Monday, December 10, 2012

Guest Post: Alexia Chamberlynn talks Contests

You know that movie 27 Dresses, about the woman who’s been a bridesmaid 27 times? Well, that’s like me. Except with writing contests instead of dresses. And I didn’t get to hook up with James Marsden. But before you get confused about my random metaphors, let’s back up a bit.

I knew in my teens that I wanted to be a novelist, but I didn’t get serious about my writing until about four years ago. Ever since then, I’ve been writing and editing and querying and getting rejected by agents, and B.E. was kind enough to ask me to write a guest post. Since I was recently a semifinalist in DL Hammon’s Write Club, we both thought that writing contests would be a fun topic. And when I started thinking about it, I realized I’d been in a LOT of writing contests. Thus the weird movie reference.

Online contests are extremely frequent these days, and it’s for sure one of the huge perks of the blogging community. Many of the new lit agents are happy to participate, and it’s a really cool opportunity to get your work in front of them (outside of the usual slushpile situation) and even get feedback sometimes.  However, you have to be aware of what you’re getting into if you enter a contest. A great number of these are anonymous, and people will criticize you, whether constructive or not. And let’s face it, even if it’s constructive, it still doesn’t taste real great going down, does it? Really though, us writers need tough skin to survive in this industry period. If it’s not peer criticism it’s an agent rejection, and if it’s not an agent rejection it’s a publisher rejection, and once you do get published you’re going to get bad reviews. So, be cautious if you get offended easily, but I encourage you to try anyways to thicken up that skin.

Write Club was super intense, partly because I’ve never gotten that far in a contest before. Two anonymous 500 word excerpts were chosen randomly three times a week and pitted against each other, and whoever got the most votes won. After about six weeks of initial rounds, all the winners started getting paired up in bouts. I managed to make it through five rounds to the semi-finals, one of four people left. In the semi-finals, I got pitted against one of the strongest entries of the whole contest, IMO, and the entry that’s probably going to win the finals. So, I wasn’t ashamed to lose to such a good writer. It definitely sucked though to lose in the last round before the agent/editor round. To imagine that victory and then not quite make it.

All in all though, it was super fun and I met a lot of cool people and got lots of good feedback on my writing. Did defeat stop me? Heck no. Right on the heels of that I’ve entered Pitch Wars, where agented writers coach unagented ones and you polish your work for a panel of agents. I’ll find out about that next week! I guess you can call me a glutton for punishment.

Anyways, the moral of the story: put yourself out there! Be bold! Grow a skin thicker than a dragon! And of course, never, ever give up. I’ll tell you one last thing – when I do get an agent one of these days, it’ll be better than hooking up with James Marsden. Sorry, James.


Bio

Alexia writes and reads fantasy books. Except when she’s not, and then she can be found watching movies, eating chocolate, drinking wine, traveling to the next place on her global wish list, or playing Just Dance with her son on the Wii.

www.alexiachamberlynn.com

http://alexiachamberlynn.blogspot.com

https://twitter.com/AAChamberlynn

37 comments:

  1. Great post, Alexia - and a good reminder for writers to get their name out there (and grow thick skin). I need to go check out Write Club and Pitch Wars :)

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  2. Thanks so much for having me over, B.E.! I had a lot of fun on this post.

    And thanks, Janet! Definitely check out those two. I also recommend Secret Agent and Baker's Dozen over at Miss Snark's First Victim and Gearing Up To Get An Agent (GUTGAA) at Deana Barnhart's blog.

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    1. Thanks, Alexia - I know Secret Agent and Baker's Dozen, but I don't know GUTGAA. Also, if interested, Musetracks holds an Agent/Editor Shop once a month (I think).

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    2. Thanks for guest posting, Alexia. It was a lot of fun having you stop by.

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  3. LOL, you had me at the 27 Dresses metaphor!

    I hope you did well in Pitch Wars!!

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    1. Ha, thanks! As for Pitch Wars, the verdict is still out on that... finding out tomorrow or Wednesday.

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  4. That's cool you were one of the four finalists. I tried to vote in every round of Fight Club. (And really sorry if I voted against your piece.)

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    1. Thanks! Yes, you were a super good voter. And no worries, the awesome thing about Write Club is that it's anonymous, so you can't have your friends voting for you just because they're your friends. That's what makes it so powerful.

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  5. Great post =) I have mixed feelings about contests. I think they can be very helpful to a writer, but I think they can also be harmful. Sometimes writers become obsessed with them when they could be spending that time writing. Ahh, it's never a win-win, really =)

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    1. Good point. It's easy to become obsessed with contests. Just like blogging, tweeting, revising, or just plain procrastinating. So, just like anything else, it's all about balance.

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  6. Thanks everyone for stopping by today. Keep the comments coming. =o)

    And if you like the blog, please join the 'Survivors' list up there on the right.

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  7. Nice post, Alexia! I was the other WRiTE Club semi-finalist who lost in my bout. I definitely understand what it feels to be the 27 Dresses writer... LOL.

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    1. Yes, your entries in Write Club were awesome! We fought a valiant battle indeed :)

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  8. Wow, congrats to you, too, Julie. Way to go!

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  9. WRiTE CLUB is one of my favorite contests. Okay, I'll admit it's the only one I've entered. But that's only because I'm not done with the WIP yet. Once I finish it, I'm going to be all over the 'net with it. LOL.

    Contests are such a great way to get a little feedback on your work too.

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    1. Write Club rocks, for sure. Have fun once you finish that WIP! And yes, I think feedback is the most valuable aspect of contests. Even if you lose, you win.

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  10. I remember entering contests via snail mail years ago. If there had been internet back then I would have taken advantage of all this. Great post.

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  11. Hi Alexia!

    Great post and I loved reading about you. I know a few writers who enter each and every contest and win! So yes, it's a good way to get your name out there.

    Nas

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  12. Skin thicker than a dragon--LOVE:-) Great advice!

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  13. It's gratifying to see so much positive word of mouth (word of blog?) about WRiTE CLUB. What's important to remember is that every single participant, win or lose, receives feedback about their writing sample that should be used to improve. Not knowing who the authors are not only prevents favoritism, but encourages HONEST critques.

    Thank you for helping elevate the level of competition this year! :)

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    1. Yes, the honesty is the key to getting a good crit. You rock for putting on such an amazing contest!!

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  14. An exciting contest update!! I was chosen for Pitch Wars by super-coach Heidi Schulz! She's going to help me polish my manuscript over the next month, and then I'm going in front of a panel of 15 or so agents. Super cool!

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    1. Congrats, Alexia - and good luck :)

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    2. Thanks, Janet! I'm super excited!

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  15. CONGRATS, Alexia! How exciting to be chosen and working toward the agent panel. :) It's definitely good to be persistent--as well as have that really thick skin. Get used to rejection; you're right in that it happens on every level!

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    1. Thanks! And I agree - persistence is pretty much a must-have for writers.

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  16. Keep that spirit up, Alexia. And keep trying. You will surely reach your destination/goal soon. Hugs.

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  17. A very positive post - never giving up is what makes a successful writer, and most of the time it takes a long time to get there...:)

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  18. You've nailed it about those contests, Alexia! You have to have a WICKED thick skin, especially when other entrants are given the chance to "peer-edit" you. No matter what you write, someone is going to find fault with it. I think they believe they are being helpful by digging deep, but sometimes it would be nice to just hear, "I think this is great the way it is." You know what I'm saying? :)

    P.S.- Happy to be this blog's newest follower!

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  19. Write Club sounds so cool! Congrats for getting so far, it's something to be proud of.

    Constructive criticism, however we get it, is always a valuable thing to have.

    Jai

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