C is for Contests and Critiques
From the time I began reluctantly writing my first book, Amee’s Story, I felt like I had forgotten so much about writing and English lessons, I felt stuck. How could I ever get past the first few sentences, let alone the first chapter? I typed in words. I deleted them and began again. Then I connected with other Christian writers. I stepped outside my comfort zone of hiding the writing attempts and asked for critique on chapter one.
Putting your piece of writing in front of someone else and asking for a critique can make you feel vulnerable. What if they think nothing is any good? What if questions flitted through my mind. But what did I have to lose? Being stuck didn’t help. Gulping back my fears, I submitted this writing to the opinion of others. It helped me get unstuck.
Through the years, I have still felt inadequate too many times. There is always more to learn. I’ve also realized that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to see some of the common errors in my own writing that I can pick out in a piece written by someone else. We all see what we know should be in our own writing, whether extra words or missing ones.
I meet with other writers to encourage and be encouraged, to learn and to share knowledge I’ve gained. Yes, critique is still part of my writing journey. Recently, another writer and myself meet about once a month. We send each other about 4,000 words of writing. We spend time reading and critiquing each other’s work and then get together to review why we suggested the changes we did. We also make sure we let each other know the parts of the writing we enjoyed the most. It has been an exercise in learning and growing in the craft.
C is also for contests, another way of moving out of my comfort zone and receiving
feedback to help me improve my abilities. I entered Amee’s Story in the Word Guild contest the year after it was published. I wanted to receive the judge’s comments to see what worked and what could be improved as I moved forward with writing. It took a lot of courage to send the book away. Imagine my surprise to find out my book was a semi finalist in the Memoir category. Even though it did not win, I received excellent feedback from the judge which I referred back to as I wrote other pieces.
Since then I’ve entered other contests. A local writing group I belong to has two contests every year which are blind judged by a published author. At first I entered the prose and poetry because we needed to make sure we had at least five pieces in each one in order for the contest to proceed. Obligation to help coloured my reason for entering, especially poetry. But once again the judge’s comments proved so valuable, I began entering them for the purpose of receiving those helpful comments.
Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship provides us with opportunities to enter our writing into the fall contest each year in a number of categories. Blind judging allows unbiased comments. I haven’t entered every year. At first, I couldn’t make myself move out of that comfort zone and send my writing away to be judged. Then, I wanted to receive feedback from a judge to know how I could improve and what I did well. I entered the Devotional category because I felt most comfortable with that genre. Since then, I’ve branched out to try others. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow.
I enter a contest and wait in eager anticipation for the results. Yes, being in the top three is a goal each time but mostly I can’t wait to read the judge’s comments even on pieces that have made those top places.
Contests and critiques are opportunities to stretch us out of our comfort zones while offering advice on ways to improve my writing. It won’t be long before the Inscribe Fall Contest is open. We’ll discover the categories offered this year. Are we ready to write entries for the contest? After all C is for critiques, contests, and moving out of our comfort zone.Carol Harrison writes from her home in Saskatoon, SK. Fear still grips when she sends submissions for contests but she finds them valuable learning tools for this craft of writing.