Monday, 24 November 2014

Writing Competitions, Monsters & the Honourable Pursuit

by Charis Joy Jackson

It was the perfect competition.

My favourite genre.

I spent five months working on the story. The characters were sassy, gruff & deeply layered. The countries I created were mystical & unique & the theme of my story was profound.

I was in love with my creation & if I’m truly honest with myself… I had become narcissistic.

It was my first competition. There’d be five winners & I knew I’d be one. How could they not love my story as much as me? I was a perfect match for their competition & already basking in the glory.

Then came the awful truth. If I entered the competition & won, all the work I’d done, all the characters I loved, would be signed away. The publisher would have FULL copyright rights & license to my story. I was flabbergasted. How could I sign the form? I couldn’t. Yet, I’d spent months plotting & writing specifically for THIS competition. How could I not? Gah!

What was I to do?

I asked fellow writers if this was common for competitions, I asked what they would do in my case & I got several different answers. Most, however, told me the submission form was not author-friendly & urged me to stay away. Still I struggled, with all the work I’d put into the project, was it now all for nothing?

I mean I was supposed to win this. I was going to be published!

During one discussion a friend urged me to finish what I started.  “You’ll love the next one just as much.” He said & I heard his challenge… but the "What if's" still struggled away. What if I won the competition & a film producer read it & and what if that producer wanted to make it into a film? I’d have no control over the project. The publisher would have full ownership to say “yes” or “no”. It would be heart-breaking because I’m not just a writer. I’m a filmmaker too. I couldn’t watch my story get turned into a big blockbuster success & have no control over it. No. I wouldn’t enter the competition.

Absolutely not.

It was then I realized how out of control I had become. I was being prideful. Narcissistic. The chances of my little novella being seen by a producer & turned into a feature film were slim to none, but I had reached the point it WOULD happen. I’d blame my over active imagination like I had no choice in the matter, but it wouldn’t be true. Looking back, I can see where I let good, healthy admiration for my story turn into something vain. Ugly.

I was in the wrong.

I had let my God-given talent become a snarling, terrifying monster. Ironic considering the story I wrote was a retelling of Beauty & the Beast.

In the end, I decided not to enter the competition, but it took some long, hard soul searching to be sure I was making the decision for the right reasons. I needed to protect my creative equity not for vain, selfish gain, but because I wasn't finished with the story. God still wanted to teach me something through the characters He was co-creating with me. Which leads me nicely to the moral of this little tale. Be proud of what you write and keep it safe, but don’t let it grow into something monstrous and narcissistic because then your beautiful work will become ugly.

What about you, have you ever let your love for story become a hindrance to your God-given talent?


Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company. She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel, which she hopes to create into a seven part series. 

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder. 
Welcome to the adventure.


  1. A very thought-provoking post Charis. I really appreciate your honesty in talking about how you got things out of perspective for a while there. It's so easy to do. I entered a competition last year and was so sure I would make it into the competition anthology (I didn't), that I ignored a couple of key statements in the conditions that have now come back to bite me. Thanks for bringing a balanced perspective and I pray God will bless your efforts with that novel. You may have missed out on that competition, but I'm sure He'll have something better in store for you. Take care.

    1. Thanks Nola. It was an interesting experience to see just how easily we can get carried away in our thought life and an amazing example of God's grace to us.

  2. Hi Charis,
    Thanks for that honest and humorous insight into the way our thoughts can take us over matters like this. It's a very emotional venture, taking up so much of our time and personality, so it's natural that this might happen :) those who design the comps probably rely on this, so thanks also for the warning to read forms and guidelines carefully.

    1. Hi Paula, thanks for your encouraging words. I'm glad that it spoke to you. :)

  3. Glad you came to your senses Charis. Well done and well written. A God-centred life is all that matters.

  4. Thanks Charis for sharing from the heart about one of those eureka moments in an author's life. God chastises me often for not having a 'pure heart' about my writing - it's so easy for it to be all about me - and my writing and not about Him and what He has called me to. Thanks for a lovely reminder to keep my eyes on His plans and purposes for me in my writing. May your story reach the heights - in His way and in His time. Blessings. xox

    1. Thanks Anusha. I'm glad it was encouraging to you. I so hope that others can learn from my mistakes so they don't have to learn them themselves.

  5. Thanks Charis
    I can relate to your post!
    Amazing how God can teach 'us' through our writing and our emotions.....may we always have teachable spirits as we follow our dreams in the writing world and follow Jesus xx Di

    1. Thanks Di. I love how God uses story to teach us.

  6. Hi Charis
    Thanks for your amusing and insightful post. I think we can all fall in love with our babies, we're passionate about them (except when we become discouraged and think think they are atrocious). Great to get God's perspective - which is often that they are neither as good or as bad as we think :) Having said that, I think we do need to be sensible and consider the long term consequences of the contracts of competitions or publishing deals. I recently submitted to an anthology and because short stories are not my forte, it took three goes to write a story of the desired length :) However, I'm still like the first two (too long) tries and will be looking for another home for them :) I'm sure there will be other opportunities for your beauty and the beast story :)

    1. Thanks Jeanette. I hope so, a friend of mine actually told me about a publisher that may be interested in the story. It's still a long shot, but I want to keep moving forward, especially as that was the whole point of entering the competition in the first place. I hope you find a good home for your stories.