Tales from the . . . Crypt?? Part I

Not really, but sometimes it feels that way. I'll share some of the depressing stuff first, then later more "inspiring" words.

Contest results came back recently. I thought I'd post some comments made.

1. Heroine seems weak.
2. Hero seems unlikeable (lol, I've been hearing that alot!)
3. Need more practice writing before I'm ready for publication (ouch)
4. Need more showing than telling

These are some of the main things pointed out by three different judges. Yep, reading them hurt but I pretty much agree with all of them but one. Can you guess which one? :-) And may I also add that while I've heard of cruel judges, these comments were in no way snarky or mean. I'm very thankful for the judges taking time to look at my work and give their input.

So, have any of you entered contests? I'd love to hear about your experience. Or how about just some of the feedback on your work. Any comments that made you cringe? Bash your head against a desk? Hurl the computer and devour obscene amounts of chocolate?

Ummm, not that I did that . . .


Anonymous said…
Now here is a subject that could seriously tax your blog.

I for one could write a book - lol - on contests. Not that I've entered that many, I think maybe ten total with three different ms.

But here's what I've learned. I along with my writing partners start the mantra before we read or even look at our scoresheets. Ready, repeat after me... 'It is all subjective, it is all sub...' okay, you get where I am going with this.

Contest feedback can be great, and it can be harmful. I've had one ms, score in a contest with four judges. Ready for this - 100, 91, 83, 67. Talk about all over the place!
And these judges had diferent gripes. One said the pov shifts were flawless, another said I was a head hopper. HUH? One deleted my commas another added more.

One of my CP's got slammed in contests. She's a great writer. And she was slammed. Guess what, an editor loved the same ms she entered in the contests and requested a full. Hmmmm, makes you think doesn't it.

Here's the most important things that contests are for:
1 - Get that final and you've got a fast track to an editor.agents desk.
2 - Get used to having other people pick your writing apart. Better a judge than an editor.
3 - Constructive feedback. (when you get it.) It can be so helpful when you realize that three different judges are pointing out the same thing.
4 - (And this one really needs to be thought out.) Learning the industry. Contests cost money, but if you research the contests, enter the ones that have great track records, great judges and final judges, you can come away with a wealth of info and learning experience. And even a feeling for what editors go through. After all, they have to sift through the crap just like we do until we know that a contest - or for them a ms - is right for us - or them!

Utilize what you can from contests. If you win...yeah, celebrate, but if you don't, the important thing is not to let it get you down and take what you can from it.

You have to remember that it is all---yep, subjective. What one person hates another will love. You can't please everyone.

It's another tool for refining your writing, defining your voice, and developing that thick skin you'll need on the road to publication.

Good luck to anyone who enters!
And Jessie, I love your Char's!
Sarah said…
Hmm...I'm guessing you don't agree that your heroine is weak?

I haven't entered any contests, yet, but when I do I'll make sure to have a box of Godiva waiting when I read the results!

I like what Candi said about it all being subjective. I'll try and remember that when I do start entering contests (which I hope isn't too far off).
Anonymous said…
Hey Jessie. Great post. And take heart, girl. IMHO, Candi had some very saavy advice.

I'd also like to piggyback on her comment about scores and add something. The last contest I entered was with the first book of my fantasy trilogy (nearly two years ago). It was at the conference sponsered by my local writer's group (Frontiers in Writing) where they fly authors/agents/editors in from New York, etc...and provide workshops and pitch sessions. It's a pretty big deal for aspiring authors where I live.

The contest entries went through two phases:first through a published author and then if you finalized, it went on to an editor in New York. Their two scores were added together at the end and divided by two for an average. The author with the highest score won. There was a first, second, third, and honorable mention to be given away.

Okay. So with mine, the author judge filled out a score sheet rating ten different aspects of the MS. The highest score one could receive was 100. I got a 99, and several hand written comments including: "this is a wonderful story" and "this is ready to publish!".

Now, onto the next phase, since I finalized. The book was sent to a Harlequin author. Bear in mind, my fantasies are very literary and have only elements of romance, they are not pure category or formula romances. The editor had the same worksheet to fill out with possible score of 100. I made a forty something. She had nothing to criticize about voice, execution, or grammar. It was all personal dislikes.

Wow! What a difference. From a near perfect score to "not even good enough for average" score. Oh, BTW, even with that low score from the editor, I still managed to snag honorable mention out of eighty some other writers, simply because of the high score from the author. I still have the certificate in my publishing scrapbook. :-)

All this to say, it's not only subjective per personal taste, it's subjective per genre. How they ever came up with a Harlequin editor as a judge for fantasy, I'll never know. But it taught me a lot. Because I learned who NEVER to query with my future projects. Not that I held a grudge, I simply realized my stuff would not appeal to them or fit their niche.

Shortly after that contest, a published pal of mine (upon seeing my scores from both judges) offered me a very helpful tidbit that I'd like to pass on regarding scores in contests. Once you start getting radically contradictory scores that differ in 40 points or more, it's time to write off the contests and move on to querying. Because that means your work has moved beyond critique mode to subjectivity. And once that's the case, there's nothing more to glean from contests. It's time to get it out there and find the agent that will LOVE it.

That was the last contest I ever entered. :-)
I've only entered one small contest, and no feedback was given. How do you locate contests?

There's a steep learning curve for writers. I read a lot, hoping some of the techniques I come across will get in by osmosis. LOL!

Susan :)
Anonymous said…

I would suggest going to the Charlotte Dillon's website. She has a huge database of all kinds of cool info.

Everything you could want or need to find a link to is pretty much here. She also has a Crit group and a list with some great authors who are a wealth of knowledge for aspiring writers.

Don't know if Jessie wants a link here, so just google Charlotte.
Wow Candi! I should have you do a post on this (grinning here). What a wonderful way to explain things. I couldn't agree with you more. I know in my head it's subjective, but sometimes critiques hurt. Both in writing and in life. Thanks for stopping by and sharing wise words.
You always did "get" Alec.
And yes, you can leave links if you'd like. I don't mind.
Hi Sarah, if you don't have a crit group yet, a contest is a great way to get anonymous feedback. Like Candi said, it's subjective. But when two judges say the same thing (like they all thought my hero was too harsh) then it's probably something that needs fixing.
Personally, I love contests but I don't love forking out the dough. I'd recommend entering one that has an editor/agent you're targeting, just in case.
I entered this same manuscript last year to a contest, finaled and now have an editor request. It was my first contest for it and it wasn't finished. But I'm glad that the contest I entered had an editor from the house I was looking at. Anyhoo, I'll be running over to your blog soon to see if there's anything new. :-)

Oh, the thing I don't agree with? LOL, that my writing isn't ready to be published . . . LOL That was a painful comment.
Jessie's overblown ego.
Hi Anita. I, for one, love your writing. And I write category.
It could have been the genre or . . . dare I say jealousy? :-)
Okay, okay, just kidding.
What a blow though. I'm sorry you were scored so low. A judge should be objective, in my opinion.
What a story. I think I would have sprouted a few gray hairs over that.
Hi Susan.
Romance Writers of America is also a great place to find contest info.
Osmosis. Now that's a thought!!
Chris Eldin said…

if you're looking for contests, why aren't you on our blog? we have the easiest contests of anyone. answer 3 silly questions, then have a chance to win a free, autographed book.

Oooh, I didn't know you guys held contests!
Anonymous said…
Hi Jessie!
I'm Candi's WP who got slammed in contests and as you know, now I'm an American Title V finalist and that was chosen by an editor at Dorchester.
Here's my experience...I entered my story in 12 contests. Got results from 100 down to 40. Didn't final in any. One I came in dead last. Got many many different feedback. Some very helpful, some very discouraging. If it wasn't for ATV, I may have quit.
Some manuscripts do better on contests (my WP got a request for a full from an editor from them), some just don't work.
Look at the score sheet closely before you determine if the contest is right. I made the mistake to send a first meeting between H/H that had very little dialog when dialog was important in the score sheet.
If the action takes time to start, you would be better with a contest that asks for 50 pages instead of 7.
There are many ways to get published (contests, agent queries, editor queries). Try contests and if they don't work, don't get discouraged and try agents. If agents don't work, try editors, maybe at smaller presses.

BTW two judges saying your hero is too weak may not be enough to draw a conclusion :) If 10 say that, then take notice!

To me now, a better way to spend money is to take online courses. You get great feedback on your writing from professional and learn tons.

Best of luck and keep writing.
Hi Marie-Claude,
Thanks for stopping by! You're full of useful info too. Yep, I figure contests are good at first but eventually you have to move on to querying. LOL THat's the really scary thing, I think.
Genny said…
I've entered many contests and have had my share of feedback over the years as a writer. Don't get discouraged! I've seriously found that, though the criticism may not be fun to read, it always makes the next revision so much better! Good for you for entering your work!
Hey Genny,
I definitely agree. Sometimes the rougher crits are actually the most helpful.
Karen Hossink said…
I heard someone say your ms is like your baby. And no one wants to hear that their baby is ugly!
I laughed when I read that statement - but it's true, you know!
Why is it that chocolate can help us get over so many things???

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