Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dreams. . . and growing as a writer

If you're reading this, you probably have a dream. A dream that springs from the depths of your heart. A dream of sharing the stories you love to write with readers who eagerly pluck them from a bookstore shelf.

Dreams move us forward--filled with expectant hope. But writing for publication has a twist that not all dreams possess: it's a business. Big Business. And as much as we artistic types might wish to ignore that fact, we can't allow ourselves such a luxury if we are to achieve and sustain our dream. Publishing competition is fierce. So even after winning multiple contests, we can't settle back with a complacent smile and allow our growth as a writer to stagnate while we await "The Call."

That's where contests continue to play an important role for me, providing a vital means of learning the craft of writing. You can have a billion fabulous ideas, but if you can't convert them into plausible plots, convincing characters, and winning appeal, well. . . best of luck.

I don't know about you, but I can eagerly devour a book on a facet of writing, ooh and ahh at the insights, then forget (in an embarrassingly short time) what I read. I'm a hands-on learner. I have to apply--again and again--what I hear or read, so that it roots deeply and permanently into my wordsmithing repertoire.

Contests are to my writing what an apprenticeship is to other professions. I don’t enter my manuscripts merely to be a Contest Queen or because I have nothing better to do with my time (or money!). In these "waiting room" days, I'm committed to developing my writing skills in order to become the best writer I can be. For the time being, that means taking advantage of top-notch contests for the unpublished.

One of these days--God & Editor willing--"The Call" will come. At that point I'll no longer be eligible to semi-anonymously test the waters with a new idea, a plot twist, a synopsis, or characters. I'll lose the opportunity for real-life reader feedback before my story is assigned an ISBN number. I'll lose the opportunity to revise, enter again, and see if I've "nailed it" this time. Believe me, I'll happily give up those privileges! But in the midst of awaiting the reality of my field of dreams, I'm determined to use this time wisely. To me, contests aren't just about winning or catching an editor’s eye. They're also about growing. And stretching. And drawing closer to your full potential as a writer.


  1. Good point Glynna, Dreams are an important part of our writing, but the opportunity in contests really helps us to hone that craft. What a wonderful outlook to see contests as an apprenticeship. Mass market writing is not taught in any college or university that I know of so we need to take advantage of every tool available to the unpublished. conferences and workshops are good resources, but that one-on-one feedback is very helpful.

  2. Bull's-eye, Glynna--and beautifully put! Complacency is the kiss of death in this business. I cannot tell you HOW many people I have spoken with who dream of publication but never pursue it in realistic, progressive and businesslike way. The fun and "dreamy" part is pouring one's heart and soul into a story; the hard part is getting that story noticed, which absolutely REQUIRES every writer to move forward in the process of honing their craft, step by step. Writing seminars, critique groups, writing books, contests, etc. Growth as a writer is essential--without it, our dreams cannot blossom forth, but instead die on the vine of complacency.

  3. That's a great post, Glynna. And all this time I've been thinking you were just another pretty face.

    We talk here about contest judges who have done us wrong. We've all had them. But the SUM TOTAL of the contest experience is good, it leads to growth, it increases your skill.
    So don't let one bad experience (or ten) stop you from seriously, in a business-like way, pursuing your dream.

  4. Glynna, great post. I'm especially grabbed by the concept of choices and time.

    So true. We make those daily choices in whatever direction we choose, and the sum of those leads us one way or another.

    And you can smack me later for posting over you. Didn't mean to mess with your eloquence.

    You know me. Always gotta be on top of things.

    Pun intended.


  5. Oh yes, Glynna! There is a lot to be said for being able to enter contest anonymously. Sometimes with a new work we're just not sure how it's going to fly, so a contest is good place to find out what to expect without everybody pointing and saying, "Look what Pam wrote! Ha! Ha! Ha!"

    Also, aren't you guys amazed at the number of people who don't have dreams? I've asked this question of a few people in the past and they get this blank look like they quit dreaming when they left grade-school!

    I just can't imagine someone NOT having a dream, not that everyone dreams of becoming a writer, but a pilot or an actor or SOMETHING!

    And...the best thing about writing fiction? I can have my characters be pilots, pirates, or.... or... piranhas if I want them to be! lol

  6. I so agree, Glynna. In fact, I recently taught(in my anatomy & physiology class) that repetition is what puts things into our longterm memory. And I love to keep learning. I was listening to another of Michael Hague's DVD's last night--one on writing romantic comedies and love stories. I love to try his methods for creating characters and for plotting.

    But back to contests... If contests are a good way for someone to learn, I say keep entering!