What a Contest Can Do for You

ACFWACFW, Advice, Contests, tips, writing 2 Comments

by Lisa Kelley @LisaKelleyWrite

It’s time for unpublished authors like myself to enter the Genesis contest. I encourage you to go for it, but to approach it as a learning experience rather than a ticket to publication.

Even though I’m the 2023 Romance winner, I’d enter again this year if I had a finished manuscript. I’m competitive, so it’s hard to sit out, but since last September, I’ve focused on making additional revisions based on my agent’s feedback. She wanted more words, and adding words has been harder than I thought. I’m almost there.

Here’s what I’ve learned by entering contests since 2020. The Genesis contest is an excellent way to gauge how your manuscript is perceived by others. It’s important to know if you’ve written a story where readers like your characters, or at least care enough about them to want to keep reading. Genesis gives you feedback to help you create characters readers will root for and stories they will not want to put down.

The contest is a good way to see if you’re making fixable mistakes. Are you showing or telling? Are you head-hopping? Do you have too much backstory in the first chapters? Is the story compelling enough to keep people reading? You need to know this. However, be aware that not every judge will offer suggestions on how to fix such problems. If they provide examples, be grateful for them. Consider their feedback and look for resources in those areas. There are many craft books, classes, and conferences like the national ACFW that can help you hone your craft.

On the flip side, don’t think you have to agree with everything a judge says. If all of the judges are saying the same thing, then you should pay attention. They could be exposing a fatal flaw in your manuscript. If two out of three say the same thing, then you should consider what seems to be a problem. However, if only one judge scores you low, consider their feedback, but also consider that the judge may not be a fan of your genre. Judges are readers, and reading is subjective. We all have stories we prefer, and some authors’ voices appeal to us more than others. That could be the case with your story.

Contests help you see if you’re on the right track. @LisaKelleyWrite #ACFW #writing #writingcommunity #ChristianFiction Click To Tweet

Here’s an example: I entered a contest in the fall, not First Impressions, to see how appealing the two stories I’m working on are. Two judges scored one story in the 90s. The third judge gave me a 69. That’s quite a contrast. I read the comments from all the judges, and based on the feedback, I decided either the low-scoring judge was not a potential reader or the judge scored way too critically. It was disappointing because the low score probably explains why I didn’t make the final round. Still, I’m glad I entered. I think I’m on the right track with both stories.

Winning a contest is a fabulous feeling. I still can’t believe I won. And winning can get you noticed, but winning doesn’t guarantee you’ll land an agent or get a book contract. Your writing is what will get you both. This upcoming contest can help you learn if you’re on the right track with your story or if there are things you can do to make it stronger.

Don’t give up if you don’t win or even semi-final. It took me three years to make it past the semi-final stage. What you learn this year could make you a winner in 2025. Listen to the feedback, take what is useful, and keep writing.

Lisa Kelley is a 2023 Genesis Award winner in Romance. She writes contemporary stories to entertain and to show the beauty of Jesus. An Arkansas native, Lisa is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray with the Steve Laube Agency. She loves to travel and spend time with her family and friends.

Comments 2

  1. I’ve entered multiple contests over the past four years, and it’s always an encouragement when my submission finals or wins. Putting your work out there and receiving critique calls for a thick skin, which I’ve developed over time (and will continue to!).

    Congrats on your Genesis win, Lisa! It was an honor and joy to be there and experience it with you in person!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *