Life After the Contest Closes
By Amy Groening

As anyone who has visited our website, Twitter feed, or Facebook page over the past few months may have noticed, we just held our 11th Annual Free Publishing Contest—and now it’s closed. As in years past, we received many outstanding entries, and we are greatly honoured to be entrusted with the manuscripts that so many writers have poured their hearts and souls into. Several writers have mentioned to me that they’re at a bit of a loss as to what to do with all their time now. Big projects like this can take up a lot of time and attention, and it can be a bit shocking when you finally finish your manuscript and hit the “submit” button for a contest—or drop it in the mailbox to send off to a potential agent, or any other call for submissions.

It can be hard to know what to do with yourself once you’ve let your manuscript out into the world. Here are a few tips on how to handle the next few days after submitting a manuscript (to our contest, or any other worthy competitors’).

1) DO NOT read that manuscript again.

Not yet. You’ve been working hard on this manuscript for months, and it’s out of your hands now. Resist the temptation to go through it again this minute. Give it time. No matter how many times you read, edit, proofread, re-read, and re-edit a manuscript, there is bound to be that one little error (or twelve) that you missed. Now is not the time to find it—the manuscript is on the publisher’s desk, and the last thing you want is to be calling someone in a panic because you forgot to add a paragraph break in the fourth section on page 152. Of course, you want your entry to be as polished as possible, but a publisher can tell if they have a good manuscript that just needs another round of editing, or a problem manuscript that needs to be taken apart and pieced back together again before it’s ready for the public eye. Publishers have a good eye for seeing a manuscript’s worth, and that typo you missed isn’t going to be the one thing that costs you a place on the shortlist.

In a few weeks, or months, once you’re no longer riding the adrenaline wave of submitting a manuscript to a potential publisher, you’ll want to take another look at it, but right now, relax, and take a little break from writing.

2) DO NOT let this (or any other) contest be the deciding factor for your writing career.

Contest winners won’t be announced for a few weeks yet, but many writers have already decided what the results will mean to them, and this can be risky business. Remember that you’re going up against hundreds of other worthy writers, and there can be only two winners. If you don’t win this time, do give your manuscript another read-through, do ask for feedback, do try getting a manuscript critique, but don’t let a loss like that stop you from writing. We have writers who enter our contest every year, and it is fantastic to see how their manuscripts change as they work them over. We’ve had manuscripts that didn’t even make the shortlist one year, and then won the contest the next year. You can always grow and improve as a writer, and contests like this are intended to encourage writers to keep working hard, so don’t give up!

3) DO NOT call us asking for contest updates.

I say this in the nicest way possible. We love hearing from writers, discussing manuscripts, talking about publishing possibilities, and helping make your publishing dreams a reality. We don’t love having to turn down contest hopefuls calling for updates that are not available. As soon as contest information is ready to publicize, we go public with it, so check our website, Facebook, and Twitter feed for updates, but please don’t go to the trouble of giving us a call if the information isn’t online yet; you will just meet with disappointment.

Note: while this is a Word Alive Press-specific instruction, I would highly suggest you take it to heart for any other contests you’ve entered. Follow the instructions given on a contest website, and trust the organization to be true to their word. If they say contest information cannot be given out over the phone, don’t try to get them to do it. I know it can be hard to sit and wait for something like this, but believe us, it’s hard for us too—contest season is an exciting and busy time for publishers, and we’re just as excited as you are for that Winners announcement! Keep in mind that the person you are calling could be your future publisher, and the last thing you want is to start off on the wrong foot by trying to get them to break the rules for you, so respect those instructions, sit tight, and wait it out. The announcements will come!

4) DO find suitable distractions while you wait.

Is that the sun outside your window? Could it be summer already? What a perfect time to find distractions from that pesky manuscript that has absorbed all your time for the past few months! Do you have a garden that needs tending? A cabin by the beach that could really use a visit? A family that’s patiently waited for you to emerge from your office for the past 3 months? Get out there and rack up a few more experiences while you wait for the contest winners to be announced—you may even find the inspiration for your next manuscript!

About this Contributor:

Amy Groening is a Project Manager at Word Alive Press. She is a passionate storyteller with experience in blogging, newspaper reportage, and creative writing. She holds an Honours degree in English Literature and is happy to be working in an industry where she can see other writers’ dreams come to life. She enjoys many creative pursuits, including sewing, sculpture and painting, and spends an embarrassingly large amount of time at home taking photos of her cats committing random acts of feline crime.

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