Some thoughts on the ACFW First Impressions Contest

First, congratulations to the 2014 ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) First Impressions winners! I don’t know why ACFW doesn’t post the winning submissions and I find that sad. I’d really like to read the stories which beat out the competition.

For those that don’t know, the First Impressions contest:

gives unpublished writers the opportunity to have the first five pages of their Christian fiction manuscript evaluated by an industry professional.

You pay $15 or $25 and three published authors review the first 5 pages of your manuscript. It’s not a bad deal and a chance to get some good feedback. I’ve entered it twice and found the comments useful. They provide you with a score and detailed notes on your submission.

This past year I entered my manuscript in progress A LIFE ETERNAL. I’m still in the first draft that always really sucks phase, so any advice I was to receive would be really helpful.

Needless to say, I didn’t win. I wasn’t expecting my raw work to knock the socks off of anyone and was happy to get feedback from professionals. Of course I thought it would’ve been awesome to defy all logic, find out my personal assessments were much to harsh, and win – but I tried to remain realistic. So I opened my first score sheet to find this score:


Ok, not bad. Next score:


Even better, I can live with that.

Final score:


Daaaammmmmnnn. My sides hurt. Initially I thought, what’s up with the discrepancy? How could it be that far off? After pondering the words of my hate letter to ACFW, a stiff belt of whisky and finally some positive reflection, I came to the conclusion that my results were a microcosm into the entire literary world.

No matter how big of an author your become, no matter how many stories you write, books you publish, or degrees you acquire – someone will always hate your stuff. You might become beloved by a huge segment of the population but you won’t ever please everyone. That’s the way it goes with most things and it is more true than ever when it comes to writing.

If you’re a writer you’ve already heard a 1,000,000 times that rejection is a necessary part of success. Hearing that and dealing with it are different beasts altogether. A lot of people would look at the scores I received and been disappointed. I initially felt the same way. The trick is to train yourself to look at the two good scores and say, “two people thought my work wasn’t bad, maybe even pretty good.” If you can focus on that then the next story you write will be even better.

I know more rejection is in my future. That should give me plenty of time to practice focusing on the positive.

2 thoughts on “Some thoughts on the ACFW First Impressions Contest

  1. Very well-said! I’ve had judges like that before, and it’s so hard to take. Some writers recommend dealing with rejection (including disappointing contest scores) by reading one-star reviews for your favorite books. It really does help, too. No one has a 100% fan base.

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