Contests And The Writer’s Soul

What is it with us writers? We can’t get enough of grades and school that we sign up to be graded on our writing…..

Yes, Yes, I know that we need feedback and the opportunity to get our work in front of editors and agents, but it takes courage.

I’m not a stunt woman, I’m scared of heights and I can’t even kill a spider, so how do I get the guts to lay my work out there for others to see?

It isn’t easy, that’s for sure. And the days waiting for the results are excruciating. But this is a great opportunity for you to get the kind of feedback you need.

Finding The Courage To Hit Send

*Submit your best work. You can feel good about hitting send, when you know that you can do more to make your submission better. It can’t be perfect, because no one is perfect. Just your best at that given time in your writing journey should be reflected in your submission.

*Get your work critiqued. Ask your writing buddies to read through your submission and help to make any recommendations. Sometimes we are too close to our manuscript and a fresh set of eyes helps.

*Follow the submission guidelines. You want your work to be noticed for the right reasons, not the glaring lack of correct formatting.

*Trust God with your dream. If God has given you the dream to write, trust that he will give you what you need to grow as a writer. If you are focused on trusting him, instead of yourself, it will bring peace.

How To Interpret The Results:

*Don’t Panic. If the score isn’t what you hoped for, take a deep breath. That doesn’t mean you are a horrible writer, it just means you have a few things to work on. The goal of contests isn’t just to win, it is to get feedback. So if you got feedback, you achieved your goal.

*Cry Today. Edit Tomorrow. If you are discouraged about your feedback, take a day to cry, rail at the sky or eat Ben & Jerry’s. The next day, pull yourself up off the floor and get to work on editing realizing that this will make you a better writer.

*Read and Analyze. The beauty of contests, is that we have multiple judges who score our manuscripts.

~Make a short list of the comments in abbreviated form.

~When more than one judge has the same comment for feedback that is a good indication that you should work on that component.

~Stay true to your voice. Sometimes the feedback you receive is more a reflection of whether the judge liked your voice, so be aware of that as you read.

~Consider the experience level of the judges if that information is available. The more experience, the more credible the feedback.

*Edit the commonalities. Start first by editing the comments that you agree with the most and the ones that have more than one judge with that opinion. These are the strongest threads you could add to your work, since it seemed the most important to the readers.

*Pray over additional changes. Many times judges give feedback that is exactly opposite of each other. When this happens, ask a few critique buddies what they think. Pray over these changes before you make them.

*Post the positive.  Take the positive feedback from the contest and write it on a note card, laminate it and put it in a visible place (or make a flip book). If you do this for each contest, when you are feeling low there is something you can look at to draw encouragement.

There are several great writing contests that help us become better writers. Two of my favorites are the Frasier ( and the Genesis Contest (

What is your favorite writing contest?


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

8 thoughts on “Contests And The Writer’s Soul

  1. Pat Trainum says:

    Every year I say I’m not going to enter another writing contest…then the Frasier and the Genesis rolls around and I remember the help I received from both contests that have made my wip much better…As you can guess, I’m entering both again. lol

  2. Wonderful, wonderful post, Michelle! My primary purpose in entering writing contests is for the critique, the professional feedback. Writing without the feedback of a local Christian critique group makes that essential for my growth as a writer.

  3. I haven’t ever entered a fiction contest, but am entering both the Genesis and the Frasier. I am so looking forward to getting an honest perspective of where I am at as a writer and what my strengths and weaknesses are!

  4. Amy Hahn says:

    Nice tips Michelle! I always feel like entering some contests is similar to standing naked in front of a firing squad…eeks. I’ve had plenty of help and plenty of comments which make me terrified of touching the keyboard for weeks. I always learn something, though.
    One of the things that has helped me grow as a writer is to actually be a judge in some contests. It also helps me digest my scores.

  5. Michelle Lim says:

    It is really intimidating to put yourself out there sometimes, but always worth it. Judging contests is a great idea!

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