Writing Contests: Keep calm and try, try again

Reposted from: January 28, 2106 [adrianaloveswriting.wordpress.com]

Writing contests are a fun mix of anticipation and terror. To enter, authors submit the first 20 to 30 pages of an MS, say a prayer, and prep for feedback. The top three in try againthe initial round make it to the final round, judged by agents and editors. That’s where the potential breakthrough is. Agents and editors can request your MS, which makes for a warmer market, an open door.

A thick skin is helpful when internalizing feedback. Translation: Expect no-holds-barred and sometimes conflicting advice. For example, here are comments I got from two first-round judges on the same entry:  (1) The prologue hooked me and is mesmerizing in its intensity; and (2) Prologue was confusing. Kill it. Start with chapter 1. 

As much as I wanted to ignore Judge Number Two, a ruthless review of the prologue revealed sections that might be confusing to readers. Cutting part of it helped in the final round.

I finalled in three contests in 2015, one for Historical Romance (a surprise, as it isn’t a romance novel), one for Women’s Fiction, and one for Romantic Elements—a category for fiction with a romantic storyline. One of the finals judges, an agent, invited me to submit a query when I’m ready. Yep, I did the happy dance when I got that e-mail from the contest coordinator. You betcha.

Still, when I’m ready is a terrifying phrase, right? Any aspiring author will tell you that. I thought my MS was ready five years ago and submitted three dozen queries to agents. That led to several partial and full reads in 2011 and 2012, but, alas, no offers of representation, so I put the MS away for two (sad) years. Last year, I decided to do a radical rewrite using feedback from critique groups and contests to check my progress.

2015 was an amazing year, and I’m going for it in 2016. It’s time to attend pitch conferences (more about that in a later blog) and to submit the polished MS to the interested agent later this spring. I’m taking my time this time. It’s better to get it right than to lose the opportunity  by acting before the MS is ready.

If you’re interested in contests and write romance, women’s fiction, or novels with a strong romantic theme, Romance Writers of America offers dozens of contests every year. Be brave and go for it!


  1. Mary

    June 15, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Good, as aways, Adriana.

  2. If you're comfortable, you're probably not growing | Adriana Allegri

    October 29, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    […] I joined three critique groups and started entering contests. I shook while I read each chapter aloud in my writing groups, smiled brightly at their feedback, […]

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