I received my first official edits this week. The process was a lot less painful than I thought it would be. I've had this fear that I'd get an editor like many of the contest judges I've had in the past. I visualized this person changing my voice to the point that the story became generic. I got lucky. My editor is wonderful. She caught all sorts of little inconsistencies and issues in my story, but she left the essence of who and what it was alone.
I am not a romance contest junkie. I haven't had a good experience with writer's contests. I'd always get a combination of perfect scores and lousy scores. The judges that didn't like my quirky, sassy way of writing would nail me for my penchant to use incomplete sentences (on purpose) or try to sterilize my voice by editing my voice right out of it. Only once was I lucky enough to enter a contest where all my judges liked my voice.
On the advice of a published writer friend, I quit entering contests. She never did well in contests either, yet, she's now multi-published with several big publishers.
I think contests work for some people and not for others. For me, they were demoralizing and confusing. I often would change my entire story based on one anonymous judge's opinion.
On the other hand, contests can be a good way to get your work (if you final) before an editor or agent that you wouldn't be able to reach otherwise.
While contests aren't for me, that doesn't mean they aren't for you. It's just important to remember that they aren't a end-all or necessarily an accurate indicator of your writing ability.