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!!