Surviving The Final Stretch Of A Contest

The last few days waiting for contest results can be excruciating.


I know, I’ve been there a few times now. In the past year, I’ve entered PitchWars, RevPit, AMM, and now WriteMentor.

You’ve poured your heart and soul into creating a world from nothing, whole people formed of letters and words on the page, and you desperately want the validation that all that work is enough to catch someone’s eye. Specifically, a mentor’s eye. Ultimately, an agent’s eye.


These are the days where Twitter feeds on certain hashtags start to liven up with mentors dropping clues and excitement, and hopefuls anxiously awaiting the moment that results page is posted.

Even though I’ve never ‘officially’ made it in, I’ve gotten a ton out of each contest I’ve entered. I’ve soaked up knowledge about my craft, met new CP’s, and a bunch of other people who are ahead of me on the publishing journey who want to help other writers succeed.

Contests aren’t a necessary part of the path to success, but they can help you get there faster, in some cases. But that doesn’t mean they are easy. And, as the excitement and nerves ratchets up to a fever pitch, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that help.

Things That Help


After not getting in to PitchWars last year, I treated myself to a glass of fine rose and a favorite movie. Because, first of all, we’ve put our work out there. That’s a cause for celebration. Just taking a minute to be like “Hey, I did that brave thing” can help whether or not it ends up the way we hope it will.


Stay Off The Feed.

I know it’s easier said than done, but stay off the Twitter feed if it’s stressing you out. The Teasers can be fun. It can sometimes give you a hint of where you’ve landed. They can be stressful, too. If you struggle with balance, if they take too much time away from your real life, it’s okay to steer clear.

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Plan Your Next Step.

Based on the odds of getting in any major writing contest, it’s wise to know what you are going to do in the event you aren’t chosen.

Some of my next steps have included (at various points in the revising process):

  • Wait on and implement any feedback I do get from mentors who ultimately went with someone else
  • Send my MS to a new CP and implement their feedback
  • Send out a couple of queries
  • Prep for the next contest or pitch session
  • Read more books in my genre
  • Read more books on craft
  • Start something new

Or any combination of those things. Something that helps me stay in a healthy mental headspace is having a plan to move forward, no matter what happens. Because, as much as we want to find a mentor, the mentors’ choices are incredibly subjective. They have to find a story in good enough shape to work with in the timeframe, love that story enough to spend a ton of time with it, and see a clear path forward to help make it stronger.

All of our eggs are not in this one and only basket. Rejection here does not equal the end of the road for all our publishing hopes and dreams.


In the zone of these contests, particularly at key points near the end, it can help to maintain balance. To remember the zillion other paths this writing dream could go. And to be okay with yours being the one that’s right for you.

Intentional Practice.

They say there are two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. Well, there are two things that are certain in publishing: waiting and rejection. I think it’s a wise choice to work on getting better at both as early in the game as possible. If we are in this for the long haul, it’s a good investment to take waiting and rejection with grace and professionalism.

Figure out the things that help you bide your time. Depending on where you are, this could look a bunch of different ways. Here’s what I do to deal with the wait:

  • Spend time with my family
  • Read good books
  • Read books on craft
  • Outline a new project
  • Watch Netflix
  • Take a walk
  • Enjoy a nice glass of wine
  • Make new CP friends

Your list may be entirely different. Just find whatever works as a distraction, that lets you engage in your life as it is in that moment, then roll with it.

Prepping for rejection is a bit more tricky. Most contests I’ve entered I’ve had a good gut that I wasn’t on that final list before it came out. Mostly based on things mentor’s have said on Twitter. I think rejection is something that gets easier to swallow with practice.

And Full Confession: I didn’t do my first contest super well. I got very hopeful, and even though, based on mentor hints at the end, I knew I wasn’t likely chosen, I was still crushed to see I hadn’t made the mentee cut.

It’s okay though, because that moment was a wake-up call for me. I had to get better at rejection if I wanted to see this thing through. It was also good training for me. Watching the feed, I saw how some handled the rejection with grace, and others, well… not so much. Publishing is a small world, so they say, and it was an easy decision to choose to handle it with grace, even though I felt sad.


That all said, I just saw a famous author post about a rejection she received on Twitter this week, even after all her success. So, even though it stings, it might also just be something that we know we’re going to have to deal with. Like contractions when you’re in labor, but it’s okay because you get a baby at the end.


It helps to know that Every Single Author Ever In The History Of The World regularly deals with rejection. They get through it. We will too.


I hope this helps in some small way as we round the final curve of the WriteMentor journey. I’ve heard this time and time again, and take its wisdom to heart:

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.

Hang in there, fellow hopefuls. No matter what happens, you’ve got this!