It’s been about five months since I took the leap into the world of creative writing contests. Five months, eight submissions, two results yet to come, and one Top 10 Finalist. We all have to start somewhere, no?
Not all writing contests offer feedback on submissions and all that do, charge for the service. Understandable because I can’t imagine these judges are doing the work for free and if they are going to be putting the time and effort into writing a full critique, there should compensation for the work. As a ‘new’ writer (i.e., I’m new at sharing my work with a broader audience), I jump at the opportunity for feedback whenever it’s offered.
So far, I’ve submitted to four contests that also offered a critique and I’ve received back two of them. And although the pieces were wildly different in tone and theme (one was a non-fiction essay and the other was a creative short story), the two critiques contained a common message.
Dig further into emotion, feelings, and thoughts, and don’t be so hesitant to rip open what may be a painful topic. Don’t glaze over a difficult point or event. Give those moments in the story the time, attention, and detail they require for the reader to fully feel what is going on.
Now THAT’S challenging feedback! Although I do write often about painful experiences (it goes hand-in-hand with my love of a truly tragic book), delving deep into the emotions of those experiences is a frightening thing, when it comes right down to it. It requires a person to call up all kinds of unpleasantness and relive it in an effort to find the words that adequately convey the pain of the moment.
But I also agree it’s experiencing that kind of writing, when I’m feeling what I’m reading not just reading it, that means the most to me. And I’m sure it must for so many others.
So, dig deep I shall. I’m working on a piece to submit to the CBC Short Story Prize contest and at first blush, this one is going to hurt. But I’m ready.