into this year’s anthology. Mine wasn’t one of them.

I’d already put on mascara so I didn’t cry. I drove to work and tried not to think about it, though it hassled me all day.

Where did I go wrong? Was it my heroine? I find it hard to write ‘likeable’ women and she was complex (more about that in another post). Was it the plot – also complex. Was it my hero? I find it hard to write alpha males (more about that soon).

I arrived home to find another email from the contest coordinator that contained feedback sheets from the judges and the ranking sheet.

The maximum total score that each judge could award was 62. Here’s the lowdown from best score through to worst:

62/62: This judge wrote, ‘The story was beautifully done and a privilege to read. Thank you for writing it … I hope you get into the anthology – I think this story is outstanding.’

59/62: This judge wrote, ‘All aspects [of the story] are strong – characters, dialogue and setting, but it is the element of surprise and the way the story unfolds that particularly appeals to this reader … This is good writing.’

47/62: This judge wrote, ‘Overall this story was a good read, it just needs a bit more polish to reach its full potential. I like that the characters were not perfect and that the heroine made some down right stupid mistakes in her life. I just feel that I needed to understand them better.’

My story ranked 26 out of the 84 stories submitted.

Am I pissed off? Yep. Sort of. Well, not really. It’s OK. I’ll live. Things could be A LOT worse. Actually, I feel pretty good. But maybe that’s the glass of red wine kicking in.

Anyway, if there’s a lesson to be learnt from this, it’s to take the good and revel in it like a pig in mud and consider the bad and how it ruined my life.

Now it’s onto the next challenge – the Valerie Parv Award. Not another bloody contest. I can’t help it!

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RWA contests entered: three

Romance Writers of Australia runs a number of contests each year. I usually  enter Little Gems, The First Kiss and High Five.

My short story made the Little Gems Topaz anthology last year, and I’m hoping for success in the 2011 contest, which closed on February 4. The added incentive for entering this year was the introduction of cash prizes for the first three place getters. 

First Kiss is self explanatory. It’s the scene where the heroine and hero first lock lips. It can be no longer than 1500 words and must be accompanied by a 25-line explanation, so the judges can understand the context.

In 2010, my First Kiss entry placed 17th out of 43. The 2011 comp closed last Friday, so it will be at least a month before the results are known. Now I’ve put it out there, I hope I sneak up a few more places on the leader board.  

As for this year’s High Five contest, it’s all over. My entry finished in 19th place out of 76 entries. I would’ve tied for 18th had I not screwed up my formatting, which led to the deduction of one point. (I had to share that – vanity).

The final big RWAustralia comp of the year is the Valerie Parv Award, where entrants are required to submit 12,500 words of their completed ms. Unfortunately, I’m not ready for this one because I’ve fluffed around and haven’t got my act together with my latest wip.  

The comps are good fun and, for me, they’re an exercise in self discipline. When The First Kiss results are announced and I receive the judges’ feedback, I’ll be able to re-slot my already seriously edited scene back into my ms with all the rough edges ironed out.

The waiting game has begun.