Since the first of the year, I've entered Demon's Wager in five contests. Each contest costs $25 or $30 to enter, so you may be asking, "Why did she do that?"
(If, in fact, you're asking, "how can she afford to do that?" the answer is: I program computers to support my writing habit.)
Why I did that was:
1) To get unbiased feedback from strangers, people who don't know me and therefore won't cut me any slack based on friendship or knowing how long and how hard I've worked on this book.
2) To find out if my story connects with readers.
3) To toughen myself up in preparation for the real world.
4) To get a shot at getting the attention of industry professionals--agents and editors--who generally serve as final round judges.
I was doing pretty well against this list, except for item 3) until I got to the final contest.
Up to that point, the worst thing any of the first-round judges had said to me was, "I don't find devils and demons appealing, but your work is excellent and I can see it doing well in the future." Not exactly soul-crushing.
In another contest, one judge ran my pages through copyediting software and sent back the result, which pointed out every unneeded hypen and misplaced comma. Kind of nice, actually, since I don't own such software myself. I went in and fixed everything it found (including overuse of a few words that I really, really, really like).
And, two editors have requested to see my full manuscript based on the pages they read.
And then my scoresheets from the fifth contest came back. My scores were (out of 60) 59, 56 and 41. Ms. 41 had this to say: "I feel like I’ve read this story before. The idea doesn’t seem all that original."
And "Would caution the writer to look deeper, even in this light, humorous story, in order to make it less cliché. "
And "I hope that author works more on this story and finds a way to lift it out of the cliché."
Snarl. Name me one other romance novel that begins with a poker scene in Hell.
Although, if I'm honest, I have to admit the story is familiar: it's the story of Job, retold as a paranormal romance. So, um, yeah.
Okay, looks like I need more work on 3).
Graphic courtesy of Stuart Miles and freedigitalphotos.net.