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I've pledged to read 26 books via the official Goodreads challenge. The rest of my 3 million words will more than likely come via proofreading jobs and fan fiction. Everything will be listed on the other side of the blog and you can view the details and numbers here.

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  • do more crafts
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  • write 2500 words a week
  • read 3 million words
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SPARK is subjective


I'm not an acquiring editor, though I wouldn't mind being one. I've submitted exactly one manuscript to an editor and received a rejection. As I said on Monday, the reason for rejection was because the editor didn't feel my manuscript fit the line I was submitting to. Which is fine, though she didn't say specifically how.

Over the years, a lot of authors, aspiring and otherwise have received rejections from agents and editors that really told then nothing except no. Reasons for rejections are generally vague at best and leave the writer frustrated and wondering what she might need to do to make her book wanted.

Sometimes, the answer really is nothing. Being an acquiring editor is, I think, a lot like judging a contest. You receive a slew of submissions and must read all levels of writing, from the beginner who is nowhere near ready to be published (that's what the contests are for) to the prolific writer who's been around the block a few times.

Since January, I've judged three RWA chapter contests with a total of sixteen entries. Of those sixteen entries, there have been two entries that I would have loved to have gotten my hands on the rest of the manuscripts. What was about them that made me cry out in dismay when I reached the end of the 25 pages I read?

It's that elusive thing I'll call SPARK. Some might say voice, but I can appreciate someone's unique voice without the writing sparking at me and making me want to read the whole damn book. In one sitting.

SPARK is subjective. What sparks for me doesn't spark for everyone.

And SPARK doesn't always equate to a higher score in a contest. Conversely, a higher score doesn't always mean an entry has that spark. That entry mentioned above--it didn't receive the highest score of the entries I judged.

The very last question on the score sheet for this last contest asks: After completing the selection, how much did you want to read more of the story? I get to answer by way of a number rating, 1 to 5. One being not very much and five being very much indeed.

The last couple of entries I read received relatively high marks from me overall. But when asked this last question, I'm compelled to rate them rather low. And why? Because, for me they didn't SPARK.

If you judge contests, are you a generous judge or a tough judge in terms of score? Do you give comments/feedback to the entrant?

4 comments:

Lara said...

I tend to be a tough judge, but I try to provide comments so that my feedback is constructive. I hate being told 'I don't like this' or 'This didn't work for me' without any further detail, so I try not to do that to people.

Jen FitzGerald said...

I did forget to mention that I do try to leave a lot of feedback, though that's tougher with a higher-scoring entry, as higher scores generally equate to an over better story and more experienced writer.

Regina Richards said...

I don't judge contests anymore. I'm too busy doing full reads. But back when I did judge, I rarely wanted to read more. That was not always the fault of the writer - many of the entries were wonderful - so I didn't necessarily grade down for that. My reading tastes are specific and many very talented NYC bestsellers can't make me want to go on. It isn't them, it's that their voice or character persona doesn't appeal to me. I recognize the work as skillful, it just may not be my taste. That's why when I judged, I tried to judge on the merits like an editor acquiring for a variety of readers might and not my personal preferences.

Lynne Kensington said...

I tend to be tough, since these people are not looking for praise, but rather constructive criticism. That doesn't mean they don't want praise or that I don't give it, just that the contests are not about patting someone on the back. This is not a fan fiction review, where the writer may indeed want honest feedback or may just want someone to say, "You're the best!" even if they can't write a grocery list. Editors will be harsher than I will, so I want to be sure the writer is ready for them.

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Jen's Glossary of Terms

  • DH = my husband
  • my Brown Eyed Girl = my oldest daughter
  • DD = my Darling Daughter (the younger one)
  • Sonshine or Marching Band Boy = my son
  • NT = the North Texas chapter of RWA
  • RWA = Romance Writers of America

Read in Aug 2015

  • The Seventeenth Page Affliction by EmmyAngua
  • The Adventure of the Bridegroom's Photograph by spacemutineer
  • Nowhere To Be by allonsys_girl
  • The Alphabet of Sherlock Holmes by SilentAuror
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 89 by serpentynka
  • Silhouettes by allonsys_girl
  • The Rising Tide by allonsys_girl
  • Of Razors, Pipes, Red Notebooks and Rugby Jerseys by allonsys_girl
  • Positive Reinforcement by Mildredandbobbin
  • Of Course I Forgive You by allonsys_girl
  • Dirty Love by saziikins
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 88 by serpentynka
  • Inexplicable by EmmaGrant
  • Eyes Up, Heels Down by Codename Meretricious
  • Tea by wendymarlowe
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 87 by serpentynka
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 86 by serpentynka
  • Dr John H Watson, Sexual Surrogate by smurff
  • Tigers Make Good Pets by tenderly_wicked
  • Just Staying by tenderly_wicked
  • However Improbable by earlybloomingparentheses
  • Help Us to Surive by solrosan
  • Heartbeat in the Brain by Indybaggins
  • Runaway Highlander by R.L. Syme
  • Collateral Damage by SilentAuror
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 85 by serpentynka
  • The Mystery of the Olive Green Chair by allonsys_girl
  • Undressing by unovis
  • What Are You Going to Do About It? by brbsoulnomming
  • Yes and No by emungere
  • Shallow Grave by SilentAuror
  • A Study in Bees by daasgirl
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 84 by serpentynka
  • How I Impregnated Your Mother by Mildredandbobbin
  • Disguise by kaalee
  • Sherlock Never Noticed the Cameras by wendymarlowe
  • The Lucky Few by saziikins
  • Conversdations With Idiots by scullyseviltwin
  • Reason Goes Before a Fall byLorelai_Lee
  • Breakable by MissDavis
  • Sharp Bits and Safe Paths by midgetnazgul
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 83 by serpentynka
  • Boxing Up a Life Together by flawedamethyst
  • Barter System by brbsoulnomming
  • Phoenix by Lono
  • What You Really Want by type_40_consulting_detective
  • I Don't Speak French by Ricechex
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 82 by serpentynka
  • Echoes Through Time by chellefic
  • A Negligible Accident by flawedamythyst
  • A Close Shave by poppyalexander
  • Grip and Release by PetraTodd
  • How to Be Brave by stillaseeker
  • Thrust Vigorously by Dlnnanzor
  • The Boys of Summer by mazarin221b
  • The First and Only Convention of the Scotland Yard Matchmaker Committee by ImpishTubist
  • Paper Hearts by testosterone_tea
  • Slip Out the Back Jack by yaycoffee
  • Smoke by poppyalexander
  • The Scent of Home by PetraTodd
  • Her Boy by saziikins
  • LHT-HNL by scullyseviltwin
  • Blande Barista Seeks Dashing Ballet Dancer: Inquire Within by prettysailorsoldier
  • I Fall Through the Cracks Until You Catch Me by sc010f
  • The Newlywed Game by patternofdefiance
  • Game Night by Random_Nexus
  • Gotta Have It by poppyalexander
  • Blank Canvas, Warm Bed by taylorpotato

Read in July 2015

  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 81 by serpentynka
  • Lighting Up by persiflager
  • Holmes is Where the Heart Is by earlgreytea68
  • TB&TC Red Sox Ficlets by earlgreytea68
  • The Commentary Experiment by earlgreytea68
  • The Bang and the Clatter by earlgreytea68
  • Level 65 Paladin Looking for Group by etothepii
  • Friend Request by rumpleghost
  • Charity by Spinning Place
  • I Know Places by Spinning Place
  • Doesn't Do Boyfriends by SamParker
  • Rupert Graves by SamParker
  • All of This Can Be Broken by Indybaggins
  • No World for the Penitent by AnInconvenientRuth
  • Vessels Sailing Prosperously by AnInconvenientRuth
  • Launch Yourself on Every Wave by AnInconvenientRuth
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 80 by serpentynka
  • Principals of Morality series by nishizono
  • Poster Boys by peevee
  • Disregard the Danger by DestinationToast
  • The Right Question by violet_tinted_pencil
  • Things Unheard, Things Unsaid by jamlockk
  • Maybe This Christmas by feverishsea
  • Engaged by lifeonmars
  • Damage by lifeonmars
  • In My Heart Tonight by mazarin221b
  • Across the Sky by mazarin221b
  • In the Space Between Our Clothes by kingaofthewoods
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 79 by serpentynka
  • Loyal in Adversity by JayEz
  • Nature and Nurture by earlgreytea68
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 78 by serpentynka
  • Bunting by bobross
  • The Importance of a Second Serve by jupiter_ash
  • A Study in Doubles by jupiter_ash
  • The Great Git by jupiter_ash
  • Where I Cannot Find You by withoutawish
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 77 by serpentynka
  • A Study in Winning by jupiter_ash
  • The Godfather by dietplainlite
  • Love Outside the Box by mylittlecornerofsherlock
  • Round by songlin
  • Whatever Remains, However Improbable by ivyblossom
  • Scars by SilentAuror
  • Dirty Liaisons by saziikins
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 76 by serpentynka
  • Not Nice by Mildredandbobbin
  • Like a Snake Shedding its Skin by longhornletters
  • All the Pieces Falling Into Place by 221b_careful_what_you_wish_for
  • Nine Lives of the Human Heart by 221b_careful_what_you_wish_for
  • The Still and Lucky Miles by lbmisscharlie
  • Out of Lullabies by lbmisscharlie
  • A Child's Christmas in Baker Street by lbmisscharlie
  • Fill Our Mouths With Cinnamon Now - deleted scenes by lbmisscharlie
  • Fill Our Mouths With Cinnamon Now by lbmisscharlie
  • Luminosity by what_alchemy
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 75 by serpentynka
  • Want by SilentAuror
  • Blind Spot by SilentAuror
  • Longer Than the Road that Stretches Out Ahead by sunken_standard
  • A Study in Reflexology by keelywolf
  • Alone on the Water by Mad_Lori
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 74 by serpentynka
  • Betwixt and Between by ivywatcher
  • Dirty Politics by saziikins
  • Lab Book by copperbadge
  • Swoon by cathedral_carver
  • The Making Of by EmmaGrant
  • Saccharomyces Cerevisiae by yaycoffee
  • Opposition Party by mydwynter
  • Vena Cava by SilentAuror
  • The Devil's Workshop by Bashful Bunny
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 73 by serpentynka
  • Horse and Carriage series by flawedamythyst
  • Intellectual Intercourse series by waketosleep
  • Consolation by Mildredandbobbin
  • The Important Bit by Solshine
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 72 by serpentynka
  • Want by SilentAuror
  • Wherein There Is a Case... by parsnips
  • Come Aboard by corpsereviver2
  • Give Me the Keys by Mazarin221b
  • The Things You Can't Outwit by Speranza
  • Seaside Villa by 221b_careful_what_you_wish_for
  • Princess of the Pond by ShinySherlock
  • Up or Artistic Lush by Speranza
  • Orangina by EmmaGrant