Guest Post: Daven Anderson “I survived Colorado Gold, and you can, too!”

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.

Become an RMFW Guest Blogger
Interested in submitting to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog? Our blog's theme is Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, so we're interested in original, well-crafted and proofread blog posts on writing (all fiction genres) and the writing life, reports on RMFW events, interviews with agents/editors/published authors, humor, photo essays, and book reviews. Contact the editors at blog@rmfw.org for more information about available guest dates. CLICK HERE for additional submission guidelines.

6 thoughts on “Guest Post: Daven Anderson “I survived Colorado Gold, and you can, too!”

  1. Victory is sweet, Daven! I loved reading your blog, and I’m sure all the judges for the Colorado Gold found it refreshing and wonderful, as well. I know many of the RMFW contest judges, and like me, they approach each entry with enthusiasm and a sense of discovery, along with a deep caring and hope that we can help, not just judge. HUZZAH! to your open mind and courage, and to your sweet victory! And I love this quote: “The best writer in the world is equal to the worst writer in the world, when both are writing nothing.” Wishing you continued success!

  2. That’;s exactly the big truth that we need to give each writer who submits to the contest. Getting published depends a lot more on the needs and wants of a particular editor or agent when they receive a submission than it does on contest criteria. The grading for Colorado Gold is tough, and the judges agonize over the scoring of the 5 or so entries they read. Being a finalist or a winner is good for the resume, but it doesn’t guarantee publication. And as in your experience, Daven, most authors get published without that win, or even ever entering a contest.

    Colorado Gold is a wonderful learning tool and I encourage unpublished writers to give it a shot. But don’t put all your dreams into that one basket.

  3. Thank you, Janet and Patricia! 🙂
    Indeed, whether you get published or not depends on what the publisher is looking for.
    This is why you have to keep at it, regardless of contests and such.

  4. Daven,
    Well said, sir! As a contestant in many Colorado Golds myself (I never finaled), becoming contest chair was eye-opening, mostly for how much random events influence the outcome. Your perserverance paid off and you’ve done a great job following through with promoting your books while writing more. WINNER! A true professional. Thanks for the great blog post.

  5. Thank YOU, Chris Devlin, for all your hard work on our behalf (and thanks to Julie Kazimer for asking me to write about this!).
    It’s hard for me to believe that *you* never finaled, Devlin. 😉

Leave a Reply