Tag Archives: feedback

And the Winner is…”

On a great episode of The Andy Griffith Show (Season 2), a poor fella named Henry Bennett had been tagged with the reputation of being a jinx. Henry decided the only way to get on with his life was to leave Mayberry. In an attempt prove Henry wasn’t the cause of bad luck, Sheriff Andy Taylor decided to have a fixed raffle which was “guaranteed” to have only one outcome: the fella known as the Jinx would win the television set. It would prove his luck was changing.

Everyone would pull a number out of a hat–and all the slips of paper would have the same number–and when the “winning” number was called no one would answer, giving the Jinx the only opportunity to be the winner. But when the winning number was announced the Jinx didn’t respond. When asked if he had the winning number, he said, “No.” And he didn’t. His number was something like 4 7/8…he’d pulled out the tag that had the hat size!

Ever entered a writing contest and ended up feeling like you were left holding the tag with the hat size? It may leave you asking, “Why did I enter in the first place?” or “What’s the point of contests anyway?”

Good questions.

Contests should be seen as opportunities to grow as a writer. And if approached with the right mindset, they can be worth your time. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • For the most part, contest results don’t make you a writer. They aren’t meant to create writers, they’re meant to critique writing. If you take the results as an attack on you and your worth as a person, you’ve missed the point.
  • Sometimes the best way to win a contest is to have had lost it in the past. Sounds goofy, I know, but I really believe it. Many of us are more comfortable and confident entering a contest we’ve entered before. And–like the GENESIS contest sponsored by American Christian Fiction Writers–if the contest includes feedback from judges, that returned feedback can be priceless in helping you prepare for next go around. But, more importantly, you are learning as you go.
  • Contest results only have the power you decide to give them. It’s up to you to make the experience positive or negative (for you and others). How you respond to the outcome of a contest may reveal as much about you as it does about the quality of your writing. And I’m told that agents and editors notice stuff like that.
  • And lastly (mostly because I wanted to use the word “lastly” :)), contests were never meant to be ends in themselves. Our desire should be the grow as faithful–skillful–stewards of story. To the extent that participating in contests help us head in that direction, they are useful. But if all a writer ever does is become a professional contest enterer, then a great calling has been wasted.

There are other benefits, but since I’ve used the word “lastly” I’ll just ask you to share your opinions and experiences. How do you feel about contests? Have you learned to be a better writer because of a contest experience?

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, Larry W. Timm, Uncategorized, Writing

A Matter Of Interpretation

Some time ago I went to the doctor. With that experience still in my mind, let me offer the following interpretation to a few medical phrases.

  • When the nurse says, “This may sting a little” what she really means is, “This has been outlawed in three other countries.”
  • When the nurse asks, “How would you rate your pain?” what she’s really asking is “On a scale of one to ten, how big of a sissy are you?”
  • When the person weighing you says, ‘Wow!”, what they really mean is “Oh, Wow! Can you say Jenny Craig?”
  • When the nurse says, “I have to shave you in a few places,” what she really means is “The doctor has no idea I’m doing this, but I’m bored and I found a razor.”
  • When the doctor says, “Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle” what he really means is [insert evil scientist laugh here].
  • When the doctor offers to “pull that tape off for you” what she really means is “Have you ever been skinned alive?”
  • And when they say “You’re going to feel a little pressure” what they really mean is “This will hurt until you cry for your mommy.”

I offer this gift of interpretation for the betterment of humanity (plus that, I don’t often get to use the word “betterment”). But seriously…the whole “what did he/she really mean by that?” quandary often causes undue stress in many areas of our lives. We can become suspicious of another’s intent, thereby making us seek for the hidden meaning between the lines.

We can do this as writers too.

In fact, writers are one of the more susceptible groups because we seek critical feedback so often. Not to mention the editorial comments offered without invitation too. If you don’t already have thick skin, you’ll need to acquire it pronto. Otherwise your imagination can run wild, draining you of the creative energy needed to be a good steward of story. If a friend says “not bad” you can get tough enough to ask them to explain, or you can just assume that what they’re really saying is, “I barely know how to read and you didn’t have enough pictures in the book.” And when an agent says, “I don’t think I can sell this,” you can either learn more about the problems that are hindering the future of that project, or you can just decide that what the agent is saying is “I don’t have the skills or contacts necessary to get this obvious bestseller to the right people.” Or when a contest judge gets snarky and misses the brilliance of your entry, you might be tempted to think that what they’re really saying is, “You’ll never amount to anything as a writer. What were you thinking by even entering this contest?”

Friend–and fellow writer–the only way to grow as a writer is to be able to control our tendency to look for hidden messages in every comment we are given. And we have to be able to separate who we are as a person from the particular piece of writing being discussed. Most people–especially other Christians–are not trying to hurt you. They’re just assuming that when you said you wanted honest feedback, you really meant it and were prepared to handle it. They want to see you succeed. (At least I believe this to be true of the members of American Christian Fiction Writers).

As a Christian writer, I want to create the best stories I’m capable of writing. And I want to stay teachable and open, able to listen to the educated opinions of others. I’ll accept some. I’ll give a polite nod to others, but respectfully disagree with them. Because none of us knows everything.

And I’ll keep writing for the Lord. Because when Jesus said, “Be on the alert,” what He meant was, “I’ll be seeing you.”

2 Comments

Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, reading, Writing