So You Wanna Win a Contest

Good morning, dear Reader. This week I thought I’d write a series of blog posts expounding on some of the questions that were asked at the Facebook Launch Party for Five Enchanted Roses. Dorian has already answered some of the questions that were asked in more detail, Savannah shared her dream cast and opened the floor for further questions, Hayden shared her dream cast and I’m sure she’s open to answering questions if you ask her, and Kaycee also shared her dream cast and answered a couple of questions about why she chose to set her story on a pirate ship.  If other questions occur to you as you read, feel free to ask! I’ll definitely include the answers in a future blog post.

So let’s dive right in, shall we?

One question that has been asked several times is: What advice would you give to people wanting to enter one of these contests?

Many of you already know, the third annual Rooglewood Press contest is already open for submissions. The story this year is SLEEPING BEAUTY, and you can find the details and rules HERE.

I have several pieces of advice for those who are considering entering the contest.

1. DO IT! Seriously, it is so much fun. Even if your story doesn’t win, you still have something to show for your efforts: a complete rough draft of a novella. And that is a prize in and of itself. I entered the Five Glass Slippers contest and did not win, but I am still going to publish that story. It’s in the works, folks, and I’m very excited about it. Partially because I love it, and partially because I’m getting to work with my very good friend who is illustrating the story for me… which is just awesome. If your story gets chosen, the people at Rooglewood are great to work for and with, and you will learn so much about the publishing process in a very friendly environment.

2. Write a story YOU love. This goes along with the first point, because if you don’t win, you’ll still have a story you’re invested in, and you are free to do with it what you want. If your story isn’t chosen, the rights belong to you, and you can publish it anyway.

3. Feel free to be creative! Don’t worry about your idea being too “out there.” Cinderella in space? Beauty and the Beast and Pirates? These ideas may have seemed extreme, but they worked so beautifully. Their uniqueness made them stand out. But don’t be afraid to follow the original storyline as well. Each collection so far has had one story that is very close to the original… and it’s the characters or the subtle twists that make it stand out as distinctively as the more varied settings and approaches. Ask yourself: What do I love about the original? What don’t I like about the original? and play with the answers until you have a version of the story that is uniquely your own.

4. Don’t get discouraged. If you don’t win the contest. It doesn’t mean you wrote a bad story, it just means your story wasn’t right for THIS collection. Something Rooglewood has done a fantastic job at is picking five stories for each collection that go really well together. This isn’t a solo act, it’s an ensemble. The stories have to blend well and complement each other.

5. Edit before you enter! Don’t send them your very first draft. This should be a given, but just in case… do some editing. Get a beta reader or two to give you feedback. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but I think you should at least attempt to do some polishing. Your story doesn’t have to be perfect! (Mine definitely wasn’t!!!) But give it its best chance to impress the judges.

6. Your story doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m stating this again, because it’s true. And it’s meant to be encouraging. Stone Curse had a lot of plot holes. A lot of them. Karyna wasn’t a very likable character. In all honesty, I wrote Stone Curse while seriously sleep-deprived (I had a baby on September 21st, and I wrote the majority of the story in October… I’m sure you can do the math on that). During the editing phase I re-wrote practically every scene in the story (more on that when I talk about my favorite parts of the process later this week). I know that at least two of the other authors in the collection had similar experiences to mine regarding the amount of edits that were required. Again, your story does not have to be perfect! Which leads us to my final word of advice…

7. Hold onto your story with an open hand. This is for those whose stories do get chosen. This is hard, especially if you are already a self-published author. But if your story is chosen, be ready to get some feedback that may seem disheartening at first glance. Be encouraged, these editing requirements do not in any way mean that they do not love your story… they merely see a potential you may not yet be aware of… this will stretch and grow your abilities as a writer, embrace the opportunity to learn. Be willing to change things, be flexible, and choose wisely which hills you want to die on. I’m not saying you can’t stand your ground on things that are important to you and your story, but be willing to compromise on things that don’t really matter. (For example: I originally titled my story Stone Rose… but the editors were concerned that “Rose” was showing up in too many of the titles and suggested “Stone Curse.” I wasn’t super invested in the title and felt that their suggestion actually fit the story better anyway, so I went with it).

So that would be my advice. It’s not a “how to win the contest” advice… because, honestly, I don’t believe there is a perfect formula for that. So much is going to depend on what the other stories are and how they all fit together. But I do hope that this list can be helpful to future contest entrants, as well as encouraging to anyone who has toyed with the idea but is feeling intimidated or unsure about whether or not to enter. I have loved every story in each collection, and I look forward to next summer’s set of stories with eager anticipation! I hope to see your entry in the next collection, dear Reader and fellow author! Now, go forth and write!

~ jenelle

2 Comments

Heidi P.

Thanks so much for the post, Jenelle! I’ve never participated in a contest before, but I’m now partway through my first draft for this one (i.e. a Sleeping Beauty retelling). It’s one of my two favorite fairy tales so I decided to just go for it. We’ll see. It’s had it’s both tough and triumphant moments so far, but on the whole I’m having a lot of fun. Thank you SO much for the generous encouragement!! :)

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