I did something unusual today.
No, not that!
I entered a writing contest.
Why is this earth-shattering news, you ask?
For starters, I’d only entered two writing contests before today, and that was over 15 years ago.
I’ll save everyone the drama.
Not very auspicious, I grant you.
Both previous writing contests were similar to this one: submit an unpublished chapter from a finished or unfinished manuscript and let three faceless, nameless, so-called “experts” rate, review, judge, jury and executioner it to a painful, ignominious death.
Which is exactly what happened 15 years ago.
I received the results from both contests, along with “insightful” comments from the judges. I’ve got them hidden somewhere in the house, probably in some deep, dark hole where dreams are sucked into never to see the light of day.
I bet you’re wondering what the judges had to say.
(Ok, maybe you aren’t, but I’m going to tell you anyway.)
Two out of three judges LOVED my writing.
They loved it.
Raved about my style, my descriptive flair, my excellent use of grammar, word choices and how I drew them in as readers instantly, made them care about my characters, and wished they could read more.
(You see where this is going, right?)
Hate is probably too weak a word.
My writing was eviscerated. A no-hold’s-barred deconstruction of what kind of misogynistic asshole I was because I had failed to include a single female character, or that I couldn’t construct two coherent sentences together, and, really, who the hell did I think I was trying to write a high-fantasy novel that didn’t include magic, dragons, strong female characters, weak male characters, the sun rising in the west, elves that looked like Peter Jackson (granted, before those awful movies aired), faeries that loved reverse harems, and so on and so forth.
(Yes, I exaggerated a little, but some of the above really is true. I’ll let you decide what.)
Needless to say, I was crushed.
My experience with writing contests is predictably limited. I had no desire to submit anything after that. After all, I was a wannabe, some fakir with no inkling of style, taste, the current genre demand, or the fact that I dared to submit a story about something as classic as a down-on-his-luck hero with his staunchest and oldest friend trying to avoid going on an adventure despite destiny’s call.
That story died.
I never touched it after that.
But that story didn’t die because I didn’t win either writing contest.
It died because I gave up on it.
I’ve unblogged a lot about not giving up, never giving in, pushing forward, chin up, head held high, eyes on the prize, I’m going to get an agent to love Bloodlines even if it kills me, so forth and etc.
This was just another example of that.
So, why submit a chapter now?
Why bother entering a contest after all these years?
Honestly, I have no idea.
The whimsy hit me, and I went with it.
I submitted the first chapter to Pieces of Eight, the working title for the sequel to Bloodlines.
Maybe I’m testing myself, to see if the fire truly died in my belly or if an ember endured?
Maybe it’s me tossing a line into the vast ocean of possibility, wondering if perhaps my writing has improved enough after 15 years that I won’t get torn a new one?
Or maybe I just felt like it.
Regardless, I did it.
Flicked a coin down the wishing well, knowing Sean Astin and his crew of Goon-dock adventurers weren’t down there to toss it back up.
Rolled the bones.
Took a big chance at the high school dance with a story that was ready to play.
I won’t learn whether I won until after June. Plenty of time to forget all about it.
And if I win?
But, if I lose?
Because I won simply by entering the contest.
I overcame a 15-year old fear because I realized that fear was worthless.
Because I know how to write.
And I know that I know how to write.
Which is more than enough for a poor shlub like me.
The judges may not like my style, my story, my characters, my grammar, my sassy or my inspiration.
But I do.
And it can’t ever hurt to try.
To go outside my shell.
To reach beyond my immediate space, stretch myself a little bit more, strive toward something else, yet never require its validation.
Oh, sure, I want the validation of readers on Amazon, Goodreads and any other review sites.
But that’s a razor-thin wire to walk.
And I walk it every time I put pen to virtual paper.
3 thoughts on “Contested”
Whatever the judges say Peter, I like your writing, a lot!!! For every one that doesn’t like it, I’m certain there are ten that would love it. At the end of the day, we can pick apart grammar and character choices but whether you like a piece of writing is a personal and subjective choice and there will always be those that don’t get it. But in that judge’s case, I’m pretty sure they were just plain wrong!!! 😉 Well done for braving the competition scene again, you are a worthy entrant my friend!!!
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It’s hard if not impossible to take a kick in the soul with equanimity. History is full of famous and successful people that were told by mid-level hacks, they didn’t have what it takes. A successful and popular trope in itself.
Sounds like #3 wouldn’t be pleased with anyone that he couldn’t live vicariously through, who would write what he obviously couldn’t. Has he marketed any successful fantasy or fairy porn?
Keep producing your craft and let the readers decide. No guarantees other than learning and adapting and in the end saying you gave it your best shot. No one can do better than that and many don’t even try.
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Never forget, I dream a dream to reality
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