Tuesday, October 23, 2007

First-Post Jitters

Okay, admission time. I'm nervous about this post. Let's face it, I'm in very good company among these Seeker ladies. They're funny (as in Julie's hormonal story), clever and great writers. So as I've been thinking and worrying for the past week about what to write (and checking out the other posts to see what I have to live up to!), it hit me that what I'm having is kind of like first-contest jitters.

How hard was it to send out your first contest entry?

Oh my goodness, I can't even begin to describe the terror. For one thing, at the time, I printed my entry, then went to the store or the church to make copies. Don't ask my why I never thought to print 4 or 5 copies. I made those trips to a copier for at least a year or two. And of course, that meant checking each copy to make sure everything had copied correctly (it didn't always).

So on that first trip to make copies for my first contest, I spread stacks all over the floor, checking the pages as I went. Then I bound everything with the exact kind of binder clips the contest required. Then I filled out and signed the entry form, once again reading each and every little rule to make sure I had complied--margins, font, spacing, page numbers, headings, name nowhere in sight. Then I labeled the package (mailed in the required envelope with no signature required), inserted the return envelope (no metered postage!), and finally read and re-read the address I was mailing it to. By the time I finished, my stomach hurt from the stress. Then when the postal man took it, I really thought I might throw up on him. What had I done? What if I had 26 lines on one page?! What if my name was on the synopsis?! Mary has a term for this--Senders Remorse (or something like that).
Well, I eventually got over the trauma of mailing that thing off. And my positive nature took over. Surely, everything was perfect. They would love my baby. My heart and soul had gone into the story, and I just knew it would final, an editor would love it, and I would make my first sale.
WRONG! When the time came for finalist calls (yes, at the time I posted sticky notes on my monitor that had the date of each contest announcement), did I get a call? No. I didn't. I was disappointed, but not devastated. Maybe next time. I bet I came close.

Wrong again. Eventually, the packet came in the mail. I was actually a little excited to see the feedback. But nothing prepared me for finding a sheet of paper that told the standing of all the entries (by number, of course, not name). I tied for 35th place out of 37 entries. Or gosh, there may have only been 36 entries. (See, Janet, I feel your pain with the similar results!)

I can't begin to tell you how humiliated I was. I remember my face burning. And I cried. I told myself I would NEVER, EVER enter another contest again. Of course, I wasn't going to ever write again anyway, so it wouldn't even matter. Surely, if I was bad enough to fall that low in the pack, then I didn't need to be writing anyway.
Obviously, I managed to keep going. I'm too hard-headed. And I just loved writing too much. So I tossed that envelope in a pile in the basement and moved forward. It was a good while before I entered another contest, though. I joined a critique group, then entered a couple of contests soon after revising the story. And it wasn't long before I finaled in the Laurie. What a thrill! And what a reward for staying on the course, even through the devastation. I remember that at the time I finaled in the Laurie, I was once again considering quitting (I don't remember why). I decided at the time that God had placed that final at the just the right time to encourage me. So I kept going. (But, hey, that topic is for another post.)

Anyway, tell us what mailing your first contest entry like. Did you nearly throw up on the poor postal worker like I almost did? :)
By the way, be sure to stop by the Steeple Hill discussion boards this week for some fun with authors and some contests! Steeple Hill is having a Harvest Festival. http://community.eharlequin.com/webx?50@@.4a84a266/0



  1. For some reason, entering contests doesn't shake me up. But last summer, when I handed the book I had just finished writing and revising to my friend to read, I felt physically sick. I just knew it was terrible. She was going to read it, hate it, and never want to read anything I wrote again. I don't know why I sort of panicked like that. She'd read my first book and even said it was good. And I knew it wasn't. But this was the book I had been so excited about the entire time I was writing it. Well, she raved over it, of course. She's still raving over it, bless her heart. I love that woman.

  2. Missy, making sure I met all the contest requirements was a bit unnerving, but other than that, I never worried about entering contests. In the beginning I was so clueless, I thought I'd do well. LOL. Then later, I just looked forward to the feedback. The only time I got nervous about the outcome was when I entered the Genesis. I really wanted to final in that one! Probably because it was my first ACFW contest and I wanted confirmation that I should be writing for the CBA.

  3. The very first contest I ever entered I finalled in. That was so, so, so long ago and I didn't final again for so, so so long.

    I ended up coming in third with a book called The Clueless Cowboy that is coming out from Heartsong Presents soon, part of a three book series set in South Dakota.
    The contest was in Texas I know(I think!). I can't remember for sure WHAT contest even.

    I loved that book. But since that time...and it was long ago, the book has gotten so much better as I've learned more.

    After I finalled in that contest I didn't enter again for a long time. The book was partially requested, then the full was requested and it took a YEAR for it to work it's way through to a rejection city.

    So for that whole time I was writing but I didn't enter any more contests because I was just waiting for that book to sell.
    What a dreamer. :)

  4. Missy, have you seen that your book is up on Amazon?
    When do you get a cover? Have I missed that somehow?
    I'm so excited for you!!!!!!!!!

  5. As I prepare my first contest entry, I now feel very nauseous, having read your post. I'm afraid to look in the mirror for fear I am now, as my mother would say, "a lovely shade of blue". LOL!

    So many things to consider! My big take away? I'd better not wait until the deadline date to package and post my entry.

  6. Patricia, you'll be fine! It's kind of like going on a first date: you're nervous but excited at the same time! lol

    I don't remember sending my stuff off for the first contest, but I'm a lot like Missy, checking and double-checking every last detail, even confirming the address once I get to the post office to be sure I wrote it down correctly. I'm detail oriented, but I'm also quite miserly and the thoughts of being disqualified for some infraction is what makes me nervous!

  7. Melanie, I've done the same thing for submissions, too. And when I give my book to a critique partner. I guess I'll always have to deal with my nerves. :)

    Patricia, don't be as scared as I was! Just jump right in. Most people do better on their first run than I did--I'm a worst case scenario! LOL You'll do great. But your idea not to wait until the last minute is a great one! I've waited and had to overnight my package for at least 2 contests, and it's truly not worth that extra money.

    Best of luck on entering!!

    Mary, yes I saw it a couple of weeks ago on Amazon!! I think they'll have the cover sometime in November. I can't wait!! It'll seem so real, then.


  8. The thing that's so great about your story, Missy, that horrible finish in the cellar of that contest is...TADA...here you are a published author.
    You hear once in a while about someone getting their first book published and getting a huge advance but that is NOT the norm.
    A rule of thumb?
    You can't succeed without failing first. The only way to never fail is to never try and never trying is the ultimate failure.
    So yes, enter, fail, learn, enter again.
    And Senders Remorse is not unlike buyers remorse.
    As you sit at home after a huge purchase like a car and just HATE yourself for doing something so dumb.
    I also call it Submitters Remorse. But that sounds kinda ... naughty?

  9. Yes, Mary. You're right. In the end, it was worth it to learn from the early mistakes in my manuscripts. Like Camy said yesterday, you have to get tough and really look at what the judges are saying. That first contest sent me off the deep end for a while :), but I managed to enter again and learn with each submission.

    No remorse allowed around here!!


  10. I went and did that eharlequin thing. I may have posted a recipe on the place to name an author and guessed the Gail Gaymer Martin would make a nice Holiday dessert.
    Not sure.
    At least I didn't crash the whole site like CHERYL.
    Although I may have come painfully close.................

  11. OMIGOSH, GREAT SUBJECT, Missy!! I laughed out loud when I read your post because I soooo remember those contest nightmares!!! I am the Queen of Anality, so I would read and reread contest rules AT LEAST five times to make sure I had every T crossed and every i dotted. I even bought boxes and boxes of binder clips (brass, silver, black ... you name it!) in every size imaginable. Okay, maybe I never threw up on the postal clerk, but I ALWAYS felt like it, and I always had a long long line behind me!!

  12. Julie's comment reminds me of some of the packaging I created to ensure my manuscript pages arrived crisp and unwrinkled. Once I used two accordion folders back-to-back to keep the pages neat. Luckily someone informed me not to staple and only use binder clips. Of course, at that time, I didn't know what binder clips were. Suffice it to say, I had a lot to learn.

  13. Great post, Missy. Well... I'll show my arrogance here and admit that back in the old days when I entered a lot of contests, I was sure I would win. At least place. No doubt in my mind. Ever.

    Boy, was I cut down to size. :-)

    I've never admitted this to anyone so you gals must be special. LOL

  14. Well, Jess, this is certainly the place to divulge all those deep, dark contest secrets, so you are in good company, my friend! :)

  15. Hi Missy, I laughed when I read about your jitters. It is scary to send out that manuscript and bare your soul to complete strangers. But I also agree that some of my best feedback was from judges. Sometimes the honesty hurts, but it always helps. Sandra who can't remember her first contest as she sent out so many that first year.

  16. Missy, I'm sooooooo there! Well, like Jules, I didn't really come close to throwing up in the post office, but the checking, double checking, sure it was wonderful, marvelous, heartfelt...

    Blah, blah, blah!

    I love that we survived and moved on. Ya gotta have grit in this business.

    And Jess? Oh, I'm telling. Everyone I see. Everyone I phone. Everyone I pass on the street, girlfriend!

    I'm going to take this moment to thank my long-suffering and very patient critique partner Sandra for putting up with me, loving me and dealing with my ups and downs.

    Love you, Sandra!

    Working with a partner helped me to re-establish the right focus on story line, plot development and timing. Huge.

    And Melanie, I'm with you. Anyone who loves my stuff achieves 'best friend' instant status. It's that simple. I can be bought for the meager price of a sincere compliment or chocolate. I'm easy.


  17. Am I the only one who double and triple and quadruple checked their contest entries and STILL made mistakes??? I was hopeless. I'm surprised I got the instructions right and entered even ONE contest that first year.

  18. Missy--thanks for sharing. I remember the first contest I entered--what I remember most is the synopsis..I had never written one and even though I knew it was a very bad thing to do I was pushed for time and I wrote and "they lived happily ever after" for the last line....Seriously.
    But apparently the book had a whole lot of problems bigger than that last line.

  19. Hey Belinda, bite your tongue!! We do NOT curse on this Web site--and I think we all agree that the word "synopsis" qualifies as profanity (all except Camy, of course, who has them down cold!). Seriously though, show me a synopsis that everybody likes and I'll show you ... well, Camy!

    And, no, you didn't!!! "Happily ever after" was your last line?? LOL!! You sound like somebody I'd like to know because that took real guts! :) Wish I'd thought of it ...

  20. Oh, I understand, Camy. The very first contest I entered was the Genesis a year and a half ago. I sent my entry in very early, then decided I wanted to change the heroine's age and make it a YA. (Not smart.) So I asked if the coordinator would destroy that entry and let me send my newly revised version to the YA coordinator. But in my rush, I forgot to take my name out of the header, so I got DISQUALIFIED for having my name on every page! And I think Ruth Logan Herne was the coordinator! I was so embarrassed. I'm sure she thought I was the flakiest flake on the planet! LOL

  21. Great insight, Missy...and I don't know why you had jitters...your post was well-thought out and awesome.

    Cheryl Wyatt

  22. Aha! I now know the secret to finalling in contests: be anal about your entries, check EVERYTHING at least 10 times, get it notarized (I can stamp my own, thank goodness) and you're a shoe-in.

    Man, I had no IDEA all my friends were just as spastic as I am!

  23. We do our best, Pam, but honestly, you're still in a class by yourself.

  24. Lindi, Thanks for stopping by the blog!

    I didn't know you wrote that in your first synopsis! Too funny! I guess that was before we started critiquing together. :) You know, the judge probably thought it was cute. I think I might. :)