I feel like the wizard behind the curtain: I’ve been asked to judge a contest I entered. As I mentioned in Synopsis Re-visited, I entered my current project in the On the Far Side Contest. This is a yearly contest run as a fundraiser by the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FF&P) Special Interest Chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA). The cash rewards are nominal ($25) but, as with all these smaller contests, the real reward is judge feedback and a chance to get looked at by an editor or agent if you make the final round.
My wife is very active in our local RWA chapter and they also have a yearly contest, the Golden Rose, which starts June 1st. These contests are for unpublished authors and interestingly, the total number of entries isn’t huge- in the 60-100 range, split across 5 or more categories. What that means is that you are not competing against a lot of people for a chance to get seen by someone who might buy or represent your work. Now, you will probably also toss your work into the slush pile for a pro-view, but in the case of contests, judges of any round generally feel obligated to read the entire entry and usually to provide detailed comments. So in the first round, you get feedback from 3 or so judges, some of whom may be published, and if you make the second round, you get feedback from an agent or editor, and it is pretty much guaranteed to be actual feedback, instead of a “not for me”.
Coming back to the judging, these contests are run by writer’s organizations that contain a fair proportion of published authors, many of whom judge the contests, which is good. But 60 entries and 3 judges per entry is a lot of “judging bandwidth,” thus the perpetual need for judges and how I got asked to judge. I’ll be judging both the one I entered (but not my category, of course) and my wife’s chapter’s contest.
I must confess, it is weird being a judge. For one, I’m not published and for another, I’m judging romance written by women for women: so I get to critique gushing descriptions of the male romantic interest’s physique: yippee! Actually, I just skip that part. At least I’ve spent a year doing critters.org critiques so I don’t feel entirely unqualified and on the judge feedback form, I’m able to disclose that I’m not published so they can do what they want with my feedback. I still feel something like a fraud as a judge but hey, the contest folks know what they are getting with me.
As for the contests, there are categories for SRE (strong romantic elements) so it doesn’t have to be a pure romance novel to enter. Might be worth a look, depending on your project. I don’t think winning one of these goes very far as a writing credential but the feedback could help and it can’t hurt to have something to add to your resume if you make finalist or win.
- Are writing contests a good place to get noticed? (chipmacgregor.com)