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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

}Wistful Wednesday{
Frazzled Nerves and Nail Biting

Why do we do it? Why do we put ourselves through this? These are the questions I pose to myself as I sit here writing this. What am I referring to? you might wonder. Contests. All across America, perhaps all across the world, there are a myriad of contests occurring for a myriad of different things. An eclectic assortment of strangers meeting, in person or otherwise, plying their talents for a chance to win some prize that has yet remained elusive to them.

Perhaps some of the most well-known contests are for singers/performers. There is the mega-popular American Idol, or America's Got Talent, Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. In England, there's The X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent. For runners, there's the Boston Marathon or the New York Marathon or even the Olympics, which is another powerhouse attraction for amateurs to ply their talents. For football, there's the Super Bowl, for baseball it's the World Series, and for hockey, it's the Stanley Cup. All venues for people who are so inclined to ply their talents for others to see and, hopefully, to enjoy.

But when it comes to people who've been driven to the course of putting pen to paper, there is an ever-expanding platform of contests for them to try their hand at. In fact, it seems that there's a new contest or platform to display their work appearing on the horizon on a daily basis. And perhaps there are. The opportunities for writers to get their work in front of agents, editors, publishers and readers are boundless, growing at a steady pace thanks to the Internet. There are a dizzying amount of ways a writer can bring attention to their writing. Some are sponsored by legitimate organizations that every writer is familiar with, some are obscure little contests sponsored by some unknown sources. Some are designed to truly help the writer achieve their goals; some are designed to scam the writer out of their hard-earned cash. All are dangerous to the writer's psyche and may result in frazzled nerves and nail biting as the process goes on.

So why would we do it? you might wonder. Why would put ourselves through that? For the chance to get someone to read what we write, of course. For the chance to get our foot in the door, to garner the interest of an editor/agent/publisher. For the chance to be published. For some writers, the ultimate prize is not the cash benefit or even the certificate offered by the contest coordinator. It's the chance to get an industry professional to read something we've written. Such is the basis for nearly every contest sponsored by the RWA. We often read about such prestigious contests such as the RITAS and The Golden Heart and work ourselves crazy trying to whip together something that would appeal to the industry professionals while meeting the RWA standards. Believe me, it's not always an easy thing to do.

But then there are the reader-intensive contests that are the equivalent of American Idol for writers. Contests in which we are still trying to draw the attention of the publishing professionals, but more important, we are trying to build a fan base with readers in order to fulfill our dreams of being published by convincing those readers that they should vote for our entries. This, for me, is probably the more nerve-wracking of the two situations as it gives you an idea of how well your writing is going to be received by the public. And when you spend as much time as I do creating characters and hammering out plots and trying to market yourself on the Internet, it's a scary thing to think that your success is really in the hands of someone else. As with any writer today, famous or otherwise, once their stories are written, it is up to the readers whether or not it flies or crashes. For with each book a reader buys - or doesn't - that writer's success is measured.

So is it worth it, to put yourself through the turmoil of wondering and waiting and biting your nails as you go from one round of competition to the next? For me, yes. Because with each competition I enter, my writing improves. The way I present myself as a writer improves. And more people get to read some of what I've written and, perhaps, will remember my name the next time they see it - in another contest, on another blog or another book. Hopefully, I am building a readership and that, to me, is just as important - if not more so - as making connections with industry professionals. So I didn't win the Gather contest; I made a lot of friends and was published as a result of it by a new small press. So I didn't final in the Scarlet Boa Contest; ah, well, there's always next year. And a new set of opportunities.

But there is still The Next Best Celler Contest and the chance to win a contract with Dorchester Publishing. So if you want to see what all of the hype is about, hop on over to and read some of the entries. Mine is The Jane Austen Society Pages and I welcome all comments. I love to hear from my readers and to interact with them. Come ask me some questions or even share your wishes for how the story unfolds. You never know how your input might affect the outcome - or how close you might come to guessing how it all turns out.

I want to thank fellow Moonlighter Carrie for the inspiration for this post today. When I first sat down to write it, I had no idea what I was going to talk about today, but an email conversation with Carrie (who is also in a reader-based contest currently - she made it to Round 3, woohoo!) gave me the idea and, as you can see, I ran with it. So tell me what you think - about writing, contests, your own experiences or whether you would ever try something like this in pursuit of your passion. I love to read what you have to say!

7 Moonbeams (comments):

Carrie said...

Nice blog post! Thanks for the mention, but that's how inspiration happens. All someone has to do is say a word or a phrase and the next thing you know, you have the makings of a book.

I have to say, it's nice to hear another author tell you they like your hero the best, or that your story is the best. It builds confidence. It also helps you figure out who your target audience really is, which is very important.

Gracen Miller said...

Great blog, Margay! I agree with Carrie, all it takes is a word or a phrase and WHAM you've got your story idea, or, in my case, the direction a story needed to take but I was banging my head over.

Again, I agree with Carrie, I love it when a reader expresses passion and enthusiasm over my characters because at our hearts, our characters are like our babies.

And for those of you that haven't read Margay's Jane Austen Society Pages, you're missing a fabulous read! I encourage you to check it out!

Margay Leah Justice said...

Thanks, Carrie and Gracen! I think these responses are proof as to why we clicked and ended up doing this blog together. We share a common belief in how we present ourselves as writers and what really matters, which is connecting with the readers. plus, I think we just really like each other as people, too!

Thanks for always being there with the support.

Gracen Miller said...

I agree, Margay! And I think the world of you and Carrie both! *hugs and kisses* The three of us are a great fit and I think we make a great team too.

Margay Leah Justice said...

I couldn't have said it better!

Carrie said...

Yes we do! It's too bad we don't live closer to each other to visit!

Anonymous said...

Nice Post. Nail biting at the nervous moment is a common thing. I tried in many ways to avoid it but it gone utter waste. Then I heard about Thoughts Become Reality and their hypnotherapy treatment. Now I dont have that habit.