Welcome to another edition of Way Back Wednesday!
Today's story is about the very first writing contest I entered. I had been working like crazy on a 400-page romantic suspense novel set in modern-day Scotland. I'd slaved away at it, learning my craft and making changes as I learned more. In 2002 I decided to enter a writing contest to get some idea of how I was doing. The writer friends I had were doing that, so it felt like the right time for me too.
So I entered the Wisconsin Fab Five Contest. I was soooooooo excited and couldn't wait to hear what the judges had to say about my romantic suspense with two heroes and a heroine who wasn't sure who she wanted.
(Yep, you read that right. I was good at writing about suspense, but the romance aspects of my work still needed A LOT of work!)
Naturally, I didn't win, or even final, with that story. No surprise. But I was so excited to read the comments from the judges. I was ready to take another step in my education as a writer. When I opened the other papers in with my returned (and critiqued) stories, you know what I found? A letter that told me exactly where I placed in the contest. Guess where my 2-hero story and I were. We were 2 or 3 places FROM THE BOTTOM of the romantic suspense line. My first thought? At least I wasn't the worst writer in the group! My second thought? I'd rewrite that story when I was a better writer because there was so much good in it. (No, really! Even the judges pointed some positive stuff out!)
After a good 24 hours eating chocolate and complaining to any writer friends who would listen, I made a decision. I was going to be professional. The judges had been constructive critics. I had only one place to go- up. I would study the judges' comments, do more research and try again with a new story.
That new story unfolded throughout the next year and when it came time for the Wisconsin Fab Five Contest again in 2003, I decided to enter the new story just to see if I was on the right track. Guess what happened!
I WON THE ROMANTIC SUSPENSE CATEGORY!
That win did so much for me. I had more confidence in my writing, I knew I'd eventually get published if I stuck with it. Also, the editor who chose my story as #1 worked with me over the next 2 years and gave me so much guidance. (I ended up sending her a couple of manuscripts and she kept helping me see what wasn't working.)
It was after that 2003 win that I decided to make writing my 2nd career. I became much more professional in the way I wrote and spoke of writing. I was excited to get better every chance I had, and I kept taking the advice that helped me get to my first contract in 2011.
Oh, and my first contract? It had the heroine and ONE of the heroes from the original story along with many of those other ideas. (Her Highland Champion, if you want to know which book it became!)