This time last year, I had finished my first manuscript. A friend encouraged me to submit the first five pages to the 2015 ACFW First Impressions Contest. I followed her advice and entered my writing to be judged by three industry professionals. I had worked hard to revise the piece to the best of my abilities, and I admit I had high hopes.
A month later, the Finalists were named. I was not on the list. After pushing aside my disappointment, I couldn’t wait to read the critiques of my work. When I received the files, the reviews surprised me. One judge seemed to enjoy the piece and offered constructive criticism. Another judge provided suggestions in areas where I could improve. The third judge disliked it. No, it’s more accurate to say the person hated it. At first, this stung, but as I processed through the comments made, I began to understand I had a considerable amount of work ahead of me if I was going to pursue publication. I’m truly grateful for the time these judges took away from their lives to help me take one step closer to achieving my goals.
Over the next few months, I buckled down and tried to learn as much about writing and editing as I could. One judge had recommended I read Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. When I visited the library to borrow the book, the adjacent book on the shelf caught my eye. After flipping through The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction by Jeff Gerke, I took both books home. As I worked on my second manuscript, I listened to the advice the judges had added to the margins of my pages as well as the tips I had learned from the previously mentioned texts.
In August, I attended my first writers conference. I’m pleased to announce Camp Galatians, my second manuscript, is currently resting in the hands of those who know best. As I reflect on my preparations for the conference and how my life has changed as a writer since I returned home, I now see this has been a lesson in patience. As I wait for feedback from literary agents, I’ve had to surrender control. It’s not easy.
When talking with my friend about my growth as a writer over the past year, she gave me another nudge. As a result, I submitted the first five pages of my third manuscript to the 2016 ACFW First Impressions Contest. As I consider my expectations this second time around, I’m not looking to win the contest or even be named a Finalist for that matter. I crave constructive criticism that will help push me to the next level with my writing. In any case, I will keep you posted. And if you have a story you’ve been sitting on, I encourage you to enter a contest. You’ll never know what may happen unless you give it a try.