Competition & Critiques

The Highs, The Lows, & Managing My Expectations

Competition is fairly mainstream in the writing world.  There are Twitter event contests every few months and what could possibly be more competitive than the dreaded slush pile?  Only a select few manuscripts ever rise to the top.  The simple act of querying is, in itself, an invitation for evaluation/criticism, and the results can send us soaring to incredible emotional highs or wallowing in disappointment, depending on the outcome.

This past spring, I entered a competition for the best blurb and first page of an unpublished novel (any genre, any age). You could submit up to a maximum of 400 words (combined).  Given that agents don't read much more than that for most cold query submissions they get, I figured this would be a great opportunity to get some professional feedback to see whether or not I was even on the right track.

To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. -Aristotle

This competition happened to launch right around the time I was submitting to an agent I really wanted to impress. That agent eventually sent me a partial request (asking for the first 75 pages of the book), and the prep I did for this contest went along way to helping me get that elusive first positive response so, in my mind, I already owed the organisers a debt of gratitude.  :)

Elmo & Jimmy Fallon Getting Their Groove On

A few weeks ago, they announced the winners of this contest during a live webinar where they critiqued the top ten submissions.  Out of the 580+ submissions, my entry won the grand prize and I was absolutely over the moon with excitement!

They posted a recording of the webinar online for a short time so the attendees could review the content afterwards and take notes. I transcribed absolutely everything that was said about my work so I can refer to it later if I ever need a pick me up.

That same week, I was preparing my submission for the #PitchWars competition and coming off this "first page" win (and the recent partial request) gave me some tentatively-high hopes for how I might fair in this competition as well.  

It's been almost three weeks since the #PitchWars submission deadline. The mentors have now reviewed the hundreds of chapters they were all sent (almost 2000 in total overall, across the various genres/age categories). They've asked for partials and full manuscripts of all their faves.  And they've each settled on the manuscripts that they'll help whip into shape for the agent round.

One of the mentors participating in the competition this year is represented by the agent that asked me for the partial. So I secretly hoped that they might have similar tastes, ideally resulting in at least a partial request from this mentor during this particular competition...

Tenth Doctor in the RainNope. Nadda. Zip. Zilch.

I submitted to four sci-fi-loving mentors and didn't get one iota of a nibble. That really stung for a few days. I'd let the "high" of the earlier win raise my expectations, putting a chink in my defensive mental armor. So I consoled myself with PBS Space Time episodes on YouTube, homemade carrot soup, and a working A/C in my car (since I used the prize money from the competition to replace my air condenser.)

I'm better now. :) And that working A/C was really great for the 14+ hour drive home from my recent trip to Ottawa.

Meanwhile, still no reply (either way) from the agent who asked for the partial. She's already declined most of the other authors she recently requested partials from, but I sent her my follow-up submission later than the others, so that may be a factor.   (My submission is the row highlighted in yellow in the screen capture from, below.)

Query Submissions for Lisa Rodgers

On the flip side, she's replied to a few authors who submitted partials after me. And she tends to send out her no-thank-you's as she goes along, whereas she seems to batch her please-send-me-more emails into groups. So I'm hoping the delay in her answer is a good sign but, of course, I really have no idea at this point. It would be damn rare for a first partial submission to translate into a full manuscript request so I'm trying to manage my expectations somewhat. 

It's hard to navigate the highs and the lows sometimes, at least for me. My tendency is to want to protect myself from disappointment, but there's joy (and power) in anticipation and visualization and hope. So it's a tricky balancing act. I guess my risk-taking ways lend themselves more to physical exploits. I'm less adventurous where my emotions are concerned. :)

In the closing days of the Olympics, a video caught my eye, featuring Andre de Grasse, Canada's break-out sprinter at the games this year. In it, De Grasse said, "Never let your success go to your head. Never let your failures go to your heart."  

This guy's smile is infectious.  I'll keep this meme handy for my down days (along with the positive notes I took from that earlier webinar).

Time to get back to work.

Never let your success go to your head; never let your failure go to your heart.

[NOTE: background image for the graphic immediately above, taken from Global News.  Aristotle graphic (above) taken from IFW newsletter announcing contest winners.]



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two Responses to "Competition & Critiques"

  1. Eric Thomson
    Eric Thomson on 24-08-’16 23:23

    It’s just a matter of time. After your most recent and most appreciated review of my work, I know you have the touch when it comes to writing good sci-fi. One day, you will take the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper, and on that day, I will be most proud to call you my friend.

  2. A. Lee Ripley
    A. Lee Ripley on 25-08-’16 07:51

    You do my sanity good, Eric! Thanks for the vote of confidence and it was a pleasure to get a sneak peak at the third Dunmoore installment (Like Stars in Heaven) ahead of the masses. That series is currently on my favorites list. And I just downloaded Decker Book I (Death Comes But Once) to my Kindle earlier this morning, since I’ll have a bit of time on my hands as my leg heals.

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