Guest Blogger: Dyanne Davis

Bettye is happy to report that she found her rollers. While she looks for her nail polish remover so she can wear open-toed shoes, some of her writer friends have volunteered to give her a break from blogging . . . .

Award-winning author Dyanne Davis lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband Bill, and their son Bill Jr. She retired from nursing several years ago to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a published author.

An avid reader, Dyanne began reading at the age of four. Her love of the written word turned into a desire to write. Her first novel, The Color of Trouble, was released July of 2003. The novel was received with high praise and several awards. Dyanne won an Emma for Favorite New Author of the year.

Her second novel, The Wedding Gown, was released in February 2004 and has also received much praise. The book was chosen by Black Expressions, a subsidiary of Doubleday Book Club, as a monthly club pick. It was a 2005 Emma finalist for Steamiest Romance and Book Of The Year. The Wedding Gown was also a finalist for Affaire de Coeur Reader’s poll.

Dyanne’s Misty Blue is a sequel to The Wedding Gown. It received a 4-star rating from Romantic Times. In December 2006, Let’s Get It On also received a 4-star rating from Romantic Times. In Misty Blue garnered an Emma win for best book cover.

Dyanne has been a presenter of numerous workshops. She has presented several workshops for teens at Chicago and suburban high schools. She has a local cable show in her hometown to give writing tips to aspiring writers. She has guests from all genres to provide information and entertainment to the audience. She has hosted such notables as USA Today bestselling erotica author Robin Schone and New York Times bestselling author of the vampire huntress series L.A. Banks.

Dyanne is also writing for Parker Publishing. Her first book, a story about new love taking places while trying to survive Hurricane Katrina, hit the shelves in February 2007. Also, for the first time Dyanne will be writing under a pseudonym for her new vampire series. Her first vampire novel, In the Beginning, was released in June of 2007 under the name of F. D. Davis.

When Dyanne is not writing, you can find her with a book in her hands, her greatest passion next to spending time with her husband and son. Whenever possible, she loves getting together with friends and family.

A member of Romance Writers of America, Dyanne recently wrapped up her second term as Chapter President for Windy City. Dyanne loves to hear feedback from her readers. You can reach her at her website. She also has an on-line blog where readers can post questions and photos, Her alter ego, ADAM OMEGA, can be reached at .

Entering writing contests for the ‘Yet to Be Published’ by Dyanne Davis

Hello everyone,

First, I’d like to thank Bettye for giving me a chance to speak to her readers. Coming from Romance Slam Jam recently and getting back in the swing of things with my chapter news and the things I’ve neglected in recent weeks, contest news was everywhere. RSJ had an aspiring author’s contest, like most conferences nowadays, and it’s the nature of contests that a few are happy and many more are saddened. It’s because of that sadness with all the contests that I’m aware of that got me to thinking that writers need to know that writing contests are just that . . . contests.

I’d like to talk about the unpublished writers contests. As great as it is to win, I hope winning isn’t your primary goal, but that having someone who doesn’t know or love you give you their opinion is what you’re after. And people, that’s all it is, an opinion. No more, no less.

Don’t get me wrong. To win a contest gives one a feeling of pride and an acknowledgement that perhaps you can do it. It’s very easy to win. It’s a lot harder to know what to do when you enter a writing contest and don’t win. Basically, my message is to the majority of writers who enter such contests, because, let’s face it: There are far more writers who don’t win than there are writers who do win.

Why? LOL. There can only be one winner. I think aspiring writers put too much stock in winning contests and are not prepared when they don’t. Most times it has nothing to do with the writer’s talent but can boiled down to basically two things. Opinions and INDUSTRY STANDARDS. I want to tell you this up front— what I’m writing to you now is only my opinion, and what I am saying is not meant in any way to take away money from any group who holds such contests. That being said, let us begin.

As a member for eleven years and two-term president of my local RWA chapter, I’ve formed some definite opinions about contests. What I’m going to say next is not meant as part of my bio, but giving you a little background about my own experiences and how I arrived at my opinions. During my first year with my chapter, the annual writing contest was held and all members were encouraged to judge the contest. At that time I’d recently made the decision that I really wanted to be more than an outsider and just come to the meetings. So I decided to judge the contest. Also at that time I thought it was all a matter of reading a chapter and saying if I liked it or not. Ha. Was I wrong. The scoring sheet was very complex, and for the first time I heard the words INDUSTRY STANDARD. If you don’t remember anything else from this message I’m writing, remember those two words if you have ever entered or plan to enter a writing contest.

I believe by that time I, as an unpublished writer, had entered two contests. I was extremely green to the whole INDUSTRY STANDARD thing and was very much into learning the craft of writing. It took me two years to totally get the whole head hopping, changing point of view (POV) thing. All of this made me know that I was wholly under-qualified to judge this contest. Nevertheless, I judged the contest. This more than anything stopped me from entering any more contests. First, the contest requires a fee; and second, unqualified individuals such as myself were allowed to judge. I personally didn’t see any difference in that and having my work critiqued by other members of my chapter during our critique meetings.

Before any RWA members or any other group who holds contest start wanting to fire off nasty emails to me, just keep reading. As time passed, my chapter brought in trained people to teach us how to judge, and each year we would have a refresher. We also had a motto: ‘DO NO HARM.’ All of this was part of learning the craft. I now knew the words INDUSTRY STANDARD and knew how to judge accordingly, and with our motto I believe I knew how to do it without causing serious harm to a writer’s psyche. More years passed, and I became the coordinator for my chapter’s paranormal segment of our yearly contest. I kept that job for four years. In that time we changed our scoring form because, frankly, it needed changing.

Example: Score from one to ten the hero and heroine’s conflict. You could get a chapter that was very well done but was only in the heroine’s POV. How did you judge that? No matter how well it was done, you couldn’t give it a 10 because nothing about the hero was in there. Our score sheets now say hero/heroine meaning either/or. Judges can now give the 10.

As time passed, I became published and the intense learning began. After having been put through my paces with the world’s best editor for eleven books, I’m getting better, but I’m not there yet. It still take me two days to read the revision letter because I’m a writer and ALL writers are sensitive and believe every single word they write is brilliant. For example, I’m going to give this to my friend Lisa G. Riley and ask her to read and see what can be cut and believe me, she will find something and I will agree with her. Because as I look at the length of what I’ve written, I do realize that I have not yet said the things to you that I really want to say. Why, you ask? Writers are sensitive (repeating myself) and since I know that, I have to prepare you.

If you’re going to enter ANY writing contest, be very clear what you’re looking for. Are you just looking for feedback, to win and have an agent or editor agree to take a look at your work? That’s what I’ve heard from many of my friends who still enter contests.

Remember this, even if you win the contest, it doesn’t guarantee a sale. Generally a contest will have anywhere from 2 to 4 judges. Every reader brings their own thoughts to each piece when reading it, and scores can and do vary. That’s the fact of this business, even when you’re published. One reader will think your book is brilliant, another will think it’s garbage.

Back to being clear about why you’re entering the contest. If it’s for an opinion of someone other than family, friend or other chapter members, then it’s a very good way to get feedback. I’m going to give you a suggestion before you spend your money entering contests. Ask the coordinator if you can have a copy of their score sheets. They may or may not give it to you, but some will. Then read your intended submission and score it. Here’s where that INDUSTRY STANDARD is important. If it’s an RWA contest, it most assuredly will be judged by INDUSTRY STANDARD. Most other contests are using similar versions. And let’s face it, you’re writing because you want to be published by some major publisher. If that’s the case, you definitely need to know what they’re looking for. If you have no idea what this is, you need to learn it before spending your money.

Listen carefully; this is important. Never allow a contest loss to define you or your talent. Treat the comments you receive as a buffet. If they help you in your writing, good. If they don’t help you, don’t take them. After all, you are the boss of your work. Reading is an extremely subjective thing, and you need to keep in mind that the same as a contest win does not ensure publication, the same goes for a contest loss. Losing a contest does not mean your work won’t be published. The road to publication is littered with losses in the form of rejections before, during, and after. And yes, published authors still receive rejections. If you want a better chance of winning or placing in those contests, then you need to learn what INDUSTRY STANDARD means. If nothing else, when you enter contests and submit your work to an agent or editor, you will be submitting work that is properly formatted and professional. The telling of the story is up to each of you. My only goal here is to help you with the presentation.

Dyanne Davis


A.M. Wells said...

This is such good advice that every writer weather published or unpublished should take to heart.

Thank you Mrs. Davis for taking the time to share your knowlege and wisdom with those of who admire and are devoted fans of your work.

Patricia W. said...

Hi Dyanne! (waving to Bettye while she rolls her hair and ponders her toenails)

Thanks for a useful post. I made entering contests a goal for this year as another way to get feedback, outside of my critique group. I haven't submitted anything yet but it's still my plan to do so with my current wip. ('Course I wouldn't mind winning too!)

shelia said...

Bettye, I'm directing a college student & aspiring writer to your blog. She emailed me this morning with some questions and I'm pressed for time (which seems to be a usual thing lately fortunately & unfortunately). Anyway, this information and the previous posts should help her.

Gwyneth Bolton said...

Great post, Dyanne... I think contests aren't that useful... unless there is a cash prize.. but that's another story...

I LOVED The Critic by the way. Girl that book was really good.. . :-)