Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Once Upon A Time...

This past weekend has been crazy. I sent well over 150 emails, most with three attachments each. Non-finaling entries in the ACFW Genesis Contest.

That's a lot of non-finaling entries. (In only two of the many categories. More than 400 entries didn't final.)

That's a lot of hopes dashed.

That's a lot of 'back to the drawing board.'

I talked to a friend over the weekend who didn't final. (She wasn't entered in any of the categories I coordinated, so I didn't know how she did until the entire finalist list came out. The Genesis is compartmentalized by category and no coordinator knows what is going on in another category.) She was sad, a little chagrined because she's agented and has gotten interest in her manuscript, and maybe a little bewildered. All very natural responses.

In response, I shared with her some of my own Genesis experience, and because I thought it might be helpful to some of my friends who didn't score as highly in this year's Genesis contest as they had hoped, I thought I would share it here.

In 2008, I submitted three manuscripts into the Genesis contest- two historical romances and one chick-lit.

The results?

One historical romance placed third.

The chick-lit won.

And one historical romance got trashed. Low scores, comments from the judges that made me wince.

Here's the reality. The chick-lit that won the category? It is a grand total of five chapters long, and I haven't looked at it since.

The third place entry was published in February of this year -- The Marriage Masquerade.

And the entry that got such harsh criticism from the judges?

That entry, after taking the judges' comments into account and revisions, was released this month.

Clara and the Cowboy.

I'm so proud of this book. I worked harder on it than anything I've written before. I did more revisions after the book was accepted than ever before. The Genesis judges weren't the last folks to pummel that manuscript. My beloved content editor Rachel pushed me hard on the rewrites.

And that book is in print today as a result of all that hard work, as a result of the judges and my editors pushing me.

So if you didn't final in the Genesis, take it as a barometer of where you are on THAT manuscript, but not a barometer on the future of that work. Use the comments to make the story better, and push yourself to improve.

Good things will happen.


  1. "push yourself to improve"

    advice every writer, at all stages, should be following!

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  3. I had to revise my comment here, sorry folks, there is no edit button ;)

    Amen to everything Erica said. Finaling in Genesis can really impact an author's upward momentum, especially if the manuscript gets in front of the right person. However, more often than not, I still believe Genesis is about getting the comments and helping further our personal journey--and you don't need to final to do that. The year my ms came in 2nd in the chick lit category was the year the genre was in its last death throes. Needless to say, the ms remains safely tucked away on my hard drive. Still, I was able to learn from the judges comments.

  4. Thank you Erica for this post. I know I was one of those who didn't final and it has made me take a closer harder look at some of my work. My critique partner didn't final either but a day later, finaled with the same work in another contest! So we never know what God has in mind when we put our work out there.
    But I'm working harder that before!

  5. Great thoughts, Erica. Contests can tell us some things, but can't give us the whole picture.

  6. Awesome! I wrote about the Genesis today too. I didn't enter, but I'm hoping to encourage those who are feeling a little low about not finaling. It is SUBJECTIVE!!!

  7. Erica, I really appreciate this honest post. It proves that hard work really does pay off--if we're willing to be smart too!


  8. Exactly. Thanks for this. I didn't final, but I'm looking forward to the feedback. 400 is a lot of dashed hopes, if that's what a person's hoping for...but there are many great benefits to the Genesis regardless of how a manuscript places.

  9. Oh, Erica, what an encouraging thing to share!

    The only book I ever entered in Genesis was Me, Just Different. I thought it got hammered, but in retrospect, it actually just received average marks.

    There was one comment that was totally worth the entry fee, however. Because of it, I revamped the opening, which added a plot line that I then wove through. I took it to that year's conference and pitched it.

    By the time Genesis finalists were announced the following year, I wasn't eligible due to a 3-book deal with Revell.

    It's disappointing not to final, and it's frustrating to feel like a judge didn't "get it," but hopefully there will at least be a suggestion or two that can spark a change that makes it all worth it.

  10. Oh, I loved this post! It is so encouraging. I entered Genesis just wanting to get some feedback from the pros. I'm waiting patiently, and am looking forward to getting feedback that I can use to make my story better!

    And thank YOU for being a coordinator! I know it must be a huge task and it is so nice to see someone giving of their time and energy for such a great enterprise.

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  12. I agree with the others, this is a very encouraging post! I didn't final in a contest (not the genesis) and was pretty bummed out when I read a post by the contest judge that reminded me of all the cliches in my plot! At least on person hated my plot, I'm guessing. :-) I'm over it now, but reading this reminds me of subjectivity and helps me feel even better!
    Thanks so much for coordinating! What a huge job. I hope you get some chocolates or something. ;-)