Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The 12 Stages of the Writing Contest Journey

The Winding Road in front of Pam's House
by Pam Hillman

Do you enter a lot of writing contests? Have you ever wondered about some of your weird reactions to contest scores but have been too embarrassed to share them with friends and family because…well, you know, it’s just weird! lol

Having entered hundreds of contests before receiving my first contract, I put together the 12 stages of the Writing Contest Journey. See if you relate to some of these.

Stage 1: You enter your first contest. You’re absolutely terrified, hoping for a kernel of encouragement that you MIGHT have a tiny bit of writing talent.

Stage 2: You survive your first couple of contests and throw your hat in the ring a few more times. Still terrified, but you’ve used every bit of advice from the first few contests and are hoping to up your scores. Here is the time where you have to research POV, GMC, head-hopping, clichés, scene and sequel, sagging middles, black moments. Ack!!!

Stage 3: But you persevere and move forward for another round. The mechanics (punctuation/grammar) are much better, so now you can now concentrate on cliches and craft.

Stage 4: You still don’t know why one judge dings you for a cliché and the other one doesn’t, or why one judge loves your heroine, but the other thinks she’s too stupid to live, but your scores are better (most of the time) and you’ve got a pretty good handle on POV. Now you really have contest fever, and you’re dreaming of a finalist slot, but you’re still not sure if you’re ready yet.

The fenced in "lane" behind Pam's house going toward the hay field.

Stage 5: Finally, you snag a finalist slot!!! But was it a fluke? Can you do it again? With that first finalist slot, you’re just thrilled to final. If there are 4 finalists, you know you’re not ready to win (what would you DO if an editor asked for a complete????), but you’d rather not end up #4 either. 2nd or 3rd place would be perfect.

Stage 6: You are a star! You finalled in a writing contest. You’ve proved to yourself and the publishing world that you can write. It’s just a matter of weeks (or the next contest) where big name agent or editor discovers you. Then one of your manuscripts that has already finalled and/or won in a couple of contests crashes and burns and comes in dead last in a field of 52. You’re a has-been before you had a chance to be. Sigh.

The old Natchez Trace north of Natchez, MS. Wagons and travelers
wore this trail down over hundreds of years.

Stage 7: This is where you get serious. You get a little bit mad at how hard this is, how subjective, and you get a lot hardheaded. This is where you decide to fish or cut bait. All these thoughts run through your mind as you’re shredding your latest masterpiece. Breaking in is too hard! There’s too much to learn! But there’s something there that makes you want to try for one more rung of the publishing ladder. So you do. After all, that manuscript just won 3 contests. By this time, you’ve developed some writing buddies who can help pull you through this stage.

Stage 8: You pull up your big girl panties, grit your teeth and declare you’re going out there again. You’ve realized this is BUSINESS, not just fun-and-games, and that it is subjective, and everyone isn’t going to like what you do, but you’ve got enough feedback under your belt to know that SOME people do like what you do, and that’s enough to keep you going.

Stage 9: Now you get strategic. You develop a plan. You figure out which genre you’re most passionate about, you figure out what houses you’re best suited for, you figure out which of the half-dozen manuscripts you’re working on are the best you’ve got, and you run with that. Here you start finalling and winning more and more contests.

Beautiful shaded lane between Pam's house and her mother's house.

Stage 10: You’ve got a lot of contests under your belt, maybe even signed with an agent. Editors are requesting your stuff. Here, you’re likely to cut down on the number of contests you enter, just entering the big ones like the Golden Heart and the Genesis, and maybe a couple just because a certain editor or agent is judging. If you have an agent to send your stuff out, entering lots and lots of contests isn’t as critical.

Stage 11: You’re still in contest mode, but you’re very selective, and you only enter your absolute BEST work. It’s not exactly smart to enter a half-baked idea that MIGHT get in front of that editor who’s already got one of your best stories sitting on his or her desk.

Stage 12: Well, since these stages were about entering CONTESTS, I guess this is the last stage. At some point, an editor is going to pick up the phone and call you or your agent and offer a contract, and when you accept, you are ineligible to enter contests for the unpublished. And you enter a whole new set of stages as a published author.

Like the hero’s journey, these stages can be reversed, you can go through the same stage more than once, and you might even skip some of them, but for most of us, they’re probably much the same. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you make it to stage 12, the odds of you crossing the bridge to publication are pretty high.

Pam's mother-in-law's bridge to nowhere. lol Actually, it goes to a
delightful island in the middle of their pond. Great fishing
spot and her yard is filled with gorgeous flowers and photo opps.

Have you read The Evergreen Bride yet? If so, the world would love to know what you think. Click here to review it on Amazon...and if you haven't read it, well...

When Pam saw the list of proposed titles for the 12 Brides of Christmas series, she jumped on The Evergreen Bride as her title. “I knew immediately the story would be set in my home state of Mississippi, which is an evergreen state. We rarely have snow and even in the middle of winter, we still have a lot of greenery,” thus the heroine’s dream to see a white Christmas with her own eyes.


  1. We rarely have snow and even in the middle of winter, we still have a lot of greenery,” thus the heroine’s dream to see a white Christmas with her own eyes.


  2. Pam, you have me in total awe at what you have to go through to bring a story to me! YouROCK!!

  3. Pam, I've got to admit I look at my contest scores and think how can one person hate it and the other love it.

    I love Christmas stories. Congrats on The Evergreen Bride.

  4. You tell your little Southern heroine that upstate New York has some snow for her!

    I love that you rarely see Polynesian Christmas... or Aussie Christmas.... or Caribbean Christmas. The white Christmas/New England/Northern "look" has become the go-to backdrop and it works. I blame Bing Crosby and Currier and Ives.

    Hey, it's stuffed croissant day in Seekerville! Chocolate-stuffed croissants with a raspberry or vanilla cream layer....

    We're getting close to PARTY TIME! Oh, I love the holiday season!


  6. Hi Pam,

    It took a while for me to realize how important contests could be in our writing journey. Thanks to Tina, I finally saw the light.

    Congrats on Evergreen Bride! I'm so excited about your series.

  7. Pam, thanks for an encouraging still sounds daunting to a newbie writer.:-)

    Congratulations on The Evergreen Bride!:-) I love the cover.

    I'm familiar with all those feelings, thoughts and emotions in other creative journeys, so I know what you're talking about.

  8. Except for having a call w/an offer of a contract, I think I hit everyone of these stages.

    Roller coaster ride of emotions. I believe I learned a lot through contests though. For houses who don't accept unagented submissions, it's a great way to get your work in front of an editor.

    Oh, and can I say I love your tweets Pam!

  9. PAMMY SAID IN #7: "You get a little bit mad at how hard this is, how subjective, and you get a lot hardhead. This is where you decide to fish or cut bait."

    LOL, boy oh boy, did I relate to THIS one!! ;) This is the make-it-or-break it stage, and I cannot tell you HOW many times I wanted to "break it" over some judge's head!! ;)

    Great post, Pam, and you nailed the journey cold!!

    I did not realize the background of your Evergreen Bride title, but that is fun to know. AND ... even MORE fun to read, which I fully intend to do soon!!



  10. Hi Pam, Great article. And I LOVED the photos. I'm guessing those are from your neck of the woods. I loved seeing it as I don't know your state well.

    And I love the premise for your novella. I better get over there and order it for some fun Christmas reading.

  11. Ruthy, In my novella in the Hope For the Holidays, there is a Spain Christmas. smile

    No snow there either.

    We wrap palm trees in white lights here in AZ desert. They are so pretty.

    In Spain and here, we make up for lack of snow with lots of lights. And sunny days and star filled nights that are just like Jesus had in Bethlehem.

  12. Sandra, I'm laughing! Because I hear you about "Spain" and "Arizona" Christmas, but they're a rarity in greeting cards, movies, Hallmark Channel....


    When Beth was in Adelaide Australia for her semester abroad, they decorate all their shops like a New England Christmas, even though it's summer there.

    There's something in the packaging, the ambiance, the peace of a snow-filled night that grabs people.

    Christmas happens everywhere, but when it's the photo op, most folks are looking for snow, snowmen, lights and northern settings.

    And if Jesus was really born in May like some experts believe, WE'RE TOTALLY MESSED UP!!!

  13. hi pam
    I think I'm only at stage one since I have only entered one contest at this stage of my attempt to write a "real" book. I was very surprised at how far I got.

    Still struggling with the edit process. I haven't even gotten to starting something new - although my brain is percolating several ideas. I thank the Lord for Seekerville because you all keep illuminating my journey with your experiences so there haven't been any surprises for me thus far (other than getting further than expected - and i think i did THAT only because of Seekerville help).

    I've purchased Evergreen Bride, but haven't read it yet. Still haven't earned my reward. *sad face*

  14. Well, last night the temp was in the low twenties, but still no snow. :( So there you go.

    Sorry to be a bit late this morning, but I'm missing a box of books here at my house. For someone who spent 20+ years in inventory control, I am quite twitchy this morning. Yes, I need the books, but my INVENTORY CONTROL SPREADSHEET is off!

    Prayers appreciated!

  15. #7: "You get a little bit mad at how hard this is, how subjective, and you get a lot hardhead. This is where you decide to fish or cut bait."

    Oh boy can I identify with that one, Pam! I consider that to have been my "Just watch me do this!" stage.

    The photos are gorgeous, especially the one between Stage 6 and Stage 7. It reminds me of places along the Natchez Trace and has wonderful mood to it.

    The Everygreen Bride is on my reader waiting for me.

    Nancy C

  16. "Everygreen"? Let's make that Evergreen ...

    Is there anyone else here who always sees the typo a millisecond after clicking the "publish" button?

    Nancy C

  17. Pam, loved your mention of needing a plan.

    That's huge, IMHO, when doing the contest circuit...making smart decisions about which to enter and what you want back from the submission.

    I used to send out my first chapter and synopsis to see if the story had enough "meat" or if the judges would pick out holes I needed to fill. Then, if the submission was strong enough, I'd complete the manuscript.

    My call came after I finaled--and won--three contests where the final round judges were all Love Inspired editors, including Joan Marlow Golan, who was at the head of LI at that time. plan, my strategy worked. :)

    The temp in GA this AM was 16 degrees. That's cold.

    Stay warm, everyone!


  18. Pam, how fun to go through these stages with you. I remember hitting just about all of them. Then the published contest circuit brings a whole new set of stages. :)

    Loved your photos!!

  19. Hi Pam,
    I like your contest evolution. Like your list, I got smarter as I entered. After awhile, I learned to key on things that were important to me to ensure I got the most out of the experience. Having judge's feedback is one of them. When I started out, I entered contests randomly and spent a lot of entry money getting a score and no feedback. Thankfully, I got out of that novice stage quickly! Contests are not cheap when added up, but they can be invaluable.

  20. Pam, I hope your books turn up. I can just imagine you being twitchy over it! :)

  21. lol - Marianne, that was as an unpublished author entering contests. I'm not sure 12 stages would be enough at this stage of my career!!

    Good news on the missing books. USPS lost a box. Somewhere, somebody is enjoying my books, like a Christmas angel just gifting copies of Claiming Mariah to unsuspecting readers...

    So, let's assume the box busted at the USPS facility, and USPS didn't know where to ship it, and they...did WHAT with it? The books go out into the wild... Use your imagination, who would end up with these books? A homeless person? Someone digging through a landfill? Where do lost shipments GO?

    If they are truly lost, I pray that somebody, somewhere gets them and the books bring joy to them for a few hours.

  22. Thanks Terri. Like you, I love Christmas stories, too! And this year I have a plethora of yummy stories to devour.

    The Seekerville ladies Hope for the Holidays Collection (Historical AND Contemporary) and the 12 Brides of Christmas Collection. There are tons more, but I haven't gotten to all of them yet. I love that they're available as ebooks and I can pop them on my ereader in my Christmas folder and when I'm in the mood for a Christmas read, I'm ready to go.

    Just finished Mary and Ruthy's novellas in the Hope historical collection. Loved them! :)

  23. This is sort of like the Hero's Journey....only with a certificate instead of LOVE.

  24. I really love this post, Pam. My gosh I did every bit of these. EVERY BIT!
    It's an almost perfect run down of how a writer deals with the vicissitudes of writing contests.

    (PS I used the word vicissitudes because it's like talking in code and Ruthy won't know what I mean...shhhh)

  25. Thank you, Pam. I think I'm at stage 8 but who knows. I was a hard-won convert to contests and didn't see the point until my crit partner got a request for submission and eventually a contract from a judge. I finaled for the first time this year in the Maggies and it was quite a boost. I also got lukewarm but not horrible scores in another contest with another manuscript, and I realized the judges were right and applied their advice. I'm fine with it as long as they're not nasty, but even if they are, hey, it's anonymous. Most of the time. Mary Connealy came clean to me with one contest last year which is how you guys ended up stuck with me. To me there is no downside to contests -- you get either the ego boost/confirmation of a good score and even a final, or you get mostly constructive feedback. The only downside for me is the entry fees. I have to plan each one, but it's worth it. Thank you Pam...

  26. I remember starting the book Petticoat Ranch and I did this with all my books at some point, all the new ones. I'd just typed THE END on something and a new book was boiling around in my head.

    So I was eager to go with it.

    I'd sit and look at that blank computer screen and lay my hands on the screen and pray for what I wanted to write and I'd think, "Remember everything you know. Remember everything you've learned. Hooks, action, dialogue, scene setting, all of it, so much of it learned from writer's contest critiques. Remember it, use it, apply it...make this book the sum total of all you've learned."

  27. I didn't mean to imply that Mary was nasty 'cause she wasn't.

  28. Of course it's subjective, but what isn't? Why do we READ certain things and not others? Why do we relate to certain people when others leave us cold?
    Why do we learn and grow with some pastors while other perfectly good ones, well, they're just place-holders? Oh we are subjective beings and it's all right, that is one thing that separates us from the animals. But not the most important one.

  29. Chill N and Pammy #7 this is where you decide to fish or cut bait.

    I'd add to that.........we almost always fish.

    Even if we cut bait, before you know it, we're getting those earthworms out again and goin' fishin'.

    It's just so HARD to quit something that you love, something that suits the spirit you've been given by God.

    So I say, cut bait. Quit if you can. Quit if you want to.

    I betcha, you'll be right back with your line in the water before you know it.

  30. TERRI, if one person hates it and another loves it you're doing okay. It's just when they all hate it, sigh.

  31. kaybee, sweetie if I told you I was your judge it was because I liked your work.

    If I judge a contest and come away not impressed I do NOT put my name on it.

    But once in a while I read something and really see the talent and potential and then I sign my name and I'm always glad to talk to those entrants. That most definitely included you.

  32. Pam, I was so green and excited about finishing a manuscript that I had great expectations when I entered my first contest. I tanked. I should've known as my name wasn't Pip. LOL Other than Stage One I fit into all the rest of your 12 Stages. I'm grateful for contests. Judges taught me so much about craft!

    I'm so excited this year to have Seeker Christmas novellas to read! Looking forward to diving into The Evergreen Bride. I could give your heroine her dream of a white Christmas right now--even before Thanksgiving. :-)


  33. Terri, this may be me just consoling myself...because believe me I've bombed with one judge (RUTHY!!!) and scored HIGH with another.

    And I would mention here that awful ONE I got in the Golden Heart, six months before I sold that very same book.

    A ONE a stinking stupid ONE but anyway I WON'T mention it because I have completely gotten over it. It's forgotten, lost in the mists of time.

    I don't even want to find that stupid, cruel JUDGE who for crying out loud shouldn't have ever been that harsh and in fact, no matter how much she loathed it she should have given me a TWO for using Black Ink on White Paper.

    But I won't talk about that because, of course I AM COMPLETELY OVER IT!!!

    Wait! I had a point, let me think....

    Oh, yeah. Okay, here's how I console myself. I decided that if you have a STRONG UNIQUE VOICE then sometimes you get strong reactions to your work and not always GOOD.

    You can't believe how fast I went from....

    No one is writing westerns, let alone comedy westerns...sorry.


    Mary Connealy, a fresh new voice in Christian Fiction.

    I'm surprised I didn't get whiplash from the sudden turnaround.

  34. Ruth, these stuffed croissants are YUMMY! Thank you for bringing food. AND coffee!

    I have a new, so simple recipe that we'll have for lunch. It's probably not healthy, but it's got to be good. Crescent rolls, pepperoni, and string cheese rolled up and baked. Sounds easy and tasty. But how many of those suckers would it take to feed just me and my Cowboy? Ack!

  35. Jackie, contests aren't for everyone, but they were certainly a big part of my writing journey.

    They taught me patience, perseverance, a tough skin, how to look at my story objectively, how to cut, how to add, to meet deadlines, to move on to the next project while waiting...

    I could go ON and on, but you get the drift! lol

  36. Mary H, isn't that the truth? These stages are surprisingly (or maybe not so surprising) similar to the hero's journey, to the journey of life, to the journey of a musician, artist, singer, actor, or even someone climbing the corporate ladder.

    Each stage of our life fits the hero's journey to some extent. Shucks, I bet Ruthy could apply it to baking a cake if she set her mind to it! :)

  37. Connie, I know I hit EVERY one of them. Some multiple times!

    And thank you SO much for mentioning my tweets. Sometimes I wonder if us twitterpated folks are just whistling in the wind. lol

  38. Julie, writers have to be pretty tough and getting a bit mad is a good thing, isn't it? I've always prided myself on not being a quitter...never dropped out of a class, always tried to finished what I started, so when I started this writing gig, I was determined to NOT QUIT.

    Who was it that talked about kicking cabinets? Yep, that's the way it is sometimes. But kicking cabinets just gets your adrenaline up enough to go at it again! :)

  39. Oh, Sandra, I didn't even think about the pictures being a metaphor for The Evergreen Bride! lol

    I was thinking of journey and roads when I picked them. But, yes, they are all pictures from our farm, my mother-in-law's bridge and a local dirt road.

    I just added captions to each, so you can see which is which. :)

  40. Sandra, I can't wait to read your Christmas story in Spain!!! Yay!

    It's on my Kindle, so WHOOT! :)

  41. DebH, you keep working toward that reward, girl!

    And writers are a tough lot, but having a bit of a roadmap, something we seek to provide here in Seekerville is a wonderful thing.

    Your journey will be different. It might be faster, or slower, or with more bumps and curves, but knowing that there can be a delay, a roadblock, or a flat tire sure helps you buckle up and hold on for the ride.

    Wow...where did all those metaphors come from?

  42. Nancy said: I consider that to have been my "Just watch me do this!" stage.

    lol - Yep, this is SO me! We latched on like a BULLDOG, didn't we? Ha!

    And... you get a GOLD STAR because that picture IS of the Natchez Trace! :)

  43. Debby, Missy, and Lyndee... looks like we all hit some or most of the same stages. And people say writers are not normal.

    I submit that we are all VERY norma! lol

  44. Missy, I discovered that USPS lost the shipment, but all is well. The publisher is sending me another box.

  45. vicissitudes?

    I'm with Ruthy. I don't know what you mean either. If I had time, I'd go look it up, but I'm afraid I'd have to wash my eyes out with soap. :(

  46. Kaybee, I agree. There really is no downside to contests, other than those fees, of course. :)

    Even the worst contest score teaches us to tough it out and to bite our tongue!

  47. ...I should have said ...

    bite our tongue when after publication, we get a horrible review. We've already learned to just smile and nod. Smile and nod.

  48. Wow, Mary wasn't nasty? Who knew! lol

  49. Love this, Pam. I entered my first contest a few months after I began writing, and I was so green I actually thought I had a chance of finaling. Sigh.

    Thankfully, the judges were gracious in their comments and didn't totally shoot me down. :)

    I've finaled in a few contest, won one, and find that I don't have the time to enter very many right now. I'm trying to revise my ms to send to an interested agent. The time I have for writing is used for . . . writing. :)

    I've walked through most of the steps you mentioned, but I haven't entered dozens, much less a hundred contests yet. :) My hat's off to you, Pam!

  50. You nailed it with this post, PAM!!! Contests can be huge stepping stones along the writing journey, but it's important to know what you're getting into.

    RUTHY, you can keep your snow up north! We're looking at highs in the 30s today but at least it's sunny and the streets are clear (if you don't count the piles and piles of drifting leaves)!

  51. vi·cis·si·tude
    plural noun: vicissitudes

    a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.
    "her husband's sharp vicissitudes of fortune"
    synonyms: change, alteration, shift, reversal, twist, turn, downturn, variation; More
    inconstancy, instability, uncertainty, chanciness, unpredictability, fickleness, variability, changeability, fluctuation, vacillation;
    ups and downs
    "the vicissitude of our love"
    alternation between opposite or contrasting things.
    "the vicissitude of the seasons"

  52. I don't know very many people who cut bait, probably because I only knew them through writing circles and they just quietly faded out of my life.

    The ones that I can think of off the top of my head never got past stages 1-3. Generally, the loved to read so thought they'd love to write. But when the contests shot them down, they suffered burn-out rewriting the first few chapters over and over. Then the excitement wore off and they moved on to something else.

    But if someone makes it to stages 10-12, they're pretty serious...and very tenacious! :)

  53. Pam, I saw that FB post about the crescent rolls, pepperonis, and string cheese. Yummo! I told my husband, and he nearly drooled. :-)

    I've been thinking about contests lately, since I'm the December Contest Diva. (Working on it today and tomorrow, Tina!) I haven't entered nearly as many as you, Pam, but even when I can't see how a judge wouldn't like my MC/plot/cliche/whatever, there have always been nuggets of wisdom.

  54. See, even in the worst of times Mary can pull out that ONE FROM THE GOLDEN HEART (sigh...I have heard this SO many times...) look at it, and know that it will never be that bad again.

    She hit rock bottom a long time ago and could only go up from there.

    See? There IS a silver lining! :)

  55. Jeanne, I took the slow, meandering road toward publication. I was working full-time at a brain-draining job and raising a family.

    Even though it took a while, contests were my self-imposed deadlines to either get a new piece out there or revise something by the deadline. Without those contests, I doubt I'd had the self-discipline to keep churning stuff out.

    But I say this to say that some people are on a fast-track and some are on a slow one. Sometimes that depends on their personality and sometimes on their circumstances.

    Whey you couple my busy schedule during those years with my I-can't-make-a-decision-for-the-life-of-me personality, then I was definitely on the s-l-o-w track, but it was all good. So far I haven't bit off more than I can chew...mostly.

    Others are go-get-'em types that accomplish the same thing in a handful of years. My hat's off to them, but that wasn't me.

    Just saying that because this journey isn't always about how LONG it takes, so much as it's about staying the course at your own pace.

    Hope that makes sense. :)

  56. vicissitudes...

    Myra, I knew it didn't sound good. The very word leaves a bad taste in my mouth. :(

  57. To all who've only entered a handful of contests...

    I pray you don't end up with hundreds of entries in unpublished contests under your belt... because you become a published author before you get to that point. :)

  58. The viciousness of writing contests????

    Mary, Mary, Mary.

    Not vicious, surely. Just a little mean-spirited.


    Stop trying to trip me up. And no, I had NO IDEA what it meant because why use vicissitudes when variations will do????

    Melissa would KILL ME DEAD.

    And delete it.

  59. Mary, I am so glad you are over that one. I'd hate to think it still bothered you. :-) I'd have given you a 10!

    I tell myself those extra judges, whatever they call them, were invented just for me.

    I kind of felt like that the year the judge said my Golden Heart entry wasn't an inspirational. I still don't get it!

  60. I honestly have no idea where I am in the contest stages. LOL

    I finaled in the First Impressions contest this year, and though I've only entered 3 other contests, this is the only one I placed in. (Excluding the library's short story contest when I was 12. 1st place, baby.) ;)

    It really is subjective, because I've gotten 90s and 20s back on the same entry. And the manuscript I wrote after that one came in 31st out of 32 in a contest. Ouch!

    Thank you guys for your encouragement. If it wasn't for that, I probably wouldn't have entered anything this year. :)

  61. I loved the pictures, Pam. What part of Mississippi do you live in? We went from Memphis to Oxford once, but that's all I've seen of your state.

    I won a short story contest in the Omaha World-Herald when I was a senior in high school. That was exciting. I have entered a few other short story contests and did get honorable mention once or twice. Entering a novel contest will definitely be a whole new experience.

  62. As for the 12 stages, I will make no comment about pulling up the big girl whatevers.

    I'm in a different stage of a contest journey. I'm now at six weeks waiting for my judged entries. The results have been announced and I would love to send my judges thank you notes, but I can't

  63. Pam, Thank you for this post. I'm still in the unpublished writer category, and I found myself trying to categorize myself.

    Thanks for the post, and for reminding me of some important goals to add to my business plan for the next year.

  64. Yikes, Seekerville!! The cows got out around 4pm, then we had a cow that needed help calving, and then Wednesday night church and I forgot ALL about Seekerville until just now! So sorry!!!

  65. Terri, sometimes I don't get that THEY don't get it, either. It's a head scratcher for sure!

    Anna, hang in there. Don't let that placement get to you. We've all been there at that exact same place. It was like the judges somehow thought a "1" meant "1st place. That's what I told Mary about HER one in the GH but she won't listen to me! lol

  66. Sandy, poke your finger at the center of MS and you'll be close to me, there-about. :)

    Oh, Walt, yes, THAT stage is SO frustrating. The WAITING. Waiting on contest results to be announced, then waiting to get your scores back is a nail-biter! If that doesn't teach you patience, nothing will. Sigh. Hope you hear something soon.

    Tanya, so excited to see you moving forward with a clear plan for 2015. :)

  67. Thanks for your encouragement on the journey! What are your tips for separating a judge or editor's personal preference from constructive comments? I'm finding it an art to do this well and glean from it all.

    I think you could write about the calving during your blog time! Sounds very exciting!

  68. Yes! I read The Evergreen Bride and LOVED it!!! I haven't seen an awful lot of books set in Mississippi, so I was thrilled when you set The Evergreen Bride there in our home state! Lovely book and setting, though I'm a bit partial. ;)

    I smiled my way through this post, because you've nailed the emotions that came along with the contest experiences I've had.

    Back to The Evergreen Bride, I love the heroine's goal of seeing a white Christmas. I was born in Virginia during a blizzard, but we moved back to MS when I was 5 mos., so I always heard about lots of snow and white Christmases (and, of course, I watched the movie humpteen dozen times), but I don't remember ever seeing a white Christmas until just a few years ago. We woke up to a world of white, bundled up, and went out to build a snowman, snow-wife and snowdog before we could think about breakfast. We even had staged snowball fights. It was hilarious and a great memory-maker! :)

  69. Ahhhh contests. Great post, Pam. You nailed it! I'm hanging out at #11. From the way the industry is moving and changing these days some days I think maybe I should make myself nice and comfy here because it might be awhile ;-)

  70. Pam,

    Loved the "Contest Road" you described. I waffle back and forth - love contests, hate contests, love get the idea.

    Congrats on The Evergreen Bride!

  71. Pam, I love the pictures you put in your interview. Looks like a peaceful place to live. I live in Laurel and was hoping to see you this weekend in Meridan, but I have to babysit!

  72. Thanks for this post, Pam. It was very timely for me, as I just got my first ever contest results back yesterday. You're right--one judge loved and the other pretty much wanted to torch it :)There's always next time!

  73. Elizabeth -- Prayer and then go with your gut!

    I'm reminded of two instances that fit this scenario quite well...

    Several years ago a well-known author emailed me out of the blue and asked if I had a certain story-line. I replied that I did. She then told me that she'd judged it a couple of times and that it was vastly improved from the first time to the second time. Then she went on to say that she had some advice for me and that if I took it, the story would sell. She felt the hero wasn't heroic because he came to take the heroine's land. She made suggestions on how to change that.

    I tried, I really did. I tried rewriting it making him softer, but I couldn't. That book -- Claiming Mariah -- ended up a CBA Bestseller! :)

    But her suggestions were NOT lost. I credit her with making me dig deeper and giving Slade a backstory that makes the reader totally sympathetic with him and giving him redeeming qualities.

    When it comes to an editor making requests for changes, I'd be even more willing to do that. Nothing is wasted.

  74. Natalie, so glad you enjoyed Evergreen! idea of a white Christmas is making hot chocolate while everybody else goes out to play. Granted, the few times we've had anything close to "white" was about 1/4 inch thick, so if it was several inches of fluffy stuff you could enjoy without nearly killing yourself, I might be induced to change my mind and play in it.

  75. Ahhh, KARA! #11????? That's not a bad place to be. You are so close. Now's the time to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry, target your contest entries very carefully, and keep submissions out there...

    Btw, I didn't mention submissions, but by #11, that's something that you're probably doing... and build your stable of writing projects.

    Congrats on making this far along the journey. Even if you get snowed in (since we're talking about SNOW! :) use that time to write more proposals, more books, flesh out series ideas. Then when the ask, "What else do you have?" you will be ready! :)

  76. Edwina, I agree, there is a love/hate relationship with contests. I'm not as familiar with contests now as I was 5-10 years ago.

    There are many reasons that I loved contests, and several have already been mentioned, but probably the biggest and most important was that many houses would only look at agented submissions or if they'd met you at a conference.

    Once I started finalling consistently, I was able to get my work in front of several agents and editors every year. Just getting my name on their radar was a feather in my cap.

    Connections are klutch! :)

  77. Oh, man, sorry that you can't make it, Patsy! :( You should come out on December 13th to Inn The Oaks B&B in Decatur from 9:30-11, or to the Lifeway store in Meridian from 2-4pm. I'll be there with Beth White and Patricia Bradley. Gonna be fun! :)

  78. Congratulations, Jessica!! :) How exciting. I remember getting my first contest entries back. I scoured the pages for every tiny bit of encouragement, and can STILL remember the judges' words to this day...

    "Some nice turns of phrase" "Beautifully said"

    It didn't matter that I'd scored in the bottom 25 percentile because I had written a beautiful phrase.... AHHHHHH!!! :)

    Let the comments stew for a few days. Eventually the ones that are right for your story will float to the top and you'll be so excited to make the changes. Smiling for you! Your first contest scores back. What FUN! :)