Sunday, August 25, 2013

They're So Talking About You: What I've Learned From Contests. Or At Least Some Of It.

So the lovely Brenda Drake's super awesome contest known as Pitch Madness is upon us again and I've once again thrown my hat in the ring. Well, I threw my MCs' hats in the ring, but they're still there. There's a hashtag on twitter that all of us are glued to. Well, most of us are. I'll admit I have it up while writing and researching things. And that tag's what made me want to write this post.

As authors we sometimes allow things to mess with us. Dahlia Adler wrote a great post on the headgames we play. It's a must read because not only did Dahlia nail it, but her words have a way of just making you feel better. Believe me when I say this woman has a gift! And as for those headgames, none are played more than during contests. Contests make us excited and nervous and every little thing can make us feel like we're on a roller coaster of emotions. I've been there and I'm still there. But I've also learned a few things along the way and below I'm sharing just a few myself and a couple of friends have felt at some point in time.


So you're following the hashtag and they're tweeting out about the slush/entries. They're talking about mistakes in entries. Advice is being given. They've found something super awesome and they're in love! Every little thing said has you on the edge of your seat and you're certain it's all about you. The longer it goes, the more you're heart's racing and you're stomach's tightening. You read every tweet wondering if it's about you.

Here's the thing, it's most likely not. With so many entries in their inbox, there's a very slim chance that they're referring to you. I know it may seem like it, especially when it sounds so close to what you sent in. But it's not. And if it is, there's nothing you can do about it now but learn from the mistake if it is one. Reading the tag is fun and you can make wonderful friends there. I personally have made a few really cool ones on contest tags. But not every little vague tweet is about you, so relax and have fun. And don't forget to listen to that advice they're tweeting because it may come in handy in the future!


Hundreds of people have sent in their entry and you're one of them. You've polished and polished everything required and you're positive it's a hit. You read every tweet and follow ever person involved. The big reveal day comes when the chosen ones are announced and.... You didn't make it. Nope! Sorry. Maybe next time.
You re-read the list. You've had to have missed your name. But you haven't. You know you did everything right. You're entry was perfect and agents would surely snatch it up. What could this mean? You think about it until it hits you. You're a horrible author and you should just stop writing period.

I'm not saying you can't be bummed. That's perfectly understandable. What I am saying is that you don't suck. Think about how many people entered and how many could be picked. Yes, it would've been wonderful to be a winner, but you knew going in that the chances of not winning were high. With so many amazing entries including yours, the judges had to pick what they felt was right for their contest. That doesn't mean you're terrible and should just stop. Your word count may have been too high/low or your genre was packed with a lot of amazing entries and they had to let A LOT of you go. That's okay. Just say thank you to the hosts and to anyone who has offered advice and keep chugging along. And remember, you don't suck just because you didn't make it in this time. Plus, there's always twitter pitch parties and the next contest. Heck! You may even have a new MS that could be the one!


Yay! You were one of the chosen few and agent(s) are coming to read your entry. You just know this is it and you're about to start a wonderful relationship with your dream agent. You wait and wait for something, anything to be put on your post. Then the contests comes to a close and your post is sadly still empty or only has a, "This isn't right for me," on it. You're heart sinks and tears fill your eyes. They didn't like you and they think you're book's a train wreck. That can only mean one of two things: Shelve your book for good or never write again.

As I've said above, not getting any love doesn't mean you just stop writing. It doesn't mean the agent(s) don't like you. It doesn't even mean your book's horrible. It just means it wasn't right for the agent(s) or the market. It's up to you if you want to shelve your book if you've receive a lot of rejections or feedback that's made you lose that loving feeling. It's your book and I'm not here to tell you what to do with it. What I will say is to give it a chance. Tweak it if you've received feedback on how to make it better. If you don't want to keep putting it out there, then work on something new. In the end, have yourself a cry and eat some ice cream. Then dust yourself off and get back to writing. Just don't give up because no matter what you think someone thinks about your work, it should never make you stop doing what you love!


Contests are fun and you can really learn a lot from them. Just don't let every little thing get to you because that'll only drive you crazy. Read the tags and follow the blogs. Take any advice you're given, (sometimes with a grain of salt.) Just whatever you do, don't allow it to make you stop writing! And if you're doing Pitch Madness, until the top 60 are announced feel free to be a little nervous/excited. Just also keep working on your next book because either way it'll come in handy once the contest is done.

Are you doing Pitch Madness? If so let me know in the comments. I've got my pom-poms ready to cheer all of us on no matter what happens! Until next time, happy reading and writing everyone!


  1. Jamie, wonderful post (and a short break from my obsessive following of the #)LOL.
    Great advice, you nailed it. Here's hoping we won't be eating any ice cream...unless it's on some chocolate cake. :)

  2. I can't believe you just wrote this! I sent an email to a USA friend about this very theme not 1 hour ago and then I see this Blog Post on Twitter...
    Seriously though, great post :)

  3. Great post! Good luck in Pitch Madness. I've only read a few of your chapters, but I've loved what I've read and can't wait to read more!

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  5. Yep. I've entered. Great post. Stay excited but don't quit writing. Remember, it only takes one yes.

  6. This post is very timely for me, and for an overseas friend I was just emailing with (Hi, Nik!)! The biggest thing I have learned this entire summer is to take whatever feedback you can get from people in the know, because you don't always get any. It just makes the feedback we do get that much more meaningful. And I like how you write to take the advice "sometimes with a grain of salt", because the person reading your submission, whoever it is, may get you completely, or may not get you at all. We are all human, and none of us are wired the same. But I try to find something to grab with any feedback I get, even if it's knowing that the other person just didn't get me. We are all in this together!

  7. Yes, I must admit I entered and I've been following the # all day. But, I've also been writing, so if I don't make it this time, I'll be ready for the next one!!
    Great post and we'll all hold hands and sing Kumbayah until the 60 winners are posted.

  8. Awesome post! I'm doing Pitch Madness, it's nervewracking stuff.

  9. Great post.

    I've thrown my hat into the ring for this one. I am revising my second novel while waiting for the 6th of Sept but the hashtag is a procrastinator's dream :)

  10. Spot on advice and good luck with Pitch Madness!

  11. Thanks so much for the post. Great advice.
    Good luck to everyone who entered.

  12. Great post. I always keep in mind what a professor said in his last lecture (it's a famous one but I cant remember his name). He said something along the lines: walls aren't there to keep YOU out, they're there to keep out the people who don't really want it.
    Brilliant words! It's because of these words that I keep going on after rejections. These words, and great posts like this :)

  13. Fun read, thanks! I'm in Pitch Wars and keep checking the # for that one (I see you wrote this re Pitch Madness - But Brenda Drake has referred us to this great post).