Literary Contests, Yes or No? Mia Catherine Tells All

Meet Mia Catherine, author of the newly releases Never Too Late. She’s joined me today to talk about her experiences with literary contests, and how they can be great prep for the Big Game 😉

Never Too Late by Mia Catherine

I didn’t always dream of becoming a writer. In fact, the only thing I liked about my writing classes in high school was sitting next to my friend who drew caricatures on his notebook. But when I discovered my passion for writing later in life, and decided to take my hobby to the next level, I wasn’t sure which path to take.

Then I found literary contests. People have varying opinions about contests, but I can honestly say without them, I’d never have a book published, and may have given up all together.

When I first looked into contests, I was overwhelmed with the number of options. Becoming familiar with the names of editors, agents, and publishers was my first introduction to the literary world, which was far more vast than I ever imagined.

Along with a friend, who thankfully selected the contest, I filled out the entry information, paid my fee, and sent off the excerpt of my manuscript. I was convinced it was the best fifteen pages they’d ever read! Imagine Ralphie dancing around his classroom after handing in his “Christmas Theme” about the Red Rider BB Gun. Pretty close.

Well, just like Ralphie, my balloon was soon burst. No, the judges didn’t stamp “You’ll shoot your eye out!” on my paper, but I may have preferred that.  Point of view? Head hopping? What the hell is that? Show don’t tell? What?

Needless to say, I did not win the Pulitzer with that first submission. In fact, I was eviscerated. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism, or maybe denial, but I questioned if entering the wrong category contributed to my harsh scores. I realized through the process that the categories can sometimes be confusing. To be sure this didn’t sway my critiques, I entered the same excerpt in another contest a few months later.

To no surprise, I got very similar responses. Now, it would be easy to get discouraged and give up on this whole “writing” thing, but one bright spot. Despite the critical comments and negative totals, there was one common theme that kept me going. Almost all the judges said I had a nice “voice.”

I may have been a novice, but I knew voice was key to writing. Grammar, punctuation, and point of view can all be fixed, but voice is inherent. Negatives aside, each one of those professionals said I told a good story.

I focused and took some online classes. Point of view? Oh, now I get it. Show, don’t tell. Done. Revisions, edits, revisions, edits, and one year later I decided to give it another try. I entered another contest. To my shock…I won my category! Was it a fluke? I entered another contest, and made the finals!

While I didn’t win the last contest (I took 3rd place), the judge, an acquiring editor for a publishing company, asked me for my full manuscript. Wow! I cleaned it up in a hurry (because now that the first few chapters were perfected, I had to do the rest) and send it off with great excitement. She came back to me with such praise, I was stunned. She even suggested I turn the story into a series. While they didn’t end up publishing it for various reasons, that editor gave me the confidence to push forward in the industry. After all, her job was to read manuscripts all day and determine which is fit for publication. Anything short of laughing at me would have been an honor, but to hear praise was the huge boost of confidence I needed.

Writing is like any other job. There’s much work to be done, and the learning will never end. The key is to take the criticism offered and use it to better yourself. And, although sometimes hard, take even the smallest glimmer of praise and use it to shore up your confidence (because it can get shaken).

If nothing else, the contest process can prepare you for an editor’s pen. And believe me, that’s a whole lot worse. But that’s a blog for another time…

From Never Too Late

Oh, well. Here goes nothing….

He turned the corner and the vision took his breath away. Silhouetted against the clear December sky stood the figure of a goddess. The three-inch heels she wore were neither the flat shoes of a frumpy, intimidated woman, nor the high heels of a lady trying to be someone she’s not. Her sculpted legs led to a conservative, yet sexy black dress that hugged her curvy figure and dipped low enough to show most of her well-toned back. His gaze made its way up to her short, wavy brown hair and he finally found the breath to sigh. She was exactly his type.

That 1Night Stand service is really good.

Pangs of desire, absent for too long, radiated through him, and the ability to spend the night with another woman seemed closer to reality. Maybe I’m ready. Katie may be the only one I’ve been with, but that’s over. Right?

Either unaware of his presence or playing coy, his beautiful date hadn’t moved from her position at the windows. The more he watched her, the more he experienced déjà vu. Something so familiar about her….


He’d know that high-pitched squeaking sound anywhere. “Katie?”

She spun, her wide eyes, her jaw slack with surprise before it snapped shut. “Sam?”

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“I can ask you the same!”

They stared at one another for several moments, recovering from their shock. Her gaze drifted from his face to the flowers he held.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” She snorted. “You’re my date?”

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