Okay. The title isn’t 100% true. Of course I’m a little disappointed I wasn’t chosen as a mentee for this round of Author Mentor Match. Obviously there are a ton of benefits to having a more experienced writer critique your book and help lead you through the murky waters of querying and (ultimately) publishing.
But here’s the thing- I don’t feel as upset about it as a lot of people seem to think applicants feel when they don’t get chosen. I’m not sure if other applicants feel this way, because I’ve never seen it, but there are a ton of warnings to be professional and not be bitter. There’s also a ton of encouragement, telling authors to not be devastated or give up on their dreams. I wonder if people are really that devastated when they don’t get into a mentoring program, or if this is just something we all assume other people feel.
Am I an outlier? Or do the majority of people realize that the majority of manuscripts will not be chosen for these contests and feel comfortable with the ultimate “rejection” they receive? Either way, I thought I’d share why I’m not disappointed.
Contests Give Me Deadlines for Revisions
I don’t need a lot of motivation to write. I love writing, and I would write all day, every day if I could. But most of the time life gets in the way. Contests give me a concrete date for a set of revisions on my current WIP. While this is internally motivating, it is absolutely necessary in a family environment when I am balancing my writing against my husband’s income and my children’s upbringing.
A concrete deadline lets me say, “Hey, husband, I need to write every Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon to make it into this contest. Take the kids for a bit, will ya?”
Of course, I have an awesome partner and I could just as easily ask him to take over some household duties without a deadline, but the deadline keeps me from feeling guilty about my requests.
Contests Let Me Meet Critique Partners
Last Pitch Wars I met two awesome writers who helped critique my work in various ways. I have gotten great insight from them and my works are stronger now. Finding a good critique partner is like finding gold jewelry in a second hand store- you know it’s there, but sometimes it is hard to recognize. Contests let me get to know writers a little better so I can make a better decision about who I want to spend my time critiquing with.
The benefits of critiquing go both ways. My work becomes better when someone offers suggestions to strengthen it, but my overall writing technique becomes stronger when I assess the tools other writers are using and think about their application in my own work.
Contests Give Me a Sense of Community
As an expat writer I’m a particular breed of lonely. I not only have the isolation many writers feel, but I also experience the isolation of being in a foreign community. The online community that bubbles around contests satisfies a deep, basic need I have to be part of a group. It is refreshing to meet new people and, occasionally, continue those connections for months after the contest.
These are the expectations I enter a contest with: fun, frantic deadlines, meeting good writers, and having a sense of community. I never enter a contest expecting to be chosen. I recognize that mentorship is highly intimate and needs to be a great match on both sides. Finding a mentor may or may not happen through a contest. If it does happen, it is icing on the cake to the already awesome benefits of participating. Perhaps it is that perspective that makes me feel like I’ve already won just be engaging with other applicants and mentors.