Apr 28, 2010

The Biggest Looser VS First Place Winner

Two years ago I entered the First Chapter Contest at LDStorymakers Writers Conference with an LDS romance novel, Forever In My Heart. At the time I thought it a great story and felt my writing skills were advanced enough that I just might have a chance to place in the contest. Boy was I ever wrong. Not only did I not place, but the comments I received from one of the judges (forever known as Judge #10) were harsh and hurtful. I wanted to give up, even considered leaving the conference early, but instead sat in my room and cried my eyes out for an hour. Self pity is NOT a good thing.

When I got home from the conference I discovered that several other members of Author's Incognito had similar comments from the same judge so we decided to have a contest to see who had the worst comments. We thought it might take some of the sting away if we made something positive out of it and tried to laugh about it. Well, I won the contest with this comment:

The new complication at the end of the chapter might keep me reading, but only if I managed to get that far in the first place.

Another comment made by that judge on the same chapter was:

Plot: What plot? A sudden medical crisis does not a plot make. And I really doubt a policeman would be so insensitive as to suggest Sage had run away.

When I received these comments, I wanted to give up writing all together, but instead I started a new novel. It was less than a month later that I began writing Blood Bound (the book contracted by Valor and then later released).

While I was waiting for Blood Bound to be edited, I went back to my romance for the first time since being the "Biggest Looser" in the comments that year, and began rewrites and edits. I took what I'd learned over the past year or so and applied it to that book, still believing that it could become something others would enjoy reading.

This year I turned in three first chapters for the contest, Blood Bound, Aquatara and, at the last minute, Forever In My Heart. Even though I had great comments and got high scores on the first two, it was Forever In My Heart that took FIRST PLACE in the Women's Fiction/Romance Catagory of the contest. I was SHOCKED, to say the least.

All this has taught me two very important lessons.

ONE - Never give up. No matter what others may say about your writing, no matter how bad of a writer you may think you are, DO NOT GIVE UP on your dream. Seek help from others, listen, learn, and PRACTICE, but NEVER give up.

And TWO - People's comments, whether from a contest, a critique group or just a friend, are subjective. While one person may hate what you've written, another may love it. Yes, the chapter that won is in much better shape than it was when it lost, but it still has the same "plot" and the policeman still asks if she's a "runaway," but this time the writing is better and I've had help from writing friends and my critique group to iron out any problems. It's kind of like the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." It takes more than one author to write a book. So this win doesn't just reflect what I've learned, but what others have taught me, the biggest lesson being NEVER GIVE UP!!


  1. Congrats on the win and for sticking with it! Critiques can be hard to take but they are so worth it. :)

  2. Absolutely! I should admit that my winning chapter has done really badly in previous contests. And by badly, I mean it got completely contradictory scores and advice from judges, and scored worse than a chapter that was waaay more amateur that I entered the year before.

    I was so upset. I thought you were supposed to get better as you learned more and more!

    And then I opened the file—and my word processor had decided to put 90% of the chapter in navy SMALL CAPS. Yeah, I don't know if I could take a chapter seriously if it looked like that. (Although one judge was kind enough to actually say that she didn't think I could have meant for that formatting error to be included, so she wasn't deducting points, I can only imagine that it still affected her impressions of the chapter.)

  3. Loved this story, Christine. Very inspiring. I told myself I wasn't going to get discouraged from my first chapter critiques, and just used them to help me improve. Your blog has helped me stay on track. Thanks.

  4. Wow. Good points. I will take that to heART this year as I promised myself I will be submitting more of my stuff this year. :)

  5. Great reminder! Never give up (I think we all need that from time to time)!

    I was so excited you won the contest. How cool is that?! Whoop!

  6. That is such a fantastic story. :) Makes me want to go pull out some of my old rejected manuscripts and dust them off! Oh yeah...and CONGRATULATIONS!!! :D

  7. Christine, a HUGE congrats to you! I'm so very proud of you. And you did NOT give up! Good going, girl! ;)

    Now all 3 of your works is wanted! Woohoo!!

    Love ya!

  8. The village comment is exactly how I feel. It's one thing to write alone at your computer, but there is only so far you can grow that way.

    Reach out to other writers, either via internet or writer's groups, and tada, a whole new world opens up to you.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. This really is a very inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it! I too want to pull out some dusty manuscripts and see what I can make of them!

  10. You are amazing! What an adventure you've been through. I hope in another two years I will have grown as much as you have. Keep inspiring the rest of us!

  11. Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom. Last year I told myself I would never enter the contest because I didn't stand a chance.

    When I talked myself into actually entering this year, I felt (after I pushed send) that it was a dumb decision--that my work was far from polished. After my third place win I went to my room and cried--tears of joy--because I didn't think it could be possible.

    Congrats on your win!

  12. What a great story, Christine! I'm so glad you didn't give up and CONGRATS on WINNING!!!!!

  13. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing this. I like seeing that it's possible for some people to think the same work is "The Biggest Loser" while others see it for the winner it is.

    It was nice to meet you last weekend. :)

  14. Thanks for sharing. I think that is the most important thing for authors to hear (not giving up) -especially the new ones - like me! Great post.