I entered a contest earlier this year run by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA). Well, technically, I entered two contests. I entered Blood Money into the Nancy Pearl Book Award contest for new books published in 2013, and I entered Bai Tide into the Literary Contest.
I did so with my heart in my hands, knowing it’s a tough contest. I’m sure the Nancy Pearl one is tough, too, but it’s brand new so I have no idea what the competition looks like for that one yet. The literary contest, however, is certified tough.
I entered it in 2011, back when Blood Money was called Petra and featured a 20-page prologue. I’d thought it was pretty good at the time, mostly because I didn’t know as much about the craft of thriller writing as I do now, and was crushed when I didn’t win. After I picked myself up off the floor, I took a good look at the critiques the judges provided and used them to fix and rewrite my book. A few months later, Champagne Books picked it up and published it for me.
It took me three years to write something I thought might be contest-worthy again. I spent hours editing and revising the first 27 pages of Bai Tide, incorporating changes suggested to me by beta readers and analyzing my entry as critically as possible. When it was as polished as I was capable of making it, I printed it out and entered it into the contest.
Ever since then, I’ve been telling myself not to think about it because the finalists aren’t announced until early June. It mostly worked, but May inevitably came to an end and I’ve been waiting on tenter hooks ever since Sunday for word back.
According to the good folks on Twitter, quite a few people in a variety of genres have already heard back that they’re finalists. This leads me to believe that, even though I haven’t gotten my critiques back yet, I probably didn’t make it. I mean, it’s unlikely, right? They’re not going to alert all the other finalists first and then just wait a few days to alert the last stragglers.
I knew when I entered the contest that this was a long shot. This is one of the biggest literary contests in the country, it’d be arrogant to assume I’d make the cut my second time out of the gate.
Still, the rejection hurts. Well, the supposed rejection. It’s not over until it’s over, but let’s face it, it’s probably over.
It’s okay, though, and do you want to know why? It’s okay because rejection is a rite of passage when you want to be a professional author. If you want a successful writing career and all the cool stuff that comes with it, you’ve got to earn it, and that means getting rejected. And learning what you can as often as you can. Improving, stretching, and experimenting, that’s the ticket, and you can’t do that if you never have to work for it.
So this is me. Working for it. Despite the doubts and insecurities, I’m going to keep going and putting in the work because you know what? That’s what a professional does. Fake it ’til you make it, baby.