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2014 Reading Challenge



This year, I'm again pledging to read at least 52 fiction books, though shooting for 60.

I did exceed my 52 book goal from last year.

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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 FitzGerald
Thanks for stopping by one of my little corners of the world wide web. So, a little about me...My husband and I have been married for twenty years and we have three adult children although our youngest is still in high school. We've lived in Texas for fifteen years and for the rest of the story, click here.
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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

2014 Goals

  • lose weight--get down to 120ish pounds (that's 16 lbs.)
  • pay off the credit card with proofing money
  • create bulb bed/plant bulbs on the side of the house
  • work on back yard
  • bookshelves in living room
  • ramp up proofreading
  • publish three more Romance Writer's Guides books
  • get my son graduated
  • read up on how to make the body work like it's supposed to and help my hubby lose weight and get healthy
  • read 64 books, including 12 books on plotting

Books Read in 2014

  • The Roles We Play by JoAnna Grace
  • Whip Me Up, Tie Me Down by Lavender Daye
  • Game of Fear by Robin Perini
  • Lost in Temptation by Lauren Royal
  • What Wendy Wants by Nikki Sex
  • Improper Proposals by Juliana Ross
  • Kira's Keeper by Jan Schliesman
  • Improper Arrangements by Juliana Ross
  • Improper Relations by Juliana Ross
  • How to Kick Your Fat in the Nuts by T.C. Hale
  • Stop!!! Manifesting Money by D/C Russ
  • A Lady in Defiance by Heather Blanton
  • Secret Obsession by Robin Perini
  • Rebooting Your Life: A 12-Day Program for Ending Stress, Realizing Your Goals, and Being More Productive by Gibbons
  • 30 Daily Weight Loss Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle by Joshua Wylie
  • Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer
  • Coconut Oil Recipes: Nature's Remedy for Health, Beauty, Weight Loss, Allergies & Detoxing by Scarlett Aphra

Books read in 2013

  • Incredibly Delicious Soup Recipes from the Mediterranean by Vasela Tabakova
  • Madam President by Jerry Beller (didn't finish)
  • Kick Menstrual Cramps in the Nuts by T.C. Hale
  • Blurred Lines by Janie Crouch
  • Love Me or Leave Me by Kristine Mason
  • Wish On a Star by Lauren Holly
  • Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer
  • Take a Chance, a Private Delights novel by Lavender Daye
  • Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
  • Protecting Their Child by Angi Morgan
  • Outlaw by Angus Donald (didn't finish)
  • The Warrior by Wanda Ann Thomas
  • Private Designs by Lavender Daye
  • Private Passions by Lavender Daye
  • Northern Lights by Nora Roberts
  • Pick Me by Kristine Mason
  • Kiss Me by Kristine Mason
  • Missing by Beverley Bateman
  • Bedded By Her Bodyguard by Kristi Avalon
  • Playing for Keeps by Jamie Denton
  • Dare You To by Katie McGarry
  • The Cradle Conspiracy by Robin Perini
  • Behind the Lies by Robin Perini
  • Ain't Misbehaving by Molly Cannon (audio book)
  • Undercover Texas by Robin Perini
  • In Her Sights by Robin Perini
  • Christmas Conspiracy by Robin Perini
  • Hunted by Beverley Bateman
  • Private Delights by Lavender Daye
  • Desired & Defended by Kristi Avalon
  • Cowboy in the Crossfire by Robin Perini
  • Finding Her Son by Robin Perini
  • Collision Force by C.A. Szarek
  • A Texas Baby by Linda Warren
  • Highland Moon Sifter by Clover Autrey
  • Trusting Her by Starla Kaye
  • Nurses in Vietnam: The Forgotten Veterans edited/compiled by Dan Freedman and Jacqueline Rhoads
  • Station Hospital Saigon: A Navy Nurse in Vietnam 1963-1964 by LCDR Bobbi Hovis, NC, USN (ret.)
  • Joyful Momma's Guide to Shopping & Cooking Frugally by Kimberly Eddy
  • Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam by Lynda Van Devanter
  • Whistling in the Dark by Tamara Allen
  • If it Ain't Love by Tamara Allen
  • The Only Gold by Tamara Allen
  • Downtime by Tamara Allen
  • Off Her Game by Suzan Butler
  • Bet on Love by Barbara Witek
  • The Hand of Vengeance by Mike Mendoza
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (audio book version) by J.K. Rowling
  • Offside by Juliana Stone
  • The Memory of You by Laurie Kellogg
  • Plotting: A Novelist's Workout Guide by Aaron Allston
  • Relentless by Cindy Stark
  • Don't Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • 100 Ways to Save and Grow Your Money, Financial Fitness for Regular People by Peter Sorrells
  • Short Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer
  • I Want it Now: A Memoir of Life on the Set of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Julie Dawn Cole
  • From Dunes to Dior by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
  • Aggie's Inheritance by Chautona Havig (didn't finish)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory