It was tough! I could only send in the first 2000 words. I edited and re-edited both of my novels and adhered to the contest rules. When I finally sent my pieces in and paid the entrance fee, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I had "gone there", "did it"! 'Why stop there?', I thought. I sent my query to a major publisher.
I didn't think too much about the contest, especially after I joined SavvyAuthors and joined in their Pitch Event in late February. That experience was extremely satisfying. Not only did I send my manuscripts to six editors, I received some welcome, constructive advice about my novels. I actually landed my publishing contract with Crimson Frost Books through this Pitch Event. Another publishing firm even offered me a contract after I had signed. My confidence soared!
However, this evening left me feeling hurt, depressed, and ready to throw in the towel. I got my results from the Contest, and I didn't win. I didn't expect to win, and I did have two judges that were very uplifting. Three other judges at least gave me some wonderful critiques and ways to improve my writing. But, it was that one judge, the one who tore me apart, that ruined my night. He/She was brutal, attacking my use of words and even my "research"; the judge left condescending remarks upon my work, making me feel as if I had no brain in my head. I wanted to cry. And, I wanted to quit.
I ran up to the bedroom and threw myself on my bed. Of course, my caring hubby followed at once to console me. I showed the judge's waspish comments to my husband; and to my chagrin, he laughed! Some background: my husband is an ER Physician, and I ask him about medical rights and wrongs all the time. This judge had made condescending remarks about my heroine's medical ailments that were blatantly false. My hubby shook his head. "Ignorance," he said.
He spent the next hour trying to cheer me up. Still, I wouldn't budge. Finally, he told me a story, related to his field, of course, but helpful nonetheless. He said about fifteen years ago, right out of Residency, he struggled to build his new practice in a different town where nobody knew him or his skills. The first few months, he received good feedback; but one day, a patient he had seen called the office nurse, ranting and raving about my husband's bad "care". The patient "promised" my husband would never work again because she would let everyone in town know what a horrible doctor he was. My husband was devastated. After all, he spent the last eight years of his life in medical school to help people! One of his seasoned colleagues took him aside and said, "You aren't going to make everyone happy, don't even try. You have to focus on the lives you touch."
My husband's words sank in, and I abandoned my thoughts of quitting. I can't give up my dream just because of one bad critique. I love to write; I love transporting myself to a point in history, forcing my characters do the bidding of my imagination. That one judge was harsh. And I'm sure it's a prelude to plenty of other negative comments I'll receive when my books are published. I will just have to get thicker skin. In the meantime, I did write a letter to the Contest Coordinator, thanking her and those constructive judges for helping me grow as a writer. I also mentioned the "dastardly" judge--giving them perhaps advice to screen their judges better for their next contest. As a final confidence booster, I ended my email thusly: "Please let the two judges know I appreciate their constructive review of my work. As of March 24, I signed a publishing contract for both my novels, and I will take their constructive suggestions to heart." My writing soul was healed.