Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My First Contests

The most important thing to me when I share about myself is to deliver the message that is deep in my heart. That message for me will always be to never give up. I believe it and I live it.

My contest history began in 1997 and spanned 12 years with my last entry being the 2010 Golden Heart (those entries were in the fall of 2009). I sold to Love Inspired in January of 2010 and was agented when I sold.

During my contest period I entered 158 contests. (Averaging 13 contests a year for 12 years)

Of those, I finaled in 66. (The Golden Heart twice and the Genesis once)

I won 22 of those I finaled.

(I won the Maggies twice, the Stepping Stone twice, the Heart of the Rockies three times and I also won Fire and Ice, Desert Dreams, Touched By Love, The Lauries, Put Your Heart In A Book, Ticket to Write, Winter Rose, Beacon, Tara, Golden Acorn, and the Linda Howard Award of Excellence and The Barclay.)

I contested with a total of 10 different completed manuscripts.

From those contests I received only 3 agent requests and 7 editorial requests. (Of course at the same time I was submitting.)

Looking at the numbers, those aren't exactly amazing results, but a slightly greater than one third percentage isn't too shabby either, considering the competition included all of the Seekers.

However, what I have concluded about contesting is that often it's not about the results. It is however always about the motive and the goals.

The first memorable writing advice I ever received from a contest was from author Elizabeth Sinclair regarding a manuscript now called The Last Bachelor. She told me my hero was an unsympathetic alcoholic and my heroine was too perfect.

She was correct on all counts.

But she didn't simply criticize my writing, she provided direction with her feedback. Direction for my synopsis as well.

I took that wonderful direction and ran with it.

That was my motive as a very, very new writer. Direction.

My daily life at the time was like most of yours- consumed by family, the day job, and toss in a life altering catastrophe that made meeting with a critique group or attending a local chapter nearly impossible. Often I had to choose between my own writing time and a writing group or meeting.

Then consider this: you're a new writer and you're meeting online or in person with a group of people whose writing expertise is as limited as your own. That scenario makes growth difficult.

Contests provided a cold read, and an honest interpretation of my goals in the form of the contest score sheet and comments.

Another value in contests is that they developed patience. The life cycle of a contest is close to a year. I learned how to enter and move on, forget about that manuscript while forging ahead to the next goal. This is a skill that will come in handy as you wait for responses from industry professionals later in your career.

Another goal for me toward the end of my contest years was submitting a new completed manuscript each year to the Golden Heart. By this time I had narrowed my target to only two genre's and submitted a total of four manuscripts.

The last few years before selling I entered far fewer contests as my goals had shifted. I had become more confident about my skills thanks to contests and had discovered resources (often thanks to contest judges recommendations) for honing my craft. Now I was only entering contests for two reasons: to keep my name out there and to get a manuscript in front of a particular editor or agent.

Were all my contest judges kind, fair and constructive? Of course not. But to tell you the truth I didn't let them stop me. I had a methodology when I received contest results. I glanced at them and then set them aside.

When I was ready to do edits I took the contest pages and applied them or discarded them as my gut instinct told me while I edited each page of the manuscript without looking at the scores. All I cared about was the feedback.

I'm a writer, I'm all about looking at my words and growing. A strong and long history of contest critiques and commentaries has also provided a handy shield against the negative side of this business. I can honestly say that today-most of the time- I am able to respond as I did during the contest days and take a negative response and set it aside without internalizing and move on. (I also avoid reading reviews. Why look for trouble?)

One of the final contest critiques that I recall was brutally honest and caused me to pause. I later discovered it was done by Camy Tang. Trust me, it was a tough critique and because of her objective comments I had the courage to move to another level in my writing and make some serious changes to the manuscript that sold, A Place Called Home (it sold in January 2010, to Melissa Endlich at Harlequin Love Inspired,and became The Rancher's Reunion).

Here's a little secret about me too, I'm very competitive. With myself. I am the hardest critic I will ever have. I don't give up. I also find a peace that passes understanding in resting in the knowledge that the Lord put me on this path and he is in charge of my destination.

But I'm not perfect, I also ascribe to a little quote a Colorado writing friend, Amy Sandrin, once told me: "Success is the best revenge."

So today I challenge you to consider what you can get out of contests. Consider this too: what do you have to lose? Why not make 2012 the year you step out and enter contests for you and your writing career?

Today two commenters who express and interest in this opportunity will win a 15 page manuscript critique to prepare your pages for a contest. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Also, here are links to a few archived contest posts to assist you on your own contest journey.

Pimp Your Contest Entry

Exploring Contest Mood Disorder

Contests, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Finally, I want to thank each and every one of you who has ever judged a contest. Thank you to those of you who suffered through my early, plot-less wonders with the telling and not showing, the information dumps and those perfectly flawless and equally boring heroines.

I know who you are, because some of you even signed your names. Trust me, there is a special place in writer heaven just for you.

Tina Radcliffe is entering only a select few contests in 2012 and is concentrating on writing faster. You can always find her in Seekerville or at her home at www.tinaradcliffe.com. She is happy to answer any of your pressing contest questions at tina at tina radcliffe dot com


  1. Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh boy. Are those numbers ever impressive.

    Thank you for sharing your down and dirty contest experiences.

    I've not been entering contests as much lately--concentrating more on submissions. But I need feedback on my newer projects, and I think some contests are in order.


    Oh, yeah, the coffee pot's ready.

  2. Hi Tina:

    You have shown the value of contests. I need to enter some this year. But I wonder: are you at the point now where you create books that have no connection to any contests? Do you get to the point where you leave contests behind?

    BTW: I am also a big fan of not reading reviews. However, I think it is a good idea for your CP to read some and pass on any useful information just as she would if she had come up with the idea herself.


    I would like to be in the mix for a critique of my “Stranded in a Cabin” romance. I plan on entering it in some contests.

    Vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  3. Now I know what "Contest Diva" means, Tina. WOW. I couldn't agree more that the feedback is the best part. I always look forward to the monthly contest posts here on Seekerville to help me find out which might be right for me and my manuscripts. And so true on teaching you patience, like a crock-pot you can't even lift the lid to get a whiff of until the end.

    I have a new MS I'd love a Seeker critique on that hasn't hit the contest circuit yet, so please enter me.

    Also, on the theme of submitting, can you put finished fourth in X contest in a query letter even though you didn't final in the top three? (I lost the tie-break for third place, so isn't that the same as finishing fourth?) Will that look stupid in a query letter, since the only way I could verify that is the e-mail from the contest coordinator?

  4. Vince, you nailed it. I have many books that are not geared towards Love Inspired so they wait for a home.

    There is a trend to offer published authors entry into contests in categories they haven't sold. That I believe is pretty cool.

    There are always contests. We list the pubbed authors contests too.

  5. Nancy,

    Just say you finaled. Really, it's a hair splitter.

  6. Well, I just got some contest scores back and the judges comments on almost every point were all over the map, I don't think I've ever gotten such crazy scoring from a contest.

    Here's my funnest:
    You gave great insight into why the characters did what they did. Great job!
    You really need to sit down with your characters and figure out their motivations and reasonings so you can clue the readers into why they do what they do
    You gave away too much information on why your characters are doing what they're doing, keep some things secret for now.

    I'm rather impressed with myself to be able to pull off those 3 comments with the same Ms!

    Put me in for the critique, if you would.

  7. Tina, this is such a great post! I would NEVER have entered a contest except I read several posts on Seekerville and decided it was a good way to take that 'next step'. I entered 9 contests in 2010, with 3 different ms, and finaled in 4, won 1 (Launching a Star), with the Emily (YA) still being decided in Feb.
    The feedback could be incredibly painful. But SO useful. Like the 'unlikable hero' you had, my hero was a Darcy type that really didn't come off well in the first chapter. We must LOVE the hero!
    I have saved all the feedback, but there are a few, from the TARA, that I printed and have hanging by my desk. The
    judges were so encouraging, and then I got an e-mail after the contest from one (you know who you are!) with yet another note of encouragement.
    I don't think it's possible to say how many times I read their kind words. I called my sister, my friends, and read them to my kids. Seriously.
    They have more than made up for a final judge's one word comments on my single title (which won a later contest with the same pages): Unoriginal, unoriginal, bland. Three words, three sections!

    But I'm a big believer in contests now. The emotions run high, but there are so many more positives.

  8. My goal this year is to enter into contests. I know I am very new and fresh as a writer, but I want all the feedback I can get so I can become a better writer. I am very impressed with the amount of contests you have entered and won. I look at those numbers and my jaw drops. I have a long way to go. :)

  9. Good heavens, I shouldn't be up this late/early, but I knew this post was going up and couldn't resist giving it a glance before I hit snooze zone.

    Melissa, I love that you got 3 completely different responses for the same topic. :) Sounds familiar. Here are the opening comments from the first two judges I was greeted with Sunday night...

    "I’ve seen this particular opening line far too often for it to stand out."
    And "Great first line."


    Thanks for telling us about your first contests, Tina. Your statement about the Lord being in charge was a much needed reminder for me. I'm going to come back to this post tomorrow and take notes.

  10. Virginia I accidentally deleted your comment. I am so sorry. I was deleting a deleted one.

    Okay, but you asked about the Genesis final judges, to avoid entering with the same final judge.

    I am clueless. Email the coordinator.

    Second you asked about an agent's thoughts on contests.

    I guess you'd have to ask each agent. I have heard that some say don't enter re duplication of work and some are all for the exposure.

  11. Don't be too impressed Heidi, I had one author tell me I shouldn't be entering so much but should use the money for a professional critique.

    There came a point where she was right and I did.

    And you know everyone is different and must take their own route.

    Ask me how many editor agent pitches I did in those years.


    I was terrified.

    Contests were also a nice invisible cloak I could hide behind.

  12. NATALIE. Long time no see.

    Do come back!

  13. And Virginia, congratulations on a most excellent contest showing.

    BTW, it really does take a while to get enough feedback on a msc to feel like it's time to stop circulating it on the contest circuit.

    Sometimes doing really well in a contest but getting no feedback can be worse than doing poorly but getting lots of feedback.

  14. Wow! These numbers are amazing, Tina. You are definitely the voice of experience when it comes to putting your work out there for critiques and judging. It's always encouraging to read each author's journey and to be reminded that waiting is normal and risk is essential. Thanks for posting this!

  15. 66 Contests? 66??????

    My bank account got a heart attack just thinking about that one. Do you know how expensive those things are to enter????

    Wow. I'm impressed you didn't give up after contest #10 and say it wasn't worth the $$. :)

  16. Woahhhhh! Tina you are like the Contest Queen! I'm so very impressed with your numbers.

    Question: Do you still work outside the home? If so, how do you do it all? And do it so well?

  17. Thanks for your gutsy posting. I’m so used to hearing success stories that it’s heartening to see a successful author reveal her not so quick and easy path to publication. Your openness brought to mind a Hemingway quote that’s stuck with me all these years: “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

    Until I read that I thought writers were born that way (don’t laugh, that belief is still alive and well). But thanks for not feeding into it. You give me hope.

    Question: Did you always have a completed manuscript before you entered a contest?

    I remember a discussion about that on this blog with many agreeing that it was beneficial to get the feedback before finishing, but then one of your guest super agents said no. If I were further along in my writing life, I can see the soundness of her advice, but at my level I wonder . . .

    Please enter me in the drawing for your critique.


  18. As a Seeker who lost to you EVERY TIME in the Heart of the Rockies contest, I take my warm, fuzzy winter hat off to you.

    And I still love you : )

    In the heyday of your unpubbed contest years, yes Tina, you were everywhere. I used to cringe when finalists were announced and I saw Tina's (and Missy's and Ruthy's...) name on the list along with mine.

    Oy vay.

    I so agree with you, contests hone your skills better, faster and most of the time, more honestly than well-meaning friends and CPs. It's a cold read to them. First impression.

    I too received more than my share of real zingers for judges. But when that one judge - that one gem in the mountain of coal - critiqued your entry with brutal honesty that you just KNEW was correct on all counts...that's what made entering contests all worthwhile.

    Oh yeah, and requests from editors and agents. Gotta love those, too : )

    Great post, Tina. Brings back memories...

  19. Wow, this month of firsts is bringing back so many memories. How fun and embarrassing at the same time when I think of some of the things I actually submitted. We were so naive in those days. chuckle

    But we were persistent, driven, and patient.

    I'm so glad you were Tina because I love Rancher's Reunion. You have a great writing style so I'm glad you listened and honed those skills.

    Melissa and Natalie. Don't you just love it. Those variations in response show how subjective this business is. It also helps you understand why one editor loves it when ten others have rejected it. You need that objectivity.

  20. Coffee, yes!!! And Tina, this is so absolutely on the spot perfect that it should be a writer's course at a big conference.

    With me, of course.


    Hey, huge thanks for offering links to TWO Ruthy posts on contest picking, choosing and pimping....

    I'm not surprised that I was bossy way back then and still bossy now.

    I love that you admit the competitiveness and I agree. I don't care about winning... but I do care about doing my best.

    Genesis: great contest. Loved it.

    And I loved being a "Contest Diva" with the Seekers. More than that, I love that we turned that competitive nature into a forward thrust for ourselves and others. That was a God thing, plain and simple. Oh, that God!!!!

  21. Oh, does this bring back memories, Tina! I don't know where I'd be if it wasn't for the feedback I received on the contest circuit. Certainly not published, that's for certain. And I'd have never eventually met my future "Seeker" buddies in the finals circles either!

    I still have ALL my contest score sheets and any of the pages that had written comments on them as well (even the ones that brought me to tears). I need to review them sometime and share my "in hindsight" findings here. The first one I entered was in (GULP!) 1993 when I was just a clueless, bambino writer. I have no idea how many I subsequently entered before I took a "sabbatical" from 1997-2004 so will have to count those up. No, they weren't cheap, but I looked at them as an investment, like a hands-on classroom.

  22. Tina, I love the note that you're concentrating on writing faster...

    I hear ya'. You go, girl!

  23. I love contest divas.

    In 2010 I entered 13 contests. It was a goal of mine to enter as many contests as I could, but only the ones I thought the editor might match up w/my ms. I finaled in several, but never won.

    Maybe I should enter Finally A Bride this year...

    I agree w/everything you said about the judges comments. I learned not to change everything a judge mentioned, but if 10 out of 14 judges made the same suggestion, I might want to listen and quit being so stubborn.

    LOL. During that time you only pitched once. That's so funny. I'd much rather "pitch" with a contest than to look across the table at an editor.

  24. Tina, I so appreciate your honesty. I'm impressed at the sheer number of contests you entered and finaled in. How encouraging to hear your perspective and how you chose to use the contest results to grow from.

    As a new writer, my goal is to learn and grow. I will step out and enter at least one (maybe more) contests this year. :)Thanks for your encouragement.

    These words resonated with me: "However, what I have concluded about contesting is that often it's not about the results. It is however always about the motive and the goals."

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts, today! They've inspired me. :)

  25. What a trip down memory lane, Tina. I felt like I was reading my OWN contest circuit bio.

    This jumped out at me. "I was only entering contests for two reasons: to keep my name out there and to get a manuscript in front of a particular editor or agent."

    So true. At some point along the way, my strategy changed to those two goals, too.

  26. Thanks for sharing your contest journey, Tina! You have shown us impressive dedication and perseverance - a great example for newbies like me.

    I haven't entered many contests, but I've learned a lot from each one - and that gives me the incentive to keep on entering.

    Now back to working on something to enter...

    And please enter me in the drawing!

  27. Wow, Tina. The sheer volume of contests you entered is staggering. I entered a bunch of contests one year. I think it was something like 8 or 10, and I would have entered more other years but I didn't have a job and my husband wasn't keen on me spending tons of money on contests. But contests are really helpful and can help you to know whether your work is ready to submit to agents and/or editors. I know I learned tons, and I will never forget when Jill Elizabeth Nelson explained to me, and showed me, in a contest what deep POV meant and how to achieve it. I can't tell you how much I appreciated that. It was so helpful.

    But if all you want from a contest is for someone to tell you how wonderful your writing is, you will probably be very disappointed and might even swear off contests forever. You have to go into it with the right attitude.

    And you won't final in every contest, no matter how good you are. Judges are human and they have different opinions, and the nature of fiction is that it's so subjective. So don't ever let a contest discourage you. And that goes for published authors too.

    Thanks for sharing your contest experiences with us, Tina! You are a wise and experienced woman!

  28. Oh, Melissa, that's CRAZY! You do need a good critique, girl, after that conflicting advice.

  29. Yes. I still work outside the home. Up until July 2010 I worked two jobs.

    This is not an anomaly,I know another Seeker who had two jobs until she sold.

    You do what you gotta do to get what you wanna get.

  30. Let's do the math. Thirteen contests a year would be $325. Postage another 78. That's $403.

    Isn't 403 dollars a year a small investment in your craft? A tax deductible one at that?

    Besides my learning curve was much longer than most.

    The average author sells in like 2-3 years.

    I'm not average. Nor did I have an average amount of time to dedicate to writing.

    But at the same time I was also selling short stories and blogging professionally for pay.

  31. Tina, thanks for sharing about contests! I haven't actually entered any, but I'm praying and planning on entering Genesis this year. Just to get my name out there and to TRY IT. Why not start big?

    And, a critique from a Seeker certainly wouldn't hurt, either! :)

  32. No, Cara, not always a completed manuscript. But eventually they did get finished.

    I love being an overnight success.

  33. Connie Queen, you so rock.

    Way to go!!!!

  34. Loved the post, Tina! I admire how prolific you were, and how many different manuscripts you wrote.

    I do sometimes wonder about people who have half a dozen or more contest wins with the same manuscript(?) I usually entered three contests with a single manuscript to account for judging discrepancies and personal taste. Then again, I might have entered more, but I was just too poor!

  35. Sherri, that's such a good point. I would enter things as I completed them for feedback...

    Until what I was entering the first time was actually finalling the first time. Then I knew I had something...

    But like Tina I was way above average and it was almost 8 years from writing that first book to selling. But that was with the two jobs and six kids, so I'm not complaining.

    Remember the turtle... he plodded and planned and trod his way into history.

    The rabbit burnt out.

    I will never choose to be the rabbit. Slow and steady works for me.

    With chocolate!

  36. Okay, contest divas, here's a question for you -

    I was looking through my score sheets from the Phoenix Rattler more closely, and found that one of them is for a different story than mine (obvious from the comments on the score sheet), even though the sheet had my title and entry number on it. I've already contacted the coordinator to bring this to her attention, but I was wondering - has this ever happened to any of you?

    I can't imagine these contests running without a hitch every time!

    One thing that made me happy, though, was that out of the three sheets I have (one is being snail-mailed), that score was the lowest by 2 or 3 points in every category. So I have hopes that my real scores were actually higher :)

  37. Tina, you sure did forge ahead! I've only entered a few contests and I did it for the comments which some I found useful and others I threw away. Good luck trying to write faster!

  38. Ruth, that really resonates. For me, it was getting the requests. Because I won a contest with a manuscript, and the agent didn't request it - which made me think, "uh oh," back to the drawing board...

    I actually sold on a second place win. Which was fitting, because, as we like to say in my family, "Second place is FIRST loser :)"

  39. Tina, I will be FOREVER grateful for contests because that's where I met you and Janet and Myra in the 2005 GH, one of the true highlights of my writing -- and friendship -- career. And, of course, contests are the MAIN reason why the Seekers even exist, so gotta love 'em.

    SOOO agree with your statement that "When I was ready to do edits I took the contest pages and applied them or discarded them as my gut instinct told me ..." You simply cannot take EVERYTHING a judge says to heart because not all of it is right for you. Some will love you, some will not, and if you totally embrace the advice from someone who does not, sometimes it will mess with your own true voice. Praying about what you will and won't use is KEY so that you can get God's true "feedback."

    Finally, you said, "So today I challenge you to consider what you can get out of contests." ABSOLUTELY every aspiring writer needs to enter contests at least once to dip their toe in the cold water and experience the world of competition. Soooo much good comes from it and I believe contests are the MAIN reason I am published today.

    That said, once published, they are important too, but I am learning that they can also be a huge detriment to your walk with God if they become the end all, be all. I remember Francine Rivers saying once at an ACFW Conference that even though her publisher wanted her to, she never enters contests. At the time I thought that was really silly and didn't understand it.

    Trust me, I do today because focusing on being "the best" is so counter to what God calls us to be. In the words of John the Baptist, we must "become less" so God can become more, and for me, that means giving up contest. Consequently, this is the first year I am not entering any (other than, like Tina, a select few in which my publisher enters me), which is kind of like a smoker giving up nicotine because contests were my rush, my nasty habit that kept me in the foreground and God in the back. Never again, God willing. :)

    Great post, Teenster.


  40. Tina said: "The average author sells in like 2-3 years."

    2-3 years from WHAT????

    Okay, I get it. I'm not average. Thanks for the reminder that it took me 25 years to sell my first novel.

    Of course, I wasn't entering contests all that time. I didn't even know there were such things until I joined ACFW (ACRW back then) and entered what used to be the Noble Theme.

    Also, at that point I was writing a lot more women's fiction than straight romance, so there weren't many contest opportunities.

    But you are so right, Tina. Getting contest feedback (especially if you get a respectful and helpful judge) is one of the best ways to get a fresh take on your writing and discover areas where you need to improve.

    Wow, considering how many finals and wins you have under your belt, Miss Tina, I'm starting to feel VERY glad I wasn't entering contests the whole time you were!

  41. OUCH!@ Jan that is quite a glitch in a contest. I did have a contest where my score sheets were lost. Forever. That was pretty annoying as I PAID for them.

  42. Talking about the subjectiveness of judges and editors...

    Recently I gave my critique partner my favorite book of all times, The Raider. I just think it's a fun book and who doesn't love fun?

    Later she told me it was "pretty" good, but if I hadn't recommended it, she would've put it down after the first 3 chapters. WHAT?@#$? Was she reading the same book I was?

    Some of the ones she's recommended just doesn't do it for me either so I guess I'll live.

    I try to remember this when reading judges comments.

  43. Tina, I entered about 15 contests and I thought that was a lot! Your tenacity is amazing and it paid off.

    I always considered the feedback much more than the scores. Most of it was really helpful. The rest I ignored. I learned I make the same mistakes over and over. So I know what to watch for.

  44. Connie Queen, that brings to mind another contest circuit truism.

    They say if they hate you or love you that's good. But beware if you get middle of the ground responses.

    A good story brings out emotions.

    For and against you.

    Just like in the real world. They hate you or love you.

    This is actually a very good thing.

  45. LOL, Myra.

    I know. I know.

    It wasn't easy laying all this on the table.

    I'd love to say. I entered my first contest and got a request, and then I sold.

    Pigs don't fly in my world.

    And for those of who do have flying pigs in your world.


  46. Tina, you're a rock star. I've known a lot of excellent writers who gave up because the road to publication was too rocky. I often wonder where they'd be now if they'd taken constructive criticism and moved forward.

  47. /waves/

    I'd love to be entered for the critique :).

    I haven't reopened my scores from Rattler yet. I may. I may not. We'll see...

    One thing I have gotten pretty consistently is that I write good dialog. So I'll take that as a plus.

    Today is my first day back at school and I'm starting edits with an eye toward entering this MS in Genesis. Doing that as soon as I finish posting.

    Thank you all for your prayers. FIL is doing better and hopeful that he'll be able to fly home end of this week or early next. SMIL even went to a luau last night. DH talked to both of them yesterday and said his dad sounded pretty good. They have a good support system at home with friends who are already starting to arrange stuff there for him.

    Okay... off to edit land... ;)

  48. Thanks, Cheryl.

    Being in remedial author class was actually fun.

    he he he

  49. Good news, author Carol.

    And good news on your forging forward with edits.

  50. Last year was my "contest entering year" (and the year before too, I think! Not remembering LOL). I learned a TON from it - from the feedback from Great Expectations and Hook It and Genesis (and probably another one or two - not remembering!). But the feedback led me to see I have a lot to learn to raise those scores. So THIS year, I'm learning - taking classes, reading blogs, stuff like that. Planning to have a MS ready for the 2013 year (or the late 2012 maybe).

    You ARE amazing in your entering, Tina. Awesome!

  51. Oh - and I think I'd rather pitch in person. At least to date I would... ;)

  52. Of course you would. YOU ARE AN OUTGOING PERSON. YOU are a teacher.

    I am a cave dweller.

  53. I prefer to think I am not amazing for entering..I am amazing for not giving up.

    I mean come on, this is sort of an insane thing to actually admit to.

  54. and CaraG--that Hemingway quote goes on my wall.

    “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

  55. I already e-mailed the coordinator but the response was that they never revealed the judges (even though I asked about FINAL judges, LOL). Anyway, I went ahead and entered anyway because I guess it's good for exposure! (My other question answered.)

    And I was looking at last year winner's and the year before and I saw the name Mary Curry... Is that the MARY CURRY that pops up here??

    I would have changed my name to GENESIS WINNER! Ha! And I entered that same category and got second to last. Total wipe-out.

  56. Tina,

    You are an inspiration! And so are you, Myra! My goal is to squeak in under the twenty-five year mark!

    Contests can be good and bad. Conflicting comments, scathing remarks from some - almost make you want to quit. New writers almost need a course in how to handle contests!

    Even now, I still have a hard time with them - and some of my critique partners comments. Sigh. Where is that thick skin when you need it?

    I'd love to be entered for a critique. I'm working on my entry for the Genesis now!


  57. Tina, so interesting to see the breakdown of your contest submission and results! Very worth entering, in my opinion.

    Of course, I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for all the contests I entered that brought me up against my Seeker sister friends! :)

  58. Oh, Tina! Cave dweller! That is priceless!!

    Sending smoke signals from my cave to yours...

  59. Yes. THAT FAMOUS MARY CURRY. And Renee who popped in today was a winner. And Sarah Ladd who was a guest blogger last week was a winner.

    We have so many famous folks floating around her. :)

  60. Yes, Tina, like someone said a couple weeks ago, we like sitting at the cool kids' table.

  61. Seriously. Don't you think 90 percent of authors are cave dwellers -cave dwellers who talk to themselves?

    Once or twice a year we dust off our civilized clothes and go to conference and pretend we're normal.

  62. LOL.

    First time in my life I got to sit at the cool kids table.

    Thank you Seekerville.

  63. So Jan Drexler..this weekend is it. Your WW story should hit the stands.
    I've been watching, ready to pounce.

  64. Tina, You are the epitome of hard work, determination and smarts. I'm grateful for the leadership you provide in Seekerville and totally impressed with the number of contests you entered!!! I had no where near that number since I had fewer manuscripts to enter.

    I'm thankful for the special people the 2005 Golden Heart contest brought into my life. That's a gift I'll always treasure.

    I was fortunate. All the contest feedback I received was helpful and improved my writing. I still love entering contests!


  65. Oh my gosh, Tina! I admire you for doing that. I just got results back from the 2nd contest (yeah, I'm way behind you) I entered and can't imagine doing that dozens and dozens more times.

    However, this contest provided invaluable constructive feedback and I KNOW my manuscript will improve because of it. In my opinion, if you pick the right contest, it's definitely worth the money.

    Thanks for being so honest and open with this topic. Oh, and I'd love to be entered for the critique - I'd love to help get more prepared for the Genesis if I finally decide whether or not I'm brave enough to enter.

  66. Yes Tina! It should be the edition coming out next week! I plan on buying a few copies...

  67. Hi, Tina. First of all, I can't BELIEVE you kept count.

    I am so disorganized about stuff like that.

    I entered my first contest with my second manuscript, this was probably in....1994 or 5 or maybe 6? I came in 3rd. That was so encouraging. I often consider that 3rd place to be what kept me going. That little bit of encouragement.

    I also got a request for that book from Silhouette Romance--not related to the contest I don't think. I just subbed it directly to Silhouette. Then came a request for a full before ultimately being rejected.

    I look back on that and it's like those tiny bits of success were ... oh, like bread crumbs... leading me on, keeping me on the path.

    That book, which I then called The Farmer Takes a Husband, because The Clueless Cowboy and was pubished by Barbour Publishing ten years (and many revisions) later. And selling that book (which is now Book #2 in Black Hills Blessing) is one of my fondest moments in writing. It just meant so much to me to have that early work finally in print.

  68. Outgoing? This is LEARNED, sweetie!

    I would much rather stay at home, in my cave [with good cable/satellite of course], and my laptop for all eternity. I am such a homebody.

    Unfortunately, I need to get paid and so I must go ;).

  69. I was on an author's panel once and one of the questions was about contests. A lady just before me pretty much said, "contests are a scam to steal your money and you should stay far away from then."
    My turn came and I said, "I give a contest credit for the fact that I'm published."
    We laughed about it right there on the panel and just faced the fact that there is no right or wrong way to be a writer. One thing works for one person and not for another.

    Whatever your choice, don't let anyone tell you you're doing it WRONG if its working you for.

  70. I'm such a cave dweller I have to shave the hair off my palms.

  71. Remember the Rosetti Curse, Tina?

    That book won everything it touched.

    My last two years before I got published, I finalled in eleven different contests with five different books. (Not sure how many I entered...let's go ahead and pretend like it was eleven, okay?)

    And I kept running into SEEKERS at every turn.

  72. Sherri, that happened to me, too. And Tina. I think it happens often, that they like it above the other entries, BUT... It's not their style. Which is fine, right? Because if things get tied up with no chance of a sale, it's like dating a girl you know you're NOT going to marry in your thirties...

    Cut her loose. Do the right thing.

  73. Jan, I never had that happen. Not in a contest or running a contest. Ouch, so sorry...

    I did have score sheets get lost in an inspy contest. Never turned up. And no refund. Might have been the same contest, Teeenster, but I didn't make a fuss because fussing looks bad and people talk in this business. Sometimes it's better to just be quiet and learn a lesson.

    And then share it five years later, LOL!

  74. Wow! You entered a lot of contests. I can't imagine the expense. That is the one thing that stops me from entering. I looked through Stephie Smith's contest chart the other day in search of inspirational categories, but didn't find many.

    I'm considering the Genesis even though it intimidates me. I have no idea what to expect and have heard it's much different than most romance contests.

    I'd be interested in a critique.


  75. I once, as a contest judge, included in my comments that the author was head hopping.

    I included my email address and she wrote to inform me that one pov per scene was 'old school'.

    I just let her go on her way.

  76. Mary - I got a kick out of the contest entrant trying to tell you one pov per scene is old school! I've met writers like that - mostly in college, when we all knew everything already - people who thought they were so cutting edge...the smart ones learned to take advice :) The others?

    Well, I'm too nice to say what I think they're doing these days...

    I still hope my contest scores will eventually surface - just a mix up somewhere.

    But I also hope the other author isn't reading my scores and wondering why they're so low....

  77. Haha! Mary, I can't imagine someone giving me their e-mail address and having the ovaries to write and CORRECT them.

    I did have a judge point out what she thought was a mistake, but was actually a mis-read. I can't remember what she said but it was something like, 'This character just said the sky is red, but it's blue.' And the line actually says blue. I would never write and correct her on it. Not the same as getting someone else's scores! And I'm sure it didn't matter that much in the long run.

    And I got contest feedback about head-hopping, the same week as a Seekerville post from Camy Tang on deep POV. I really, really grew that week as a writer. What I thought I knew, I didn't. What I didn't know, was ruining my great story.

  78. Thank you Ms. Radcliffe for sharing your contest journey with us :)

  79. I love contest. Entering the Genesis helped get my foot in the door so to speak. Two judges loved my story and the third didn't think it would ever work. But she went on to tell me why and made a suggestion on how to fix it. I took her advice and that one plot point caught the eye of an editor.

    Said editor didn't buy the manuscript but she asked for another project! And if she's reading this - It's in the mail!( I hate to think of her sitting at her desk with nothing to do wondering if Jamie is ever going to send that story)

    I'd love to be entered in the 15 page critique!

  80. Tina, I will check your wall next time I'm in Denver... for the quote. Not dust.


    Dust rules.

    Personality plays a big role in how you attack this dream. Ya gotta learn to play within your own parameters and then expand the walls gradually. Crashing and burning is NOT FUN.

    But again, it's a learning curve.

    Says the plodding turtle who likes people.

  81. Jan... Actually, I did have a contest send me someone else's scoresheet before.
    (I think it was emailed.) I promptly notified the coordinators and they apoligized. I just felt sorry for the person who had their scoresheets sent to another author.

    Also...I have an ancquaintance who was notified that she had finaled in a contest. In a few days the coordinator told her there had been a mistake, not only did she not final, but I think she was close to last place. She was heartbroken.

    So yes, mistakes are sometimes made.

    What category did you enter?

  82. Let me add that the contest who said the one girl finaled, made it up to her somehow. I'm thinking they sent her entry onto the editor, but I'm not sure.

    I've never help coordinate a contest before, but I'm sure it's difficult to keep all the entries straight. So hats off to all the great contests judges and coordinators out there.

  83. Yes. The world in general remembers the unsold book called The Rosetti Curse.

    It is holding up a large stack of other useless stuff.

  84. Just checked back to read comments. Great questions asked and helpful answers. I've only entered one contest, but I'm planning to enter at least a couple this year. I'm a plodder when it comes to writing--can't have too many stories going on at the same time, or nothing gets accomplished well. I admire those of you who write a few at a time. :)

    I don't know if you're willing to critique a women's fiction entry, but if you are, I'd like to be entered into the drawing. Thanks!

  85. Oh, Connie! I can't imagine hearing that you finalled, and then it was a mistake! Your poor friend. I'd be heartbroken, too!

    I entered in the historical category - my favorite, of course!

  86. LOL, I don't think it was the Barclay the entries got lost. But if it was you're in big trouble Ruthy.

  87. Well, Jeanne I read a lot across the board so happy to put your name in the hat.

    Love Women's Fiction. Our Myra writes that.

  88. Tina, I read your "Exploring Contest Mood Disorder" and came down with a prodigious case of the giggles! Loved it.

    One judge actually DID misname my hero. She called him "Jessie" (note the feminine spelling). His name is Blane. lol. She gave me some good advice on other points, though. :)

  89. Jan, one of my score sheets is being snail-mailed to me also. Maybe we had a judge in common. :)

    Sorry to hear about the scores mix-up. Hope it gets corrected quickly and the scores you get back are high!

  90. Wow, you are inspiring, Tina! I've entered a few contests, but aim to enter more this year. I'd love to be entered in this giveaway. Thanks so much!

  91. I enjoyed those contest years and I'm considering entering again with a new ms. I lost track of my numbers but I'd love to try again with the Genesis!

    Thanks for sharing, Tina. I was one of your 413 judges and now the story is in print. Love it!
    yes, of course I'm making up that number but isn't it the truth? If I ever publish, I would unable to thank all the critiquers, judges, and readers that have offered their thoughts.

  92. Just got my real score sheet from the Rattler - I continue to be amazed at the amount of details contest coordinators have to handle!

    I'm happy with all of the scores so far - but still not a final. Maybe the next contest :)

  93. Natalie, the examples in Contest Mood Disorder were based on actual facts.

    Seriously. You gotta laugh or go nuts.

  94. Debra Marvin,

    You apparently have good taste. We should have been critique partners. Wish I'd known you when I was looking for one.

  95. That's the beauty of it Jan,there's always tomorrow and Tara..or the Tara contest...or the Maggie...

  96. I love that Carol said that about being a homebody because she confessed that to me once. She talks big but she's as nervous inside as the rest of us.

    And that's okay because we're just folks tryin' to do well, make a path, do a job and glorify God. I just love that we're in a time when people actually can make money doing that. Really, twenty years ago.... Not so much!

    Mary, how funny it was to always be bumping heads back then, but luckily we all became friends early. Before we got witchy.

    Timing is everything.

  97. I love Faye.

    She calls you Ms. Radcliffe. She calls me Ruthy.



    Love you, Faye!

  98. Always Tara?????

    Oh my stars.

    Like Tina and so many others, I figured contests would help me round out my storytelling. I figured it was an investment I had to make because there were few people to work with initially.

    And then I hooked up with the Seekers and we could help one another.

    And now, you.

    So it's a go 'round, come 'round cycle. But contests, developing a thick skin, learning when to SHUT UP was a huge part of developing a professional attitude.

    Or I just copy Mary.

  99. Yep, Ruthy.

    You should see the pterodactyl sized butterflies I have in my stomach about a certain upcoming blog post...

    The outgoing gal? A total front. Usually a very good one for a scared, totally insecure, I'll-never-sit-with-the-cool-kids gal. I'm not quite a poster child for Brad Paisley's Online but I'm not far behind [Hey - today, in class, I knew Dick Grayson was the original Robin...]

    I've learned over the years to how to deal with those butterflies. I've been teaching college for 12 years. It's only in the last 2 years or so that I don't start hyperventilating the first day of classes - and it's the end of the semester before I'm finally fairly calm at the beginning of class.

    That did come in very handy when it came time to pitch in person.

    But really... give me my big cushy chair, a nice blanket, a fire, and a few dozen good books [and wifi] and I'm set for a couple months. As long as I can convince DH to go grocery shopping... ;)

  100. Oh, I love posts on contests, too. I finally braved up and entered my first contest in December. Preliminary results in February (I think), so patience is most definitely a virtue. Writing is a hard business to break into, so your numbers look pretty good to me, Tina!

    Many of your have shared such inspiring stories that started with contests. I would consider third place as a win, personally!

    Yes, please enter me for the 15 page critique, even as I cringe. It’s a scary thing, to have your work read, but such an opportunity. What contests are coming up for non-members of RWA? I haven’t been able to come up with money for a membership and contest fees as of yet.


  101. Tina, you said, "The average author sells in like 2-3 years." I don't think I know anyone who sold that quickly! I've heard it's more like 7 years. If I count from the time I started writing my first novel (not counting the ones I wrote in high school) until my first book was accepted by a publisher, it was five years. But I'm sure all those copies of Writer's Digest I read as a teenager, and all the stuff I learned back then, were stored in my brain somewhere.

  102. The TARA has been one of my favorites to enter.

  103. I love those finaling odds. Winning 1 out of every three you finaled in is amazing. (Finaling in 66 contests is even more amazing.)

  104. Wow, Tina. That is a LOT of contests to enter!

    I bow to your bravery. ;-)

    Did you ever figure out how much money you probably spent on all those contest?

    It's a great post to glean from, thank you! I'd love to be entered for a crit, please. ;)

  105. This is such a wonderful post. Really, it is. You've got some fortitude, girl. :-) I love that you took contests and used them the way you did, for direction, etc.

  106. I did the math..check the comments.

    Thirteen contests a year would be $325. Postage another 78. That's $403. Averaging.

    That's not as bad as a conference.

  107. Whitney check out the Contest Update January Contest Udate

    OR go to the links tab and click on Stephie Smith's Contests.

    Stephie Smith

  108. Contests - very scary. Guess I need to bite back fear and go there. Would love help and feedback!

  109. Tina, I first learned of you through a contest several years ago. Considering I was a new writer, I probably had no business judging the contest but I was a long time reader and I knew what worked from that perspective. (I'm still remember and hope to see some version of The Rosetti Curse in print.)

    2012 may just be the year for me. I'm writing much more consistently now, in part with an eye to using contests for feedback. I've entered a few in the past, but 13 a year? Wow. Glad you didn't give up.

  110. Patricia!!!Woot for you! My favorite contest judge. Next to Debra Marvin.

  111. Tina~

    Boring heroine. Showing not telling. Where have I heard those comments before?

    Your comments on my chapters are going to be very helpful. Now I understand how you know all that stuff so well. That's an amazing history.

  112. ANDREA!!! I did not use the word boring. Just not as three D as your hero. Big difference.