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Friday, February 18, 2011

Welcome Tiffany Colter and Writing Contests

Please interact with our guest authors by answering the question they provide.


TIFFANY COLTER is a full-time Writer, Speaker and Writing Career Coach. In addition to judging writing contests she also works as coordinator of the Frasier Writing Contest. The Frasier is in its 2nd year and offers a scholarship to a writing workshop valued at $500 to the winner. Details are available at The Book Therapy Site.


Writing Contests
By Tiffany Colter

I've been a full time writer for more than eight years now and one thing that helped me early on in my writing was entering writing contests. Writing contests are a great way to help advance your writing career, but not all contests are created equal.

* Make sure when you decide to enter a writing contest that the one you enter offers some kind of feedback.

When I started writing I ran after the contests that offered big rewards and no feedback. I thought that the way I was going to become an author was by having my "Big Break". The reality of writing, however, is that getting your big break comes from taking a series of little steps. Getting feedback in writing contests helps you know which steps to take.

* Make sure some of the writing contests have editors and agents as final round judges

Notice I didn't say that every writing contest had to have this. Some contests are great simply for peer input, but as you improve in your craft getting your entries in front of judges can open the opportunity to get your work read by people who can help you to the next level of your writing career.

* Writing contests are highly subjective

This is another great, though highly painful, aspect of writing contests. You will have wildly different opinions from people sometimes. This can be very frustrating for someone who is trying to build a writing career. One person says they can't stand the way the main character snaps at people and another person says they love your saucy heroine. While coordinators try to make sure things are as fair as possible in judging, it won't always be equal.

But you know what? That is exactly how it will be when readers are evaluating you on the shelf. So this is just one more skill to develop as a writer: a thick skin.

* Entering and judging offer learning opportunities

Some of you may be writing contest veterans. You've entered many contests and feel there isn't much you don't know about this topic. That is when you move to the next level and you start entering and judging various writing contests. As an unpublished author some of your best opportunities to judge will be judging published books. My shifting to this other side of the score sheet you learn many things about craft and you become much more understanding when you get your own score sheet back.

* The bottom line is they help a writer

Many writers that I work with as a writing career coach got their foot in the door by doing well in a writing contest. It wasn't always that an editor or agent requested a manuscript, sometimes it was because they were able to use their strong finish in a query letter or editor/agent appointment. That was one thing that happened to me. When I met my agent the fact that I'd won a national writing contest for unpublished authors caused him to take an extra look at my writing.

But for all of this, I don't think I would have made any progress if I hadn't learned when to use the advice from a judge and when to throw it away. Understanding how to adjust a story without losing your voice is an important skill, and one every writer must master.

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Thank you, Tiff, for sharing with us today.

Guest Question: How do you use the comments from contests and critique partners to improve your writing? When do you choose not to use the comments?


Martha W. Rogers said...

Great information, Tiffany. I still need lots of help, so I evaluate what is said and who is saying it, and then I try it out. If it makes the story stroner, I use it. If not, I toss it. I've found that my editor does know what is best, but once in a while I don't want to change something, and if I have good reason, she'll let it stand.

Barbara Curtis said...

Thanks for this advice! My son and I both just entered a contest, so this will be great wisdom to also pass on to him.

Pegg Thomas said...

I think the key is to avoid being pulled out of your voice. We can all make changes and improve, but we don't all want to sound the same.