67 points

While we’re talking about contests, I’ll tell you my secret:

In 2005, I submitted the opening pages of a novel to a manuscript contest. The judge praised the strengths, noted the weaknesses, and awarded me a score of 85.

In 2006, I submitted the very same pages to the very same manuscript contest. The judge praised nothing and awarded me a score of 18.

The 67 points between high and low scores taught me a valuable lesson.

Judging is subjective. What one judge likes, another hates. Not everyone loves my work as much as I think they should. Or as much as I do. I’m competing with a large pool of writers who have talent, skill, and experience.

If I allow one rejection to discourage me, I might as well quit right now.

I don’t want to quit.

I won’t pretend I was thrilled with the second score or with the judge’s comments. I won’t pretend I didn’t rampage around the house telling husband and cats exactly what I thought. I won’t pretend I was surprised when husband and cats announced they needed their beauty sleep and high-tailed it up the stairs.

But by the next day I’d regained my equilibrium. One contest, one critique sheet, one manuscript.

I went to the literature. I reread Ralph Keyes’s The Writer’s Book of Hope, and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and Elizabeth Berg’s Escaping into the Open.

Then I sat down at the computer, and opened a file, and began to write.

11 thoughts on “67 points

  1. Your post is encouraging! And enlightening. It’s a reminder that we write for more than the kudos, nice as they are. We write because we must, and we keep on writing and trying and trying again.

    I’ve not read Berg’s book though she’s a favorite author of mine, so of course I ordered it (on Amazon, through SCN). I must need another book on writing, right? Thanks for the tip.


  2. Thanks, Susan. I hope you like Berg’s book. I enjoyed it, except for the part where she says writing is easy for her. That doesn’t seem quite fair.

    PS The book review I owe you is in progress and will arrive asap.


  3. Easy? Did she write that at the beginning of her prolific career? Good grief! How can that much work be “easy”? Maybe she defines it differently than we mere mortal strugglers along the way….


    1. She had several books out when she published Escaping. I won’t swear to that “easy”–I can’t find my copy to verify the word, but that was the idea. In the March/April edition of Writer’s Digest, she says writing is “not hard,” “joyful,” and “so much fun.” The interviewer also asks about dealing with “difficulty writing for the first time ever” in her latest book. Her prose makes it sound like she’s having fun, but really….


    1. I’m glad you liked it, Pat. I considered writing an entire post about my rampage but thought better of it. I admire you folks who accept rejection as part of the job and deal gracefully with it.


    1. I’d never realized how subjective it is. The experience helped put things in perspective. It also recently occurred to me that most of the books that are published didn’t win any manuscripts at all.

      Have you read The Writer’s Book of Hope? Very encouraging.

      Thanks for visiting, Susan, and for commenting.


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