For the record, this is the entry I was supposed to write last week. Last week's entry demanded to be talked about sooner, and now I regret last week's entry almost entirely, because now I have people looking forward to a story that, assuming everything goes as well as possible and I don't hate the entire thing as soon as I've finished writing it, probably won't be reader-worthy until 2016.
Before I started this whole blogging thing, I hardly knew about the various "help you find an agent" writing contests. I heard Rena mention them now and again when she was participating, and I had my doubts about them.
I've often seen agents described as the "gatekeepers" of the publishing world; they're the ones with the connections, so they decide who uses those connections. Entering contests seemed like adding yet another gate, and that never seemed like a good thing to me - the whole publishing process is enough of a pain, why make it more complicated?
After participating in a few, though, I don't see it the same way. I've received some good feedback from contests, and that helped me solve a few key issues with THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK's opening chapter. Just reviewing that first chapter over and over for various contests has helped it as well.
Reviewing my query letter for Pitch Wars helped too, as I caught an errant 'and' that I'd somehow missed when I sent said query out to over twenty different agents. >_<
Also, I think the agents participating in these contests are more likely to give better consideration to contest entries than the usual daily query letters. Contest entries will, in theory, have had the hell polished out of them and be better for it, and I've heard a lot of success stories. So it seems less like the contests are another gate, but something to give you a better chance of getting through the gate in the first place.
Yes, I'm stubborn enough that it took me a while to realize that.
On a personal note, back when I was working with SKYBORNE, I actually won a full request from a contest I entered. I was beyond excited, for obvious reasons; the readers were from a quite successful small press. Unfortunately, I didn't know that this small press only handled books with a heavy romance element, and the romance in that book was barely there. Even now, I feel like that quasi-win hardly counts. -_- It's for the best, though. That book would have been a horrible way to start a series. I mean, when you not only save the entire world but quite literally put it back together in the first book, what the hell do you do for a sequel?
Next entry: umm. Next Wednesday is the last day I'm here before leaving for DragonCon. I can't promise a thing. ^_^