Contests Are Fun! Not Really.

I guess it’s time to give you all the update…

My story THE ICE QUEEN was chosen as a
TOP TEN FINALIST in the TNT Horror Contest.

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Top Ten meant it won $2000 and would be optioned by TNT for a television series. Exciting, right? Even more exciting,  if it was chosen out of the top ten as the winning story, I’d win $20,000 and get to see my story on t.v.- whooo hoo!

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So, they sent me all of the paperwork, and I had my attorney look it over. I made sure my story was all clear to be optioned. I crossed my t’s and dotted my i’s. As an up-and-coming writer this was a great opportunity for me and I wanted to be sure everything was on the up and up and done correctly.

After making sure everything was in order, and after much deliberation, I decided to go for it. I signed the papers.

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Then I had to get it all notarized. Then everything had to be scanned and emailed. Finally, I had to pay almost $20 to send the hard copies by mail. Have I ever told you how much I detest the business end of this gig?

After everything was finalized, I was tasked with waiting for the official announcement so that I could share my news. I waited. For almost 2 weeks. And then…

That’s when it all started to go to hell.

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The night before the big announcement I get another email along the lines of, “Sorry we’ve decided your story isn’t eligible and it has been disqualified”.

A lot of emailing back and forth determined that the problem wasn’t so much that my story had previously been published in an anthology as it was a) their very ambiguous rules, b) their definition of eligible self-published works, and c) their ability to change the rules as they deemed necessary.

In other words, do not pass Go, do not collect $2000. I kind of felt like…

you-liar
And I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only writer that had their chosen story booted after the paperwork was signed. We were all told different versions of the reasons for our disqualifications. Attempts at explanations of the rules also seemed to vary widely. And as far as who the final decision was made by… some were told Turner, others were told Wattpad. I’m not sure anyone really knows the truth.

Anyway, I made a call to update my attorney, just in case. Because I was never paid for the rights to purchase the story, it remains mine all mine. Should it pop up somewhere unexpected in the future, well… You’ve seen the movie Secret Window, right?

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Secret Window – Clip – You stole my story!

I requested all my hard-copies of the documents be returned to me for shredding. Call me paranoid, but Secret Window y’all. I can totally see myself eating ears of corn after seeing my stolen story televised on TNT.

To be honest, all of this has left me with some serious doubts about Wattpad and some of their practices. I just don’t think it’s going to be beneficial to me to put my work there. That said, I’ve removed my works from their site. I’ll be keeping a careful eye out for any violation of my rights in regards to the three stories I removed.

I just don’t look good in orange jumpsuits. Does anyone?

I did meet some wonderful new writers during the contest (great stories made their way into the top 100, 35 and 10) and I am cheering them on and will truly be very happy for whoever wins the contest. I’m just glad it’s over for me. I’m moving on. Gladly.

I’ve had a few days to process all of this and I’m not disappointed or angry anymore (though the $2000 would have gone a long way to improve my mood). I’m relieved. The terms of the contract were of the sort Stephen King would have laughed at. I’m not a best-selling author (yet), but someday I might will be. There will be better contracts, bigger deals, and greater options. I feel like I dodged a bullet.

What I’ve Learned From This Experience:

  1. Never underestimate the value of having a lawyer handy.
  2. Always read the fine print, and ask for clarification of ambiguous terms.
  3. Get all clarifications, explanations, and definitions of said terms in writing.
  4. Know your worth.

That’s the big one. Know your worth.

They can take away the prize, but I’m taking away something far more valuable– the knowledge that my story was chosen. It was good enough to be optioned. I’m a damn good writer, y’all. I’ve got talent. And I’m going places with it.

Just… not back to Wattpad.

No offense to any of the fine writers that use Wattpad as part of their platform. It’s just not for me. And that’s okay. I’ve got other plans. Big ones. 😉

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