WRiTE CLUB 2016 - Final Thoughts


Yeah...this is what I'm going to do right after I finish writing this post.  It's been a grueling contest! It ran for just seven weeks (shortest time frame to date), but me and my wife have been working behind the scenes since the start of the year doing all sorts of things that are necessary for it to run as smooth as possible.  It was a lot of hard work...but it was truly a labor of love.

The payoff came this past weekend at the DFW Conference (which was amazing) where I personally met not only our two finalist - Solange Hommel and Joy Lucas, but many others who submitted their work as well. Some of them reached the ring, others weren't as fortunate, but every one of them enjoyed the contest and thanked me for the opportunity it offered. WRiTE CLUB may not be perfect...and I will do what I can to tweak the formula in order to satisfy the majority of our participants (fighters and readers alike)...but it continues to accomplish the goal that has always been at the top of my list -- bring writers closer together.

Together lets take a look at how well we did this year.  It was definitely a fierce competition with 3 different tie-breakers and the closest final we've seen yet. The number of contestants ended up being 95, which was a new record! Our number of votes per bout = 44, which was not a record and a little disappointing. However, overall each bout averaged 524 page views, and during March my blog saw 31,333 site visits...the most I've ever had in one month! Boo yah!! Yes, the entries did seem to be more on the "dark side" this year, but that wasn't by any design or intent.  The slush pile judges chose what they felt was the best. We'll have a new batch of judges for next year (let me know if you are interested) and who knows, maybe romance will dominate. <3 br="">

Right here I want to thank everyone who did what they could to spread the word about WRiTE CLUB. Without you...this contest would have faded away a long time ago.  You are are the heart and soul of what we are trying to accomplish here, so you have my deepest appreciation!

So where can WRiTE CLUB improve?  Well right off the bat I can tell you that the SAVE week will be coming back next year. Voters will be given the chance to save a writer they felt was equally matched in their bout and torn about who to choose. If enough people believe you deserve a second chance, then I'll give you that opportunity.

I'm still looking for ways to increase voter participation, especially in the later rounds. In the past I've tried offering a prize for a randomly selected voter, and maybe I'll try something like that again. I'm also considering offering a prize for the person who does the most to publicize the contest.  Lots of things to consider, but if anyone has any idea's...I'm all ears.

Really, that is what this post is about.  What do you feel needs to be changed? This contest is what it is today partly because feedback has helped shape it. So please, leave your recommendations or observations in the comments below and I'll look them over carefully. But just like a critique of a manuscript, the author should only take actions on suggestions he/she feels will improve their work. I will do the same here.

One of the changes I've already thought of...and I'm enacting right now...is a signup list for notification about when the 2017 WRiTE CLUB is about to begin. All you have to do is sign up on the linky list below and two weeks before the contest opens up to accept submissions (which runs for about a month), I'll send you an email reminder along with any new rule changes. Don't worry if you don't have a blog to fill in - simply use WRiTE CLUB as the title and www.dlhammons.com as the site address, then your name and email address.

I hope to see each and every one of you again next year...and bring your friends!



18 comments

  1. Hey DL! I can only imagine the work you put into it every year. Sorry I wasn't able to stop by very often. Since it went into April's A to Z Challenge, my time online was already stretched. Maybe a prize would encourage more voters.

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    1. I'm giving it serious consideration Alex!

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  2. I enjoyed reading the diverse entries and can't wait to see what next year's contest brings.
    Love your blog.

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    1. Thank you Michelle! If we're not bigger and better next year, then I'll have done something wrong! :)

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  3. Honestly, I would stop with the whole "slush pile" thing. It sounds ungrateful, for someone who has twice now failed to make the cut, but I figure I may as well express it. If you're receiving far too many submissions, that's fine. But the term "slush pile" is pejorative and sounds rude. If you continue to run things this way, the least you could do is have the judges who are eliminating people provide feedback, at the very least, to the people not making the cut. They have the time to read, they should have the time for that, too. I've always made it a point, when I've been in a similar position, to provide that courtesy. I'm not trying to be mean here, but as you've observed, there's always a drop-off in voting for the later rounds. It's not just that people are disappointed they didn't make the cut, but it really shouldn't be a mystery in the first place. It comes off as a slap in the face. This is a competition for would-be published writers (or so I assume). We face enough rejection already.

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    1. Tony - In many ways WRiTE CLUB mirrors the path to publication and the term "slush pile" is commonly used to describe the pile of query letters literary agents have waiting for them in their in-box. In my opinion it is not used in a derogatory fashion and I use it in the same way here, describing a pile of material waiting for eager consideration by our judges.

      As far as providing feedback to EVERYONE who submits...I just don't see that as being feasible. The judges are already reading a decent size book worth of submissions, a good number of which are submitted just ahead of the deadline, and I feel it is asking too much to have them stop and jot down their thoughts for each piece.

      As far as your final point goes, you are right on both counts. This is a competition for would-be writers, and writers do face rejection after rejection. I've already mentioned how this contest embodies the spirit of the publication process, and as such it should and must include rejection. It is the nature of the beast we struggle with. Writers who have competed here...and lost...have told me how their writing has grown just from observing how the winning submissions go about rising to the top. Case in point, my wife tells me there was a writer who submitted last year (but didn't see the ring), but made it deep into the competition this year. That writer didn't see their non-selection as a slap in the face, instead choosing to look at it as a growing experience...and in fact the did.

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    2. "Slush pile" means unsolicited material, which is the opposite of what you handle in this competition. Either way, the rejection aspect is the toughest thing, because there's a difference between knowing rejection is part of the game and knowingly including it in the process. It sounds hugely ungrateful for me to be complaining. I understand that. I understand the dogma of perseverance. It's the story of a writer's life. All I'm saying is that you have a huge opportunity here to do something better. Its not unreasonable, given the number of judges you involve, to give entrants feedback. Split it up, or find at least one judge who will make such a commitment. People have different perspectives. The writer who was rejected last year but made it in this year, that's a fine example, and every successful writer who talks about their many, many rejections makes a fine example, too, but the thing is, even knowing how many judges voted for you (I assume you employ this method) would be a welcome sign of encouragement, even if it takes a month or two to get this kind of response. It seems like a reasonable courtesy to ask.

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    3. I have actually considered posting the voting results of the slush pile judges after the contest ends, but I'd like to hear more about what everybody else thinks. Would this be helpful...or would it just be rubbing salt in the wound?

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    4. I think you'll lose slush judges if they have to give feedback on every entry, but it might be reasonable to ask them to give a little feedback on the pieces they selected that didn't make it. Or do a blog hop at the end where those who didn't make it can post links to their entries so readers can see (and comment on) what didn't make the cut. This might help with waning voters, if they have something to look for at the end.

      On other hand, life's tough. Writing is tougher. We aren't going to get feedback on everything we submit to contests, agents, publishers. I don't know of any FREE contest that accepts and critiques every single entry. To me, that would be unreasonable. (And the critiques would vary greatly in degree of helpfulness, because let's be honest, sometimes you just don't know where to start critiquing...)

      Anyhow, I'm sure organizing and running this contest takes enough out of you as it is, DL, and you have to respect your limits. As someone whose two entries were lost in the 2014 slush pile, I have no issues with the slush. :)

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  4. You do a lot of work to run this and it does NOT go unnoticed.
    I had a few (lazy) people ask me how to vote (after reading my tweets or FB posts or whatever). "You just comment?" "Yes." I know at least three people who wanted to vote, tried on 3 separate rounds, all who have Google accounts -- but it didn't work for them. One person is in Canada-- no idea if that's relevant or not.

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    1. That's a good point. I'll try and work in a way for people who have trouble leaving a comment to vote to send me an email, which I'll in turn post for them.

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  5. Hi Don - I congratulate you ... on a wonderful achievement. So pleased the DFWC was such fun ... and many of you had a chance to get together ...

    Congratulations to one and all .. cheers Hilary

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  6. First off, thank you so much for organizing this competition! It was an amazing experience for me, even though I got knocked out in the cage bouts. Overall, without you, your wife and the judges, this would not be possible and I give you so much respect for doing this every year!

    This competition was wonderful in testing out a new WIP and writing style. The feedback only pushed my craft to be the best it can be. This being the first year I've heard of WriteClub,I think the way the rules were initially explained was a little confusing. I had confusion with the cage bouts (and reusing the same entries). I did feel upset knowing it would be the same piece but only because I misunderstood the original instructions for the cage bouts. I referenced previous WriteClub competitions and saw original pieces for each round, so I assumed it would be the same. I think clarity in how each round is run would prevent any unnecessary surprises.

    To address the decrease in voting during the final rounds is tough. Most definitely having a physical prize is one thing to consider, but to address what Tony previously mentioned about feedback for contestants that did not make it through the slush pile, what if for each round of voting, one random voter is chosen who entered in the competition and didn't make it from the slush pile and they get feedback on their entry? I think that's VERY valuable to all aspiring writers and if it was me, would 100% motivate me to keep on voting in each round. Just my thoughts. :)

    Once again, thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into this!

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    1. I think you might be onto something Deeba. I can see how linking feedback as a reward for continuing to vote and drum up interest in the contest as one way to satisfy both issues. I'll mull that over. Thank you!

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  7. Just job running the contest. :)

    I found when there was no new pieces to judge, the voting waned. I don't see why it wouldn't, part of the fun of the contest was reading the piece and thinking about. When I didn't have to do that I didn't put much effort into it, or didn't vote.

    Also, near the end the voters don't really matter because we aren't the people that get the final say in who wins this contest.

    I like the contest and I'm not sure how to make it better. But as a voter for the contest (I was not someone who tried to join the contest) I found my importance wane and dwindled.

    I'm not sure if it would be worth it(or too much trouble) to add a mini weekly contest for the people that didn't make it to the official contest that only the votes choose to win. Maybe a few entries go head to head and whoever gets the most votes at the end of the week 'wins'. What winning means could be anything really, a blog feature for their work, plus they get feedback from the voters which might help them do better the following year they want to enter the contest.

    You get a lot of entries, I'm sure there was plenty of close calls. I do think its pretty unreasonable to ask the judges to critique the mass amount of stories that get submitted, though.

    I dunno. I look forward to trying my luck next year though. :)

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  8. Hi DL! Hopping on a little late here, but one thing I would've liked was a super simplified/cheat sheet approach to the voting rules/process. I think any instruction that goes past 5-6 sentences, people will stop reading. Shortened phrases or bullet points may help and giving a prize to the best contest promoter would certainly help as well!

    However, I think the contest is running just fine the way it is and I can't wait to see who the contestants are next year! You've done a wonderful job and what you do for the writing community certainly does not go unnoticed! Thanks again!

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  9. I'm late here, too (your blog doesn't always show up on my feed for some strange reason). You say you'd like people to share the bouts, but there aren't any share buttons on your blog. It sure makes it easier to just click on the Facebook/Google/Twitter/etc. icon and share it that way. Is there a reason you don't have any share links on your blog?

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