Monday, July 23, 2012

How an Online Writing Contest Brought Me to Tears

First off, I want to say how wonderful it is when an “author who’s made it” decides to give back to all of the unpublished authors in the world.  Whether it’s through critiques, kind words, or blog contests. It's in these types of situations where people like me can receive feedback on their work, network with other writers, and get work in front of agents they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to work with.   These writers rock and are in no way  responsible for what brought me to tears.
You see, these contests are super high stress because most of them only allow a certain number of entries.  And as the control freak, high energy person that I am, these contests bring out the worst in me.

Imagine a contest with a 50 entry max limit where hundreds of people are trying to enter.  For example, when I tried to make it into the Writer’s Voice contest in May, I counted down the time in seconds until I could hit send on my entry.   I was all set.  Everything pre-filled on the entry form. ALL. I. Had. To. Do. Was. Hit. Send.  The second it was the right time, my computer chose that exact moment to go all funky on me and within minutes the first entry window to enter was full.  I was yelling at the computer, my heart beating like I'd run a marathon, and my hands were violently shaking.  All over a timed contest just to make it into a contest!
Well on this journey of mine, I am determined to leave no stone un-turned.  So I’ve been “trying” to make it into any and every contest I find.  And the reason I say “trying” is because I can never seem to get it done without some sort of technical snafu that ultimately causes a hysterical I-only-have-seconds-to-figure-this-out freak out session.  Something always goes wrong!  My computer freezes, I somehow manage to be over the character limit, I don’t format my pitch correctly, etc.  It’s like some higher power is determined not to let me into these contests without having a nervous breakdown first. 

So, let's get to how I was reduced to tears by such a contest....  It began at 0900. The contest only accepted the first 25 entries and I just HAD to be one of them.  

I knew days before that Brian, Thomas, and I would be driving on a highway at the entry time.   So before the contest, I got ready.   I filled out the email, followed the guidelines, and saved it as a draft.  I quadrupled check everything! By this point I should have been a seasoned pro at online contests, but boy was I wrong. 

Everything was set. All I needed to do was hit send.  Easy as pie, right? I set multiple alarms counting down to the 0900 mark.  At 0830, I made Brian pull into a Starbucks so that I was 100% certain I would have cell reception. I had thought of everything!

0900 rolls around, I hit send…automatic rejection. WHAT? WHY?  
I received an automated response...I'm over the 250 character count.  WHAT?!  I followed all the rules!! It's only 250 words, I promise!

I keep hitting send like a deranged lunatic. 
Email goes through…
Why was I over the character limit you ask? Come to find out, I was using “rich text” instead of “plain text” and there were invisible characters adding to my entry.   If you’re anything like me, right now you’re thinking Huh?  Seriously, these kinds of problems always happen to me.   Needless to say, I was just completely frustrated, exhausted—DEFEATED.  I keep feeling like I I'm screaming, begging to be let through the proverbial publishing door, but no one ever seems to be on the other side. 

Cue the tears….
They didn’t last too long. (Brian can attest to that)  I had my little pity party, but then decided Screw the Door! I’ll just have to go find a window somewhere….


  1. 10/18/12: I decided to come back and read my last experience with online agent contests because I'm about to host my first. This time I'll be on the other side of things and so far the experience is already completely different.

    I can only hope the writer's who enter mine, don't have the technical breakdowns I had. Hopefully, your experiences are filled with success because that DOES happen! I've read a lot of agent success stories that begin with such a contest.

    In hindsight, it shouldn't have been such a big deal as it was for me to make it into these contests, but that's easier to see now. So my advice is to try not to stress about them as much as I clearly did. A few really great agents requested my manuscript from online pitches, so my experiences weren't all bad. In fact, I met some really great friends through them.

    The key is to not get too stressed. I know that's easier said than done, but I promise it's good advice. :)

  2. Yes, you are right. It is much easier said than done. Because I'm sure everyone who has ever entered a contest has felt the same way as you. ME DID:( Been there, done that! Twice. I am seriously looking forward tot his contest. It's very intriguing and creative. Too bad pics can't be included of our characters costumes...mawhahahahaha....Boo!
    Thanks for sharing your experiences with contests and for leaving behind a positive comment that there is always hope behind other doors!

  3. Thanks for sharing this. You're not alone in those DUH moments. I'm relieved there are others like me, others who've gone on to succeed. :)

  4. I just have to tell everyone visiting this blog how awesome Kim is!

    Kim, I was already planning to come sing your praises on your blog, but after reading your post, I'm even more impressed. I'm the writer who sent you my Pitch Madness submission almost two hours late because I though 12 PM meant midnight, not noon. And that mistake came even though I stress about these contests just like you do. (Before the contest started, I had an elaborate, two-tiered voting process for the best of my different pitch-versions for all my friends.) Then I missed the submission window! I had to tell everyone that I'd missed it and felt so stupid! I sent the pitch in anyway from the side of pool where my daughters were taking swim lessons, got my automatic email rejection and then realized my phone had formatted everything wrong and deleted stuff anyway. The next day, I got your email that you were going to consider me EVEN though my submission was late AND missing major details (like my name). Reading your post here, I realize why you were so kind. But still, it's such a headache to make a special expection for someone. I really, really appreciate it!

    Kim, I'm at nikkitrionfo dot com. If you need someone for blog tours or anything, I'd love to volunteer. I don't have a large following, but anything you want, I'm there to help. Thank you again for proving that "the other side of the wall" is human, too!

    1. Hi Nikki! This is the sweetest comment EVER. I have no've brought me to tears. People like you (and me) are why I got involved in contests in the first place. I know how tough they are and what it feels like to think everyone and everything is rooting against you. And sometimes...contests can make us feel this way. I had hoped by getting involved that I could help make the contest process a little easier. So it means so much to me that you stopped by to tell me just that.

      So happy you made it into Pitch Madness. I wish you the best of luck n everything you do!

  5. Joining an online contest can be really tricky. Somebody could beat you to the punch, and you wouldn't know how it happened. But I think you don’t have to feel defeated about it. This is where the real challenge begins. You have to be proactive and set your focus on your goals. At the very least, those challenges can make you feel motivated, handle the pressure pretty well, and become resolute on following your dreams. Thanks for sharing!

    Lucius Cambell @ Skild