By Daven Anderson
As we find ourselves enjoying another lovely fall season in colorful Colorado, some of you reading this may be lamenting that the only “Colorado Gold” you won last month were the fallen leaves you raked from your backyard.
You didn’t win. You didn’t final. Agents aren’t camping out in your backyard, contracts in hand.
Fear not, my literary friends, for I am here to tell you that you have not reached the end of your story.
Quite the opposite, in fact. You have reached the beginning.
The true prize from the Colorado Gold is not to win or final, but to learn. To learn to listen objectively, instead of taking constructive criticism personally. To learn that professional writing is a journey of the soul, not just a process. And to learn that the true skill a professional writer must demonstrate, on a daily basis, is perseverance. The best writer in the world is equal to the worst writer in the world, when both are writing nothing.
I still apply the many lessons I learned from my three-year Colorado Gold odyssey. One of which is that the qualities which make your odyssey personal are the oddities no one else can ever gain insight from. The criticisms you received are unique to you, your work, and the judges’ mood the evening they read your entry.
Some of you may choose not to re-enter a particular work in future years if it did not win or final in Colorado Gold. But those who can persevere, and learn from the criticisms, can make their work much stronger than it was before.
I entered the same novel in Colorado Gold three years in a row, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The latter two entries incorporated many hard-won revisions, in line with the insightful criticisms I received for my previous entries.
Re-reading my 2010 entry filled me with the urge to put a bag over my head. I am frankly shocked it scored as well as it did. After the 2010 contest, I was filled with the motivation to hone my skills.
In 2011, I entered Colorado Gold flush with confidence, knowing that my entry’s prose had improved a seeming ten-fold, compared to the foppish tones of its predecessor. The comments were much more positive overall, yet my score was only four points higher than the year before. In gearhead terms, my “new Mustang GT” barely beat my “clapped-out Pinto” when the final scores were tallied.
Ah, what to do for 2012? Maybe the judges were confused about the juxtapostion between my prologue and Chapter One. And I had heard much talk of prologues being anathema to agents and editors. So, for my 2012 Colorado Gold entry, time to broom the prologue and start with Chapter One.
Of course, my hard work in 2012 was rewarded with my lowest score yet. Yes, even my rank amateur 2010 entry outscored its 2012 successor. Yet the comments and critiques I received for the 2012 entry were notably more positive than for either of my previous entries. Even within the small world of Colorado Gold entries, the scores alone don’t tell the whole story. And this was the most important lesson I learned from that year’s contest.
Yes, my novel “Vampire Syndrome” failed to win or even final in Colorado Gold, for three years in a row. The only thing “Vampire Syndrome” had won by the end of 2012 was a publishing contract. I am far from being a unique example here, as a fair number of my fellow RMFW members also have released traditionally-published novels that did not win or final in Colorado Gold.
So, in summation, lament not your “loss” in Colorado Gold. Those who learn and persevere have what it takes to win the writing game. You may lose the “battle” of Colorado Gold, but the lessons you learn can lead you to your true victory. The triumph of prose, and the self.