- Sunday night I watched the season finale for Celebrity Apprentice. Sixteen proven celebrities, from the very well known to the lesser lights, competed for the opportunity to win money for charity. Fifteen proven winners turned into "losers" over the course of several weeks. In the end, Donald Trump chose Brett Michael as the winner.
Any time we enter a contest, numbers predict we will lose. Yet it's always hard.
One of the big contests for Christian writers, the Genesis contest for unpublished novelists sponsored by American Christian Fiction Writers, announced finalists a few weeks ago. My local ACFW chapter had finalists last year and this; it makes me proud to be a part of such a great team!
(And speaking of finalists, Sandi Rog of Book Doctor was a finalist last year!)
But five finalists per genre leaves scores of people who received no satisfaction from the contest beyond a score sheet with comments from judges. It hurts not to win.
It's excruciating to receive comments that suggest you made a mistake to try.
So that's the question I'm addressing today: What can you do with the not-so-good and downright-awful comments you received?
Here are some tried-and-true ways I've discovered for turning disappointments into positives.
- Do nothing for as long as it takes to gain perspective. When I first receive a response from an editor, I zero in on one statement, good or bad; I rarely get the true gist of their comments upon first reading. So, let it set before you take it out again.
- Congratulate yourself for entering! You took a leap of faith.
- Consider that contest entry fee as a paid critique.
- Now go back to the comments.
- What was your score? Anything over 50% says you got more right than you did wrong. As agent Terry Burns told our OCFW group on Saturday, "A lot of people write good books. You need to write an excellent book." You may be (probably are) in the good-but-not-yet-excellent category.
- Don't let negative comments outweigh the positive. Put the positive comments in a "warm fuzzies" file. "She said I wrote natural-sounding dialogue." Breathe it in. Accept it. Give yourself peptalks: I can write great dialogue!
- As for the comments, if all of the judges make the same comment or give you the same low score, there's a problem.
- If only one judge makes a comment, take it or leave it.
- If 2 judges agree? Something about it isn't working. Look, then look again.
- The judges' comments may suggest they don't understand what you were trying to say. The problem isn't their understanding--the problem is with your communication. Is it a regional expression? Can the character's words or gestures be interpreted more than one way?
- Dig into your resources to develop your weak areas.
Above all--need I say it?--keep on writing!