Tuesday, May 23, 2017

You Should Enter That Contest

by Nicole Evans (@thought_stained)

If you stumbled upon this blog post, you might be considering entering #ShoreIndie, a new contest for emerging Indie writers to win free editing and support through your writing journey. (Want more details? Check out this blog post here.) But you also might be feeling some apprehension or some nervousness thinking about submitting your work into a contest. You might still be on the fence whether that’s a risk you want to take.

As someone who has entered into three such contests and not won a single one, I want to encourage you to enter that contest.

A year ago, I was also in your shoes. Only battling in the query trenches a few times before and receiving rejection after rejection, I was wary about opening myself up to “failure” once more. I had doubts that my work was truly ready. I was nervous to send my work out to be critiqued, worried that the feedback would find it wanting and I’d be discouraged to keep trying. Before finally convincing myself to enter, I had this false idea that you could only gain something from Twitter-based contests if you won.

I was very happily mistaken.

The first contest I entered to was Pitch to Publication (#P2P16). The weeks before the submission window opened, I frantically edited my manuscript and the nerves continued to build, doubt constantly trying to convince me to not enter at all. In a rare moment of bravery (because submitting your work in any form is brave), I submitted my work and then voiced my worries in the feed that was buzzing with activity, my nerves and reservations echoed by other frantic writers ten times over.

And then, something really neat happened.

I started making friends. A community formed around both the contestants and other people who were stalking the feed—not to mention the kind editors who graciously gave their time and expertise. Then, once teasers like #tenqueries (or #SIsubs for #ShoreIndie) started popping up, I was hooked. Of course, I was trying to deduce whether it was my submission they were talking about, still hopeful that I could be chosen to win. But then I started noticing trends amongst the submissions: what worked and what didn’t, common mistakes and the things that made stories stand out. Without realizing it, I was made aware of so many different elements that, upon self-reflection, were weaknesses in my own manuscript. And that didn’t even include the direct feedback I got weeks later from the editors I subbed to!

When the winners were announced and I wasn’t chosen, I was still pretty bummed. Yet I was also pleasantly surprised. Between the casual conversations I had with editors, the friendships and connections I made with other writers and all the valuable information I learned being proactive in the community and interacting with the feed, I have no doubt that I came out of that contest a better writer—perhaps even proven when I made it to the shortlist with a different novel when I entered a contest this year, during #RevPit. But even more than that, I made connections and friendships that have led to more growth and opportunities that I never imagined I would be lucky enough to experience, especially only after a few minutes of bravery when submitting my work into the contest.

I still have plenty of room to grow. I still haven’t won any contests or gotten any requests in the querying trenches. But I’ve discovered one of the best ways to grow is to take risks and continue pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, especially with your writing. Because if you aren’t willing to risk it all for the stories of your heart, who will?

Still unsure about whether or not you should enter? Check out this post by author Melissa Caruso, where she explains other reasons and benefits of putting your work out there.

Nicole Evans is an unpublished fantasy and science fiction writer. When not writing about dragons or killing off her favorite characters, she is your typical mega nerd, book worm and tattoo junkie. Nicole is also a librarian, an intern for Naomi Davis of Inklings Literary Agency, and #ShoreIndie's contest assistant.

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