Song of the day: Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) by Journey
We enter writing contests for a multitude of reasons. Among those reasons are to learn of our weaknesses, to work under deadlines, and to gain exposure by possibly taking a final. We also enter to get a general opinion of our story. Do we have what it takes to nab a reader or do forty winks hit them faster than a sleep aid? Of course the grand Pooh-Bah of entering is to target a final round dream agent or editor.
MuseTracks has offered many tips on entering contests, judging the contests and hosting interviews with winning authors on contest wisdom.
Watch out. I bite!
One issue heard over and over with the very subjective nature of the contest beast is learning to develop a thick skin. I thought I’d share some comments that have earned me a cozy place among alligators, rhinos, and elephants. My hide has been stripped, tanned and leathered. Tranquilizer dart? Not my skin.
I laughed the first time I read some of these remarks. They were so ludicrous to me. Common decency had flown away. Who left the window open, damn it? Surely the judges meant well. I’m sure they did. But at times, it seemed the judges were engaging in a full frontal assault, and then attacking my flank for good measure.
I’m sure the following comments could have been worded more constructively.
- The heroine’s mouth gets her into trouble. It would be an awesome flaw if her actions didn’t repeatedly show that she was an idiot.
At least my heroine wasn’t TSTL (to stupid to live), right?
- Please, please, please watch the Yoda-speak.
Need I say more?
It bothers you, my Yoda-speak?
- There is an audience somewhere for this story, but I am not part of it.
An audience of mine, you are not.
- Buy a good dictionary and use it.
Problem with this comment is the word she had been referring to WAS used correctly.
- Reads like a B-version of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Did this judge even see POTC?
- Reads like the author decided to enter the contest at the last minute and jammed out a quick story.
Seriously? It only took me a whole flipping year to jam out the story.
- Q: What are one or two strengths of this entry? A: The author tried to write a good story.
Does this mean I get an A for effort?
With remarks such as these, it is easy to see how a writer could easily be derailed. Some might have their dreams squashed, decide there is no hope and give up. I am firmly against this.
Say no to drugs. Say yes to the vice. (Pun intended.)
I won’t lie, I felt quite deflated after I let those comments sink in. Then I got mad. I have a pretty wonderful support system in my CPs. We rant, we rave, we decide the judges are on crack. I haven’t the time or inclination for the ugly, petty or disrespectful. Sometimes the barbs sting. I am human, after all. But I keep in mind the judges are human, too. They quite possibly did not intend for their annotations to be so hurtful.
I know what I like. I know how my tale is to be told. Any other way and it becomes someone else’s story. Well, that just won’t do.
Here are some conflicting viewpoints on the same manuscripts that show just how judging is subjective.
The heroine is unscrupulous and un-heroic.
The heroine is not perfect and that is always intriguing. I really like her.
Remember the Yoda-speak? — Read some books from the time period for language.
The dialogue flows very well. I appreciate your grasp of period speaking.
There was no hook at all.
Wow. Nice hook. Interesting and unique.
The plot was not well-developed. There was a lot of action, but not a logical story structure to follow.
Fabulous plot and character development.
No hint of romantic conflict.
The attraction is shown well.
The story is over the top Pirates of the Caribbean both in characters and in the brothel scene.
I would like to read further, as the author has seemed to find a comfortable stride in what appears to be a commercially viable premise. (Written by an editor.)
The good news is when you have polar opposite comments and results it usually means you have a strong voice. Causing this type of reaction can be beneficial. For every person who hates your work, there is someone who loves it (besides your DH, best friend, or mom). When that someone is an agent or editor, it’s gold.
Have I made you feel better about your own contest comments? Ever endured an outrageously good or bad comment that blew your mind? Let’s hear from you.