I'm giving another contest a try: Dear Lucky Agent Contest (click here), for contemporary middle grade, judged by an agent, and hosted by Writer's Digest. Chuck Sambuchino, in his blog "guide to literary agents" says that the last Writer's Digest Contest resulted in a writer getting signed by the agent, and selling two books!
Even though I was shocked by the critique I received from the last contest I entered, I'm going for it again…with refreshed, revised, and better-than-before first pages. After the initial chock wore off, the wisdom of the advice in the critique became apparent.
Admission: some of that advice I heard years ago. What I learned: when someone picks out something that they "don't get" in my story, maybe i need to change the way I'm telling the story because what I thought was a cool idea, simply isn't. In particular, In Nyghtmare's Code I really wanted the dad to be a bit weird. But reviewers keep saying he's coming across distant and mean. This last reviewer said she didn't understand why the boy even wants to save the dad. Ouch!
So I dived in and rewrote the beginning for the 30th time. I tried a different approach. I want the story to work for readers more than I want to stick to my vision, because apparently my mental vision is as obscured as my astigamtism-challenged eyes.