Yesterday I received my scores from the first contest I entered, the 2011 NTRWA Great Expectations contest. While I didn’t win, I did score better than I thought I would. (Mostly because I’ve joined three critique groups since then and have edited the piece multiple times.) The first 30 pages of my novel were judged by two unpublished writers and one published one. Funny thing though, I received a better score from the published author, very encouraging. But the unpublished writers actually commented in the piece, very useful.
My goal in entering was to get a feel for how contests are judged and receive valuable feedback. Both goals were accomplished. This first contest foray revealed that contest judging is very honest, but subjective. For example, there was a 22 point difference between my highest and lowest scores. However, each judge made encouraging comments and pointers on how the piece could be improved. Some even included helpful resources. Overall, I’m so glad I entered the contest. I’m very grateful for the feedback I received.
Looking ahead, I can say that entering this contest was a very important first step in my writing career. It was a $35 fee for three professional critiques, quite a bargain in my mind. I’m using those critiques to fuel necessary changes in my novel’s opening. Without a doubt, I feel better prepared to enter other contests. The results of this contest have fueled my competitive spirit. I will score higher in my next contests. There a two more contests on the horizon right now: the Amazon Breakout Novel Award (ABNA), due tomorrow, yikes!, and the ACFW Genesis contest due in March. Overall, the Great Expectations contest has become the Great Stepping Stone contest in my mind.