Year End Check

It’s hard to believe the end of 2011 is so close. As I look back over the year I decided to check my promise to myself. 

Remember at the beginning of the year I made myself a promise – to submit to at least one contest per month.  I can readily admit that I did not submit every month, but I did submit to multiple contests some months. Does this even out? I don’t know, but I can say I made a valiant effort to do what I set out to do.
So what did I accomplish?
1.      I entered 16 contests
2.      I submitted 1-6 manuscripts each time
3.      I started a blog
4.      I joined Twitter
5.      I update my accounts regularly
6.      I wrote 2 new novels this year – one during the summer months and one for NaNoWriMo
7.      I submitted to 3 agents and 2 editors
8.      I attended the RWA conference in New York

What did I gain?
I finaled in three contests and am eagerly awaiting the results from the last one – the Golden Hearts. I know this will not come until next year, but I am confident I will perform better because of all the contests I entered this year.  From each contest I gained the expertise of authors from all over the country. They read my first 20-50 pages and gave me insightful critiques. These critiques helped me work out some of the kinks in my manuscripts.  If you send out the same book to each contest and you get similar results, similar responses, then you know what needs to be worked on. I value their comments, whether painful or glowing, all of them help me become a better writer.  I hope I was able to incorporate many of these changes into my manuscripts.  Several judges offered websites or books to assist me. 

Some people do not like contests. They feel the judges are too brutal. Some writers have had bad experiences with judges who tore their work apart. I have not had that experience.  Can I say without too much pride that I scored well in every contest? Some scores were higher than others.  Some were just a point or two off from the finalists. There were a few times where the scores were not fantastic, but at least none were bad. None were circling the drain and making me feel like a terrible fraud.  Every critique re-affirmed my commitment to writing.

The most important thing I learned – to believe my work is good.  Not just good, but great! And I learned to listen. I learned that every comment was done to help me. I learned that when you enter a contest, you put your heart out there. It reminded me of when I was in high school and the junior or senior prom was coming. I did not get asked, but I did not let it get me down. I invited 5 guys to the prom. Okay, I was turned down all of them, but I did not let it bring me down. I knew there was nothing wrong with me, but that these guys were not the right ones for me. I probably would have had a terrible time with any of them. I was saved from a terrible time. Everything that happens to us in life is a lesson. Sometimes we learn patience. I was patient and when I did meet my future husband, it was the right time. And thank goodness I was patient – the man of my dreams, the hero from every romance novel I ever read, walked through my door and when he kissed me, nothing else mattered.

What’s my point?
I know I tend to ramble but my point is – I wasn’t meant to final in every contest. I was meant to learn from each rejection. I was meant to hone my craft and polish my manuscripts up even more. Do I feel they are better? Absolutely. For years, I would send my manuscripts to editors and agents. I would get the form letter saying “no thank you” but never with a reason why. I feel these contests gave me those reasons I lacked all those other times.  When I first joined my writer’s group, I met several writers who entered contests religiously. They called themselves ‘contest whores’.  While it seemed derogatory at the time, I understood what they were doing. Unfortunately at the time, I did not have the funds to pay for all those contests.  This time I did, so I dumped hundreds of dollars into contests to gain a new perspective.  Each month, I spent between $100 to $200 dollars on entry fees.  That’s a whopping sum, isn’t it? When you add it all up at the end of the year – it adds up to quite a pretty penny.

What else did I promise myself this year?
To attend at least one writer’s meeting per month.  Have I accomplished this? Yes, I have and in some cases, I have gone to both. I read to my group who gave me invaluable critiques. I have joined with two other writers and formed my own smaller critique group. This has probably been the most valuable change all year. By sitting down with my fellow writers, I have been able to talk about my writing and what works. I also can hear what they say, question it, explain my reasons, and finally see the light at the end of the tunnel on what’s working or not and how to fix it.

I attended the RWA conference in New York. I made connections with so many wonderfully, talented writers. I met agents and editors. I passed out my business cards and spoke to people about writing every day. At the end of each day, I accomplished exactly what I hoped – I met more writers and put my name out there. The publicity gamut worked. I started my blog and joined Twitter. I have my facebook page working for me as well.

Next step – publication. The question remains – do I go the route of epublishing or standard paperback publishing?  Over the next two weeks, I will analyze which direction I wish to go and how I will do it.
Here are the steps which will not change
1.      Submit to occasional contests (no need to do so many)
2.      Give my book to a published author who offered to read it and give me a thorough critique
3.      Continue to attend my meetings
4.      I am working on my group’s contest as contest coordinator, no less
5.      Attend my group’s conference – Chicago-North’s Spring Fling in April
6.      Update my blog, twitter, and Facebook accounts regularly
New steps –
1.      Create a webpage
2.      Pick a small conference to attend
3.      Send my manuscripts to agents on a regular basis
4.      Submit to editors
5.      HAVE FUN doing it!!!!
So, how did you do on your resolutions, OOPS, I mean promises?

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