Thursday, April 19, 2012

Critique, Contests, and other Dream Crushers

By Terry Wright

The Colorado Gold Writing Contest is in full swing now, and every entry that comes in is brimming with high expectations and big dreams. Of course each writer is going to make the finals. Of course each one is going to win. And a publishing contract is sure to follow. But in a few months, when the scores are in and counted and the final judges have their say, many a dream is going to be crushed. Temporarily anyway.

Reminds of the nature of this writing business, a job where rejection is the norm. Where every critic is looking for any reason to knock a writer down. Where failure looms around every corner. But here we are, optimists to a fault, putting our hearts and souls out there to be trounced, pummeled, and kicked to the curb, or maybe, just maybe, get published, delight the masses, and appear on Letterman and 60 minutes. Oh my.

You see, we writers have to be as tough-skinned as old alligators. And we aren’t born that way; so like a prize fighter, we have to learn to take our blows and keep on fighting, or in our cases, writing.

Critique is an excellent way to start toughening oneself up for the beatings to come. We take to our respective groups the best writing we’ve ever done and come out battered and bloodied. The POV shift on page four, how did I miss that? And what did they mean by ‘farther’ not ‘further’? And why don’t they just say the word ‘the’ is a cliché? Picky. Picky. Picky. Jeeze.... But we rewrite and revise and enter the Colorado Gold Writing Contest.

Then comes the contest judges. Never mind they put in several hours finding things wrong with our entries. Okay, so there were a few smiley faces, but still, tension and conflict and drama and suspense, it was all in there, well, somewhere. They just didn’t get it. Ah... but maybe, just maybe they did. So we rewrite, revise, rewrite, and reenter.

We plod onward, lose a few contests, final in a few, and win a few, and because we never stayed down for the ten-count, we finally get those publishing contracts. Our books, our babies, our left ventricles are set loose on the world... and right straight into the jaws of the reviewers. The bashing never ends. Oh, we get some good reviews and some bad ones, but those bad ones tend to hurt anyway, tough alligator skin or not.

So what do we do? We write another book and start the process all over again. Are we nuts? Hey, these are our dreams. One has to be a writer to understand.

1 comment:

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks for this encouraging post, Terry. It takes a lot of courage for beginning writers to finally put their work out there for others to see.

For those who've only written one book and are submitting to their first contest, be brave. If you final or win, that's awesome. If not, you've joined the ranks of a lot of really good writers, including published authors, who just keep trying. It's what we do.