Friday, June 3, 2011

How To Win Writing Contests with Guest Blogger, 2011 Golden Heart Finalist, Clarissa Southwick

“This is the worst contest entry I’ve ever read, and I’ve been judging for twenty years.”

Ouch. It doesn’t sound like that author is going to win any writing contests, does it?

That’s a direct quote from the score sheet of the first writing contest I ever entered. Yet, somehow I’ve managed to place in more chapter contests than I can count and final in the Golden Heart with two different manuscripts. Along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two about writing contests.

Before I give you the secrets to winning writing contests, I must post some disclaimers: I’m not writing about anyone in particular here. Everything in this blog is based on patterns I’ve observed when interacting with large groups of writers. Your personal experience may differ.

A single writing contest means nothing. No one wins every contest entered. There’s always the chance you’ll get the crazy judge, and you can’t do anything about crazy. Here, I’m talking about gradually progressing over a period of time until you can regularly advance to the final round and get your manuscripts in front of editors and agents.

Here’s what you need to know to win writing contests:
Attitude is Everything.
Believe it or not, your attitude shows in your manuscript. It shows in how you string words together. It shows in your characters. It shows in how you respond to contest feedback.
Stop Showing Off. If you think you’re some kind of writing genius and your brilliance far exceeds the intellect of stupid contest judges, you will get low scores. Judges get tired of being yanked out of the story with cutesy one-liners and complicated prose. Nobody cares if you wrote your entry in iambic pentameter. They just want to be caught up in a good story.

Choose your Contest Carefully. Be sure the contest has the correct category for your work. Don’t try to squeeze your novel into a romance category if it’s not a romance. Look for contests that throw out the lowest score so you don’t fall victim to the whims of a single judge.

Read the score sheet and the rules BEFORE the contest: This sounds obvious, but I’m frequently approached by outraged authors whose low scores were perfectly predictable. If the score sheet lists required elements and you do not include them, the judge cannot give you a high score, no matter how much she loves your story.

Read the score sheet AFTER the contest: Look at the numbers. If you consistently score low on the same elements, you need to stop entering contests and take a class on that topic. Hone your craft and the rest will fall into place.

Get all the Easy Points: You should always get a perfect score on the “Mechanics” section. Submitting an entry that is full of spelling and grammar errors shows contempt for the judges. Don’t be surprised if their comments reflect that same insulting attitude back onto your manuscript.

Show you Know the Rules Before You Break Them: When used sparingly, fragments and odd punctuation can be used to great effect. Just be sure it’s obvious that’s what you’re doing. You’re not Jack Kerouac, and On the Road wasn’t his first novel.

Stop Making Excuses: Authors tend to come up with explanations for why they can’t get ahead. “Judges don’t like stories written in first person.” “Judges don’t like strong heroines.” “Contests only reward mediocre writing.” Yet, I’ve seen winning entries disprove all of these theories. Don’t let myths keep you from hearing what the judges are actually saying.

Listen. Really. Listen.
There is only one difference between those who succeed at contests and those who don’t. The winners have learned how to set aside their emotions and use the judge’s feedback properly. Sometimes it’s hard to get past the snarky comments to the lesson hidden underneath, but you have to do it if you want to learn anything from the experience.
Know when to polish, and when to start over: If your scores are typically lower than 60% of the total possible, you probably want to start over. But if you regularly score in the 80% range, you only need to polish. Don’t throw out the first chapter and rewrite it just because you didn’t final. If you do, you will always be submitting a first draft and your chances for success will plummet.

Don’t enter before you’re ready: Twice I’ve entered contests on a whim, typing up the final pages minutes before the deadline. Both times, I thought I was just entering to get feedback on an idea. Both times, I ended up in the finals, embarrassed to have a first draft in front of a final editor. Don’t do it. Only put your polished work out there. Trust me on this.

Volunteer to Judge: It’s the easiest way to learn how judges think. You’ll see your own writing differently once you’ve seen other writers making the same mistakes.

Lose the Anger. Angry, bitter writers tend to write angry, bitter characters. No one enjoys spending time with a hateful heroine. If you’re miserable because you’ve failed to succeed in the harsh world of publishing, take a year off and rediscover the joy of writing.

Attitude is everything. No, that repetition is not an error.

Love writing, love what you write, and the judges will love it too.

So, there you have my tips on how consistently win writing contests. I would love to hear your tips, comments and suggestions.

Bio: Two-time Golden Heart finalist, Clarissa Southwick writes tales of adventure where cultures clash and hearts collide. Visit her at .

A note from Tina Radcliffe:

Congratulations to Clarissa on her 2011 Golden Heart final and a huge thank you to her for being our special guest in Seekerville today.

I'm offering a five page critique of a contest entry to one of today's commenters in honor of Clarissa's final. We want to encourage you to step out and enter the 2012 Golden Heart (*if you're ready*). The GH is open for entries in just three months!! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

*photo courtesy of


Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Clarissa!@!

We are DEEELIGHTED to have another contest diva like us here today!

Tell us a bit about your writing and what your goals are as we move into a new contest year.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh!! I almost forgot. Today is National Doughnut Day, so I brought Lamar's for everyone.

What's everyone's favorite doughnut?

CatMom said...

Welcome, Clarissa (I love your name, by the way!) and thanks for this post. I've only entered one contest so far, but was pleased by the judges' feedback because I feel it's been really helpful. ~ Tina, thanks for the reminder about National Doughnut Day!! I have to confess: I've never met a doughnut I didn't like! So, I've also brought some to share (creme-filled---my VERY favorite!). ~ I'm not familiar with Lamars, but here in Georgia we have Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts....YUM! ~ Blessings, Patti Jo :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Such WONDERFUL advice! Congratulations on all your contest successes!

And Yay for Donut Day!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Dunkin is giving away a free doughnut with a beverage purchase today.

I'll eat one for you, CatMom.

I love the name Clarissa as well. It sounds so romantic.

Virginia said...

Maple bar for me!!!!

And this is a great post because i've finally ahd the nerve to go through the scores on the four (count 'em!) contests I entered. And the really low score from the 'crazy' judge is kind of funny now. Not so funny is the consistent theme that my hero isn't likeable. :( That's baaaaaaad. We must LOVE the hero!

Helen Gray said...

I guess you need coffee to go with your Lamar's. So here's a big pot.

If you enter contests, KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR.

The last ones I got made me laugh. One judge made all these nice little comments--then gave me mediocre scores, a total of 80%.
The other judge made some rather pointed comments--then gave me almost all fives and fours, a total of 96%.

How do you balance that?

Ha Ha Helen

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Congratulations Clarissa!

That's terrible that someone wrote such a horrible comment on your contest entry. Glad you didn't let it stop you :)

My advice for contests: enter more than one so you can compare what judges write.

KC Frantzen said...

Thanks for stopping by, Clarissa! Good info today.

It applies not only to contests but to life methinks. (Not iambic pentameter, but I do like that word. Ha!)

GREAT photo, just great. Makes me wonder what you've been up to, and want to read about it. :)

Oooh. Donuts. Cinnamony bearclaws or apple fritters for me. Yes. Plural. The best are in Estes Park, CO at Dieter's Donut Haus. Pronounced "DEE ters" though "DIET ers" would be marvelous, wouldn't it?

No contest critique for me this round. Good luck all you entrants!

Lindi said...

Clarissa--great post. I agree attitude is everything. I also agree with what you said about judging contests. I learned SO much from judging. And I enjoy it, too.
Good luck in the GH!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Totally agree. The more you enter the more you can realistically evaluate and decide if maybe the judge was a nut case.

Poor Helen. What confusing responses!@

Julie Lessman said...


You said, "There is only one difference between those who succeed at contests and those who don’t. The winners have learned how to set aside their emotions and use the judge’s feedback properly."

Oh, AMEN to that, girl!! The only thing I would add is to pray about every judge's suggestions before implementing. I didn't final in the first seven or so contests I entered until I took what prior judges said seriously. If more than one judge pointed something out, I prayed about it and then implemented if I got the spiritual OK. After that, I finaled in the next seven or so contests I entered, so judge's feedback is crucial!!

GREAT post today, Clarissa -- God bless you in the GH.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, I'm polishing my tiara on this advice! Thank you Clarissa, and welcome to Seekerville, chickie!

Great advice. Timely. Taut. Terrific.

And National Donut Day. I'm SOOOO in!

I'm a French Cruller girl. Chocolate frosted or glazed.

I love that light egg pastry taste. So yum!

Lorna Faith said...

Thanks for the great and helpful tips Clarissa. I found the judges feedback very helpful to determine weak points and strengths as well. Always in the learning mode:) Congrats on being a 2011 Golden Heart Finalist!

lornafaith at gmail dot com

Whitney said...

Congrats, Clarrisa. : )
This was great. I would love to enter a contest someday. They have so many rules I would have the guidelines memorized because I would have read them so many times. Do contests want you to have a completed manuscript, or the first so many words/chapters? And, what is the difference between the Golden Heart and the Golden Pen? I looked at both of these and it looks like they’re linked somehow.
Always enjoy the tips from writers who have navigated the bumps and potholes on their way to the Published World.

Pam Hillman said...

Great stuff, Clarissa! And welcome to Seekerville from a fellow 2011 GH finalist!


Like you, I've got more contest finals/wins than I can shake a stick at, and you're right on the money.

I especially agree with this point:

"Don’t enter before you’re ready"

Once you consistently get to the finalling stage, you pretty much enter with the goal to final and get in front of that editor or agent.

Yes, you want feedback and you're so thankful there are judges out there willing to give their time and advice, but the goal is the brass ring.

Don't throw something together just because you're determined to add another plaque to your office wall, or desperate to get the attention of a particular editor or might get your wish!

I've done it, and like Clarissa, finalled, then wished the editor/agent hadn't seen that particular piece because they either already had another ms on their desk, or had asked to see more of my work, or whatever.


Bottom line, always send out your best work, but ESPECIALLY after you start hitting those finalist slots.

Pam Hillman said...


Gee, thanks, Tina.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Helen, I'd go with the stronger comments and the higher grade because that's what I do with entries that are really good. Strong. Tight. That are right there, or ALMOST right there.

I give them strong advice about that last tweaking (which is always opinion, btw, but hopefully helpful) and then give them the great score they deserve.

Or you can take my advice and add $2 to it and buy a cup of coffee somewhere, LOL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Will you take me to Lamars next time I'm in Denver?

Pam Hillman said...

CatMom, there is NOTHING like a piping hot, fresh Krispy Kreme doughnut.

I'm in love just thinking about one, or two, or three...

Shucks, just give me the whole box...

Melanie Dickerson said...

GREAT ADVICE, Clarissa! This is a gem of an article.

I would also say, don't write a snarky "thank you" note to judges. I've judged a lot of contests. Usually you don't get a thank you at all. But I recently got three thank-you's and two out of the three were very snarky. They basically said, "Thanks so much for your advice, even though it wasn't helpful and here's why. It's because you didn't understand where I was going. But thank you anyway for your advice."

Some contest coordinators strongly encourage entrants to send thank you notes to their judges, but these writers obviously were still miffed they didn't get higher scores, and were angry about the comments I gave them, and therefore they shouldn't have sent a thank you note, no matter how much they were encouraged to! And since I see their email address, and/or they signed their name, I know who they are!!! So, yeah, don't send snarky thank-you's! I confess, I did that once, and I've regretted it ever since.

It's a small community, the Christian writer/publishing community, so always be polite. And if a judge didn't get where you were going with your story, then you have some work to do. It's not the judge's fault, it's your fault. I'm sorry, but that's the truth.

Melanie Dickerson said...

TINA!!! National doughnut day??? I am so glad to know that. Krispy Kremes are so yummy.

Missy Tippens said...

Clarissa, thanks for being with us today!! I LOVED your post. Such great advice! Using contests to learn and help you get in front of editors is a great plan. But you have to approach it with the right frame of mind. I love your frame of mind! (and the humor) :)

Congrats on the GH final!!

Missy Tippens said...

Doughnuts, Tina? DOUGHNUTS???? Do you not remember I'm on a low carb diet?????

You're cruel, my friend. Cruel. And after I'd bypassed a "hot doughnut" sign at Krispy-Kreme yesterday! I was so proud of myself. Now I'm feeling weak...


Clarissa Southwick said...

Wow. Thank you all so much for the warm welcome. I'm on the West coast, so it was quite a surprise to wake up and find all this wonderful comments waiting for me. And doughnuts too. Wonderful!

Clarissa Southwick said...

Hi Patti Jo,

We only have Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but I think the best doughnuts in the world are the Round Rock Donuts in Round Rock, Texas. Hmmm. It's probably a good thing for my diet that I don't live there anymore :

Clarissa Southwick said...

Hi Erica,
Thanks for all the kind wishes. Right back at you and to all the other readers on this board. May your future be filled with Rita's.

Mary Connealy said...

Clarissa, great post on contests and how to benefit from them.

Here's what this brought to mind.

Petticoat Ranch opens with the hero falling over a cliff, down a creek bank into the path of an oncoming flood.

This is all the heroine's story at this point. She sees him race past on has horse, hears the horse go over the cliff, races to save him at the risk of her life and her children's lives.

(wow, Im all tingly just thinking how great it was to send my hero over a cliff...but I digress)

The hero is unconscious. the heroine drags him up the creek bank as the flood waters come roaring toward her.

So, I was getting great comments and really decent scores in contests on this, with one exception, a very steady and reasonable comment I got a lot was, "I can't judge the hero. He has no part."

This is true. He was unconscious. A bit hard for me to develop his character under those circumstances. And it's reeeeeealy hard for a judge to judge his character under those circumstances.

So, very reasonably, I was getting low scores on my hero.

In response to these comments, I had my hero regain consciousness briefly. I wrote a little scene where he comes around, has a very funny, confused, semi-conscious exchange with the heroine and her four daughters, then passes out again.

This was completely my attempt to get the hero into the book (AWAKE!) to get a higher score from the judges.

Well, I ended up doing a LOT with that little scene and loving it. We need to remember that we are utterly in charge with our characters. I could have stubbonly said, "Look, he fell over a cliff. He's unconscious, trust me to have him be cool and heroic...but later"

Instead, in my world. A world I created, I could bring the guy around, present his character, then knock him out again and go back to my story.
Once I did that, Petticoat Ranch began finalling all the time, won the ACFW unpubbed contest and YAY got published.

Mary Connealy said...

And, just to agree with Ruthy (cuz it confuses her!)
I'll add, when I get a really GOOD entry, I'm far more likely to give detailed, lengthy advice in my comments, because I know I'm dealing with someone who's almost there. And usually that means someone tough and savvy enough to take advice (for what it's worth) and who might get booted through that stubborn door to publishing with just a bit more help.

When I know I'm dealing with a new author, I'm much kinder and gentler and must more GENERAL. (No, not General Patton, Ruthy, don't say it)

I'll say general things like, "IN this scene you have a terrific mix of dialogue, action, narration, scene setting. So I know you can do it, but you need to do this through the whole story. Study this scene, figure out how to use this skill through out."

I also say (far too much, I suppose), "This is backstory, get rid of it. It's not necessary and it's slowing down your story."

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Clarissa! Congratulations on the Golden Heart finals!!

Thanks for your savvy post! Your terrific tips should help any writer do well in contests.

As you say attitude is everything. When I was a green newbie, attitude was my forte. I truly wanted the feedback of someone who could help me improve my craft. Even though judges all stepped on my toes in the early days. But I paid attention and my scores went up. Amazing how that works. :-)Great practice for listening to an editor too.

Thanks for the doughnuts, Tina! Yummy!!


Pepper said...

Wonderful post, Clarissa.
Attitude is everything. We learn more when we take information in with a willingness and openness.
Thanks for sharing.

Stepping back from the judge's comments for a little while (after you ball up the entry and toss it into the rubbish pile) is perfectly okay - but rereading it with a clear head later, is VITAL! I'm learning that, and learning from it :-)

Super CONGRATS on the Golden Heart finalists. Wonderful news!

Pepper said...

National Donut Day?
Oh man, why didn't I get the memo?!?

Jason and Emily said...

Congratulations on that impressive accomplishment!

I've entered several contests, even finaling in one, which I was thrilled about. I think many times you have to take the results with a grain of salt. No one's perfect. Judges have bad days too. But most of the time they judge because they want to help, and we need to be open to feedback and the opportunity to grow.

Great article. I'd love to be entered in the critique, so sign me up!

Happy Friday,


Casey said...

This is a fantastic post for me! I don't enter many contest and when I do, I try to find the ones where my story will fit and I will learn from it. Fabulous advice and I thank you for writing here!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Many of us Seekers will be in NYC for RWA, we'll be sure to harrass you, I MEAN, say hi to you, Clarissa.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I don't eat carbs either. But I dream of them Missy.

And I dream maple filled with cream.

Krispy Kreme will do the trick.

In my dreams of course.

Tina Radcliffe said...


What's your favorite local chapter contest?

Mine was probably the Maggie, and Heart of the Rockies. Maggies for the bling. HOR for the fantastic feedback.

Susan Anne Mason said...


Excellent advice! Best of luck with your GH final! Enjoy New York if you're going!

The one year I was a GH finalist, I wasn't able to go to the ceremony. I understand it's quite a thrill!


Pepper said...

Casey's being modest, Tina.
She JUST FOUND OUT she finaled in the Frasier yesterday - so let's hear it for Casey!!

and CONTESTS!!!!

Okay - back to work!

Mary Connealy said...

YAY!!! CASEY!!!!!!!!

Melissa K Norris said...

Famous excuses. I've told them all to myself, then I decided to learn from the judges.

Guess what? They were spot on with their comments. My novel is much stronger now.

Being teachable is the number one thing a successful author needs to be.

Thanks for sharing and offering a critique.

Missy Tippens said...

Congrats, Casey!!! Woo hoo!

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Did anyone supply lunch? I mean, donuts (doughnuts) are fine for you Rocky Mountain Mutants and the West Coast Cuties....

But here on the East Coast it's lunch time.

And delightfully warm and breezy. Which makes me think of sweet tea on the patio.

I don't HAVE a patio, but I'm thinking of it because it's nice and breezy, therefore connective reasoning. I think.




Ruth Logan Herne said...

Congrats, Casey! Hoot, Hoot, Hoot!

So proud of you!

PatriciaW said...

Congrats, Casey!

This is a great post, and timely with a lot of major contests on the horizon.

Tina, thanks for asking that question. I've wondered which contests the Seekers would most recommend.

Casey said...

You guys are making me blush.

Thank you. I can't tell you what your support means to this little writer in rural Oregon.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And Pep...sheesh you! ;-)

CarolM said...

Congrats Casey!!!! Again ;).

Sage advice.

The mechanics thing... On both of my entries in Genesis, I had one judge give a 5, one a 4 and the other a 2. /shrug/ What's up with that?

Now to get something else done enough to enter in another contest...

Would love a crit.

carol at carolmoncado dot com

Tina Radcliffe said...


Tina Radcliffe said...

Melissa, totally agree. If you can't grow and change you have problems.

We say "DON'T DIVA" here in Seekerville.

Andrea Strong said...

Wow! Those are great nuggets of wisdom. Especially the one about judging. I wouldn't have thought about judging contests as a way to do better as an entrant. But it makes a lot of sense.

I've never entered or judged, but I think I'll consider both from now on.

My favorite donuts come from a small chain out of Springfield, MO called St. George's. My dad took us there when we were kids. I don't get them often, but when I do I want plain glazed or the glazed cinnamon twist. Rich, yeasty, sweet...Perfection. Virtual isn't doing the trick anymore. I'm gonna have to think about something else.

Andrea Strong said...


I love Petticoat Ranch. It's fun for me to hear about how it grew into the great book it is.

I am waiting impatiently for the Montana Marriages single volume to arrive in my mailbox. Can't wait!

Casey said...

Yes Carol. ;) One would think I'm a glutten wouldn't they? :-))


travelingstacey said...

This is a great post! And great comments that followed, too! I just entered my first contest, so I'm tucking away all of this advice. It will be a while before I know how I did, but it's good to read all of these tips beforehand so that when I get my score sheets I'll be prepared!

Mary, I LOVED the beginning of Petticoat Ranch. : )

Congrats, Casey! I know that's exciting! : )

And doughnuts...I'm just imagining the "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign at Krispy Kreme and the feeling of a chocolate frosted one melting in my mouth! Delish!


Whitney said...

Congrats, Casey! : )

Ruth Logan Herne said...

We stopped at a Krispy Kreme in Clark's Summit PA on the way back from New York City last week.

TWO DOZEN in the backseat.

Twenty-four. Twelve glazed, twelve assorted.

And we didn't touch them.


Fave contest, forget that Clarissa asked... Hmm... Gotta be Finally a Bride because that resulted in my first sale to Steeple Hill, but the Peninsula Pitch brought me notice from Harlequin editors in Toronto, too.

It felt like God had a back-up plan.

Oh, that God!!!!

CarolM said...

Andrea - George's is an almost weekly Sunday stop for us ;). <3 them! Maple long john here.

Not crazy about Krispy Kreme but it'll work in a pinch.

Clarissa Southwick said...

I had a meeting to attend this morning and got hopelessly behind on answering all your wonderful comments. Please know I really do enjoy reading them and I will catch up as soon as I can.

Clarissa Southwick said...

Virginia, I've heard that comment about the unlikeable hero before, and it's a heart-breaker to receive.

Luckily, it's a pretty easy fix. You just need to have him do something kind in the first few pages to show that he's actually a pretty good guy at heart and totally redeemable. A kid or a dog usually helps with this.

Good luck and thank you for the comment.

Clarissa Southwick said...


Keeping a sense of humor is one of the best ideas I've heard all day.

It's sometimes hard to see when you're looking at a 32/100 (my personal record low score.) But there is almost always something to laugh at in the really bad scoresheets and it sure beats crying.

Thanks for a wonderful comment, Helen.

Clarissa Southwick said...

Eva, that's another great suggestion, entering more than one contest. Certain scoresheets favor one type of entry over another. So, yes, trying a few different contests is a good plan.

KC, thank you so much for the kind words. Now you've got me thinking about how life and contests are similar :)I really appreciate your stopping by to comment :)

Pam Hillman said...

Whoo-hoo CASEY! I saw your Frazier contest news on FB!!


Pam Hillman said...

Ruthy says about 2 dozen donuts: And we didn't touch them.

OBVIOUSLY, I was NOT along for the ride!!!!

Bonnie Staring said...

All this talk of donuts is making me hungry, so I brought along a veggie platter (with high-fat dip, though)!

Excellent post, Clarissa! I love entering and judging contests. The best part is to see a great entry get published so you can keep on reading it!

Donna Cummings said...

I know I'm late to the party, but I sure hope there's some donuts left!

Clarissa, I've got my fingers crossed for you, and wish I was going to be there in person to cheer you on. (You know I'll be right here with my donuts instead!)

I've finalled in several contests, and won two, and as thrilling as that was, I always loved when a contest judge couldn't wait to read more of my book. :) To me that meant I'd done what I'd hoped for with my story.

Liz Fredericks said...

Thanks for the post, Clarissa, you offer excellent advice. This is my first visit to Seekerville, and I guarantee I'll be back. It's a wonderfully supportive culture - a very nice find!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

Selena Fulton

Clarissa Southwick said...

Julie, Lindi, Ruth, Thank you all for wonderful comments and suggestions. I'm just amazed at all the visitors to this site :)

Clarissa Southwick said...

Hi Lorna, Hi Whitney.

The Golden Heart is RWA's National contest for unpublished authors. It's held once a year. You have to submit the full manuscript and synopsis, but only the first 55 pages are judged with the synopsis.
Finalists get some perks at Nationals, including first dibs on pitch sessions. I can be a great career boost.

The Golden Pen is put on by The Golden Network, which is a RWA chapter of former GH finalists. It's supposed to help you prepare for the Golden Heart, so you have the same conditions (page count/categories, etc.) But you get the added benefit of judge's comments, which you don't get in the GH.

Clarissa Southwick said...

Tina asked about my favorite chapter contest. There are so many good ones, I almost hate to single any out. I'm sure to forget some wonderful conte

I think I'm partial to the Daphne, but that might be because I love suspense.

The Dixie Kane contest is wonderful if you're looking for one that's inexpensive and only covers those crucial first pages.

And the Golden Pen is wonderful if you want to prepare for the Golden Heart

Tina Radcliffe said...

I forgot about Golden Pen. It really is a good contest that prepares you for the GH. Glynna Kaye sold due to the Golden Pen.

Tina Radcliffe said...

We were very well behaved on that road trip, Ruthy.

Tina Radcliffe said...

There really is no late to the party in Seekerville.

We're open 24/7.

Clarissa you'd been a sweetie to answer so many questions. The second you sell (very soon I am sure) come back to guest again and tell us your first sale story.

Gwynlyn said...

I'm not a contest diva (that's my CP), and have entered a total of eight contests since the mid 1990s, finaled in five---three of those being the GH in 07, 09, and 11, but have yet to place higher than third. (Nationals, here I come!)

Even so, without my CP's input, I doubt I would have placed anywehre at all. Her insights into the contest structure were invaluable as I'm sure yours will be to those reading this blog.

Excellent advice, Clarissa. Accepting the harsher comments can be difficult, but nothing succeeds like success, so polish and submit. Won't that harsh judge have a hissy when she see your name on the finalist list!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wow, congrats on all those GH finals,Gwynlyn.

We were GH partners in 2007. Our own Pam Hillman is also a finalist this year with you and Clarissa.

We'll be cheering@!@

Marilyn said...

I picked up WRITER'S DIGEST COMPLETE GUIDE TO WRITING CONTESTS a month or so ago. Your post got me excited about entering a few! Thanks for the advice!


Walt Mussell said...

I'm late for National Doughnut Day? I can't believe it.

My favorite doughnut is chocolate-covered cream filled, though I do like rasperry filled doughnuts as well.

And, for those of you that have visited Portland, have you ever been to a place called Voodoo Doughnut?

On to contests.

I've dealt with a lot of what I thought were snarky comments. One of my favorites was a judge who drew comparisons between my story and a movie she'd seen, saying that my story didn't have enough elements from "Movie X."

My first thought was "Movie X takes place nearly three centuries after my book."

However, I later realized what the judge was saying. I hadn't done enough in my setting to take the judge out of "movie X." And that was definitely a valid criticism of my story.

There's only comment I've yet to get over.

Please enter me in for this critique and the weekend one as well.


Jan Drexler said...

Thanks for all the great advice, Clarissa!

My goal for the winter/spring was to enter 2 contests - accomplished that goal, and appreciate the comments from the judges :)

My summer goal is to finish/polish the manuscript for another contest. I'd love suggestions of a good one to enter around Sept. or Oct.!

And doughnuts...mmm...I write for a homemaker's e-mail loop, and tomorrow's post is a recipe for homemade doughnuts. Just looking for the right recipe made me hungry!

And I found my new favorite place for cake doughnuts - Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota. Really.

Elisa Beatty said...

Great advice, Clarissa! Congrats on the wonderful back-to-back Golden Heart final!!!

Maria Ketterer said...

Clarissa, congratulations on your Golden Heart final!

I enjoyed your post on how to win writing contests. I've entered several over the past year or so and can honestly say I've taken the feedback and used it to improve my manuscript.

Thanks for your insight.

P.L. Parker said...

Good post Clarissa. I've only entered maybe 3 contests but am thinking about entering my latest manuscript. Just trying to decide which one.

Sherri Shackelford said...

This is the most awesome advice!

Suzie Johnson said...

This is great advice, Clarissa. I think my biggest contest faux pas was doing just what you said: entering for feedback. It was an unfinished book, finaled and won a few contests, and the complete was requested by an editor. One i really wanted to submit the finished book to. But it wasn't finished. I ended up hating that book because I wrote myself into a corner I couldn't get out of. Now I'm embarrassed to submit anything else to that editor because I never finished the book she requested. My lesson is to finish the book before entering it in contests.

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