Lessons from Losing

No matter how you gloss over it, you didn’t win the writing contest. And losing isn’t pretty. If you’re like most writers, no matter how you read the rejections, your mind sees only this message: You stink. Which means give up.

But things are not always what they seem. Take it from me, a writer who was a loser in Operation First Novel — twice — before being chosen as the winner.

Winning does not make you a better person. And losing can be the best thing to happen to you.

You’re Not a Loser

You entered a complete manuscript, meeting specific guidelines and deadlines. That’s incredible. Not many accomplish the near-impossible, but you did.

Now you’ve received your judge’s comments. It’s time to figure out what they mean to your manuscript.

Feedback — from anyone — is what writers need. Because making someone like our work isn’t enough. How can we make them love it so much they’ll pay to read it? Your judge’s comments offer the hints you need.

Opportunities to Learn

Grapple with those comments. Argue with the suggestions. Look for examples from successful authors that your judge’s advice is right — or wrong. When you do that, you’re learning.

Work hard to see your judge’s point. If you couldn’t get the judge to come on board with what you were trying to say, how will you convince people to pay to read your story?

So argue, agree, disagree, but for goodness sake, learn to improve your craft. Many more opportunities lie ahead. Every time you get feedback, analyze it and watch your work get better.

Then, when you do win, you’ll be ready to face a whole new set of judges—your readers.

Peter Leavell’s winning entry in the Guild’s 2011 Operation First Novel contest, Gideon’s Call (historical fiction), was released in October by Worthy Publishing.

Photo credit: © marcoram – Fotolia.com


  1. says

    More encouragement and words of wisdom to add to the stack I’ve gotten from CWG already. Thanks! Entering Operation First Novel has been a great experience. I’m impressed and grateful to Jerry Jenkins and the judges for the honest, helpful feedback and encouragement that’s a hallmark of OFN. If I don’t have a book contract by Sept. 1, 2013, I’ll certainly enter again!

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