Monday, February 15, 2010

The Real Value of competitions

As the writing competition season gathers momentum it's timely to pause and consider the value of these competitons.

Some writers insist feedback is a reason to enter.
Others insist competitions get your name out there, although as most entries are anonymous I haven't quite figured out how this works.
Yet still more insist having to work to a deadline is good practise.

So what do I think?

Personally I consider competitons a blend of all three. It's great to get feedback especially when you have a knowledgeable judge who can offer insightful and constructive criticism.

And this is the big if associated with all competitons.
Judging is very subjective.
And while some judges do give valuable feedback and constructive criticism I've found other judges can provoke a crisis of confidence.
A recent contest highlighted this for me. Two out of three judges were very negative in their comments.
One judge going as far as to say my heroine was scizophrenic and my hero a jerk. Ouch.
One judge was honest enough to say she didn't enjoy my type of book, making me wonder just why she was judging it, and honest enough to point out valid flaws and constructive ways overcome them. 

Over the years I've found the most helpful and constructive criticism has come from readers and not fellow writers. The most negative comments received have all come from published writers.
Something I find more than a little dismaying. Published writers should be able to recognise the rough and often rocky road to publication and temper their comments with a sound dose of reasoning.
I know when I've helped judge competitons I've always looked for the strengths in that writer's work and suggested ways for positive improvement.

So will I continue to enter competitons?
Of course.
Even negative comments have the upside of making a writer very critical in appraising their own work.

And as I prepare my entry for the upcoming Clendon competition also known as Finish The Damn Book I'm carefully going back over all the comments negative and positive and using them to hone my work to the highest professional standard.
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