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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Donna Michaels

Writing contests. Are they worth it?

Hello again! Today I’d like to talk a little about writing contests. I know how tough it is to send off your coveted ‘baby’ to be read and dissected by your piers, editors and/or agents. That can be one tough struggle.

Is it worth it?

Only you can answer that question. For me and my experiences, the answer is a big resounding yes.

Several years ago, I entered the GOTCHA contest. I went into it knowing every one of my twenty-five pages would be analyzed and critiqued. That was THE main reason I had entered. I didn’t kid myself that I would win. No. This was my first contest. I was a new writer. What I wanted WAS the critiques! And boy did I get them! lol

I’ve heard horror stories of writer’s getting terrible feedback, but that didn’t happen to me. Oh, sure, all of the judges told me what was wrong with my entry, but they also pointed out what was right. There should never be just the bad. But, the bad is important, if not more important than hearing about the good. Some of the judges had a more somber tone, but their advice was exactly what the other ‘nicer’ toned judges had to say. I learned from my mistakes and took to heart every suggestion and error they pointed out. Man, I soaked it all up like an eager sponge! Their advice has not only helped me with that ms, but every single one I’ve written since.

What’s really funny, is it was because of another writing contest I wrote that ms in the first place.

I used to be a regular participant at e.Harlequin’s Writer’s Challenge. If you don’t know it, that’s where a topic is thrown out by the previous winner, and the participants have to write an entry of 1000 words or less. THIS helped me considerably to write the short stories I contracted. I learned how to write tighter and clear, and can’t encourage new writers enough to enter as many challenges as possible. It opens the mind, and you learn from your mistakes as well as the other entrants when they are analyzed. The practice even garnered me a win at e.Harlequin’s Writing Round Robin, in a genre I do NOT do…Historicals. But, again, I thought I’d stretch my writing and give it a shot. I’m glad I did. :-)

On a particular challenge a few years back, they announced the ‘Enter the Villain’ topic, and I immediately got a sci-fi scene in my head. Sci-fi. I’ve never written anything like that but certainly loved those types of shows and movies. So, I thought, okay, I’ll really challenge myself and write what had popped into my head. I didn’t win the challenge BUT, my CP freaked when she read it and insisted THIS was my voice…that I had found my nitch and she made me promise to write a whole story.

Again…sci-fi…me? Write a sci-fi romance? They didn’t have them at Harlequin. This was almost 7 years ago…way before Nocturne…and any e-publishers. But she was so adamant about it, and I’d already had several scenes in my head. So, I took her advice and wrote LEGEND OF THE FOURTH MOON/THE MARK OF GOREN.

Yep, it was the first twenty-five pages of LOTFM/TMOG that I sent into the GOTCHA contest. I took all their advice, fixed the ms accordingly and by this time, I’d found The Wild Rose Press and thought maybe they would consider it for their Faery Rose line. They did! LOTFM/TMOG was just released last month and I couldn’t be more pleased…unless, of course, I was my CP. LOL…she’s thrilled! On Friday, I’ll be sharing a never before seen excerpt. I hope you’ll stop by. If you’d like a taste now, click HERE. I have a different excerpt up on my website.

Because of the good experiences I had with those contests and challenges, I’ve since judged the 2007 GOTCHA, the 2008 Lone Star Writing Competition and just received my five entries to judge for this year’s Lone Star. I know how invaluable and eye-opening the advice was for me. I just had to give back and hope that my critiques will maybe help at least one entrant to accomplish their writing dream.

What are your thoughts one writing contests? Have you had a good experience? A bad one? If you’re an author, have you judged any?

Thanks for reading,


Available now in both eBook and Print.


Kim Swiderski said...

Oh man Donna, I've been a judge of so many of the Writing Challenges in the past. I haven't been able to do that for a long time now. It isn't that I don't have the time but it always seems that I wasn't available on the weekend that the entries were supposed to be judged. Obviously from this post, I am not a writer (except for reviews)but I am an avid reader and I loved the variety those challenges provided. I also loved watching a writer's skills improve with each new challenge they entered. I still remember your entries and am thrilled you completed your sci-fi. Many congrats to you and kudos to your CP!

Donna Michaels said...

Hi, Kim!!

Thanks for the congrats. :)

I agree. It's so cool to see how a writer improves with each challenge they enter. To me, that's the very reason to enter in the first place.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!


Miss Mae said...

I've entered some contests and sent money for the registration fee. To be honest, I can't say that anything (comments/critiques) I received truly helped. They depressed me greatly...LOL...but now that I am published, I go back and look over their remarks...and so much of what they said is bunk.

What really made a difference (in my case) is rubbing elbows with published authors and learning first-hand from them. :)

Donna Michaels said...

Hi, Miss Mae!

Rubbing elbows and chatting with published authors has helped me grow, too. It's wonderful to converse with people who share the same driving need to write. They understand how different a creative mind is, and 'get' it when you stop talking so you can jot something down on the napkin or tablet you pulled out of your purse. lol

It's so nice to know they hear the voices, too. :)


Kytaira said...

Not an author here. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the trailer for Fated Hearts. It sounds like an emotional read.

Donna Michaels said...


Thanks. Fated Hearts is very special to me, not only because it was my first full novel, but because I really felt for the characters.

There are parts where they made me laugh out loud, and parts that made me tear up. I did my best to convey that in the trailer so I'm so glad you enjoyed it.