I wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t want to go here. I warned myself, “Self,” I said, “it took you 4 years to get over that contest judge’s slaughter of the first 25 pages of your manuscript.”
Contests. Shudder! Barf! I can see me holding the first 25 pages of a completed manuscript in one hand, while my other hand is pointing a water pistol at my head.
Yet, I have good things to say about contests. Judges with industry knowledge, aspiring and published authors, readers/fans of a certain genre judge and critique a manuscript, rate such things as story premise, or hook, using, perhaps, a points system that might range from 1-Below Average (meaning: This really sucks), to 5-Excellent (congratulations, you might be published in 20 years) with space to comment, offer insight, or, in my case, gut you like a fish.
As a contest judge, I was honored to read manuscripts that became winning entries, then later, published books. I always sought to offer feedback that the author might find helpful. I never came upon an entry, scene, set-up or hook that I ever declared “just gross!”
Lucky me, I landed myself a hanging judge more than happy to label a scene in my entry as such.
The scene? The heroine showed up unannounced at the hero’s office to speak to him personally. To annoy her, he kept her waiting for HOURS. Irritated, and out of patience, when the hero finally summoned her to his office, she bolted to the ladies room because she badly needed to pee. “That is just gross!” wrote the judge.
I couldn’t even get to the other score sheets, because this judges comments just got worse, and worse. Really bad. Sounds stupid, but I cried. I believed I could no longer write, that this was a hobby, and not my heart’s passion.
Fast forward–4 years back to the future; got a degree, got a job, and was torn by my passion for writing, something that still took up a lot of time, with little tangible gain.
One day my husband took pity on me. Might have been when I was teary-eyed staring at a half-page screen, and pressured by other more important stuff to do, like water my violets. He sat with me and asked; “if you knew you would never make a dime writing, would you still do it?” Of course the answer was yes.
Years later, I went on to read the other judges comments. This is what they said: “This author is close to being published.” “Can’t wait to read this!” One published judge even gave me her phone number in case I wanted to go over her comments in depth.
While I made good things happen in those 4 years that were non-writing related, I wish I’d read these judges score sheets first. I’d never have lost 4 years of my life denying my writing passion, over one judge that had issues I can’t even begin to guess, because I can think of a thousand other things more “gross” than a heroine needing to pee.