Monday, August 1, 2016

Caught in the Contest Hype

It's that time of year again, where writerly folks are all abuzz about PitchWars. I mean sure it's exciting, if you get picked you get a mentor, some awesome manuscript notes, and access to an amazing list of agents reading your submission. It sounds like a dream come true, a match made in heaven, the stars aligning but wait...

Yes I said BUT

and this is a HUGE ENORMOUS BUT,

If that's all you're focused on, you're missing the point of pitchwars and writing contests in general. Let's be honest--and not to belittle PitchWars and other writing contests because I think they have great value to them--you can do everything PitchWars does for you on your own.

1) You can find an awesome beta reader (or several in fact) to help you shine up your manuscript.
2) You can edit and get additional feedback.
3) And you can query most if not all of the agents in contests and more on top of that.

So what do you need PitchWars and other contests for if you can do all this stuff on your own?

Networking - Writing is lonely. It's really easy to get lost and feel isolated, like you're the only one who has gone through this. But you aren't. Many others have. And contests are filled with mentors, hopefuls, and other industry people that are great to meet and interact with. Who knows, you might find your next CP match, an awesome beta reader, or some amazing fellow nerds like yourself. So get out there and talk to folks.

Editing tips - Contests almost always share tips and talk about ways to shine up your manuscripts. You can learn a lot of common mistakes to look for and make your manuscript stand out even more. I've picked up a ton of editing tips that I now use on all my work. So use this time to learn and grow as a writer.

Feedback - In many contests you will get direct feedback on a query, pitch, and/or opening pages. Use that to help hone in your work and make it pop from the first words. If you hook a reader right away, odds are agents will want to see more too. And if the contest doesn't directly offer feedback go back to the networking and find some new people to swap with to get that feedback.

Industry Wisdom - Many contests have writers that are further along in the writing process. Use them as a resource to learn about what comes next. What's it like to have an agent? go on sub? use a publicist? how do royalties work? etc. There's a whole huge writing world out there with tons of previous lessons learned, listen to the advice and gain a valuable perspective on the industry.

Reading material - Looking for new books to add to your to read pile? Looking to explore more in a genre? Need some research material? Contests are a great way to find new reading material. Whether it's the contest hosts/mentors' books, the books the participating agents are repping, or suggestions you get from fellow participants, contests are a great way to find tons of great reading material.

So the next time you find yourself biting your nails over a contest and freaking out about whether or not you'll get picked, take a step back. Look at the larger view of the contest. Get to know the participants, learn some new tips and tricks, and just have fun. Forget about who gets picked and who doesn't. Utilize all the opportunities that are right in front of you. And when you do, you'll be a winner whether you're picked or not.

6 comments:

  1. You make some excellent points. Networking in any form is great for writers, so why not use contests to do it?

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    1. exactly! It's one way to get in some seriously awesome networking. I've some amazing writers participating in contests.

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  2. ^All good points. Having been out of the Twitter loop, I managed to miss those, and somehow got through all of it on my own. (Well, with a little help from my cherished beta readers.) Kudo to all who put themselves forward in this very publicly exposed forum.

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    1. aren't beta readers the best? It's so good to have someone to talk to about this stuff :)

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  3. Loved this, Jamie! Perfect examples of how you can win all around!! (-:

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    1. Thanks :) I like when everybody wins :D

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