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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
  • reach the 120lb. mark

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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 May 2015

  • M is for Mummy by azriona
  • Uncertainty by azriona
  • Dark Chocolate by azriona
  • A Bell Rings, Every Time by azriona
  • Comfort and Joy by azriona
  • Why He Wasn't There by azriona
  • Masturbation by azriona
  • Human Remains by saziikins
  • The Planes by saziikins
  • Transitions by saziikins
  • The Last Chance by saziikins
  • 30 Moments: Mycroft Holmes & Greg Lestrade
  • Contagion by saziikins
  • Rue Morgue by saki101
  • Safer by saki101
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 54 by serpentynka
  • Necropolis by saki101
  • Cleaner Air by pandoras_chaos
  • Insidious by pandoras_chaos
  • Dangerous Games by azriona
  • When Mycroft Met Lestrade by ihuntyoudown
  • Seizures of the Heart by unknown
  • At the End of the Day by alafaye
  • Remember When I Moved in You by sc010f
  • Caring is Not an Advantage by flubber2kool
  • Breakthrough by stardust_made
  • Check by alafaye
  • Proper Care of a Wounded Detective by billiethepoet
  • Safer by saki101
  • Finally by Meredydd
  • Well Met By Moonlight by kedgeree
  • Fear is the Enemy by monkiainen
  • Inconvenient, Necessary by brighteyed_jill
  • Anytime by SilentAuror
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 53 by serpentynka
  • Bedtime Stoies by unovis
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 52 by serpentynka
  • In Pursuit of a Cleaner Kitchen by wendymarlowe
  • Against the Rest of the World by SilentAuror
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 51 by serpentynka
  • Mixed Messages by OpalJade
  • The Dead Letters by cwb
  • Is This About the Dead Polar Bear by cwb
  • You're Like the Black Hole of Love by cwb
  • Is That What Boyfriends Do? by cwb
  • Wait. What Romantic Relationship by cwb
  • The Very Unlikely Exitense of a Fightless Bird in a Tuxedo by cwb
  • Not Today Nor Yet Tomorrow by cwb
  • Little Wee by cwb
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 50 by serpentynka
  • Oasis by mydwynter
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 49 by serpentynka
  • Story Time - A Study in Fan Fiction by Fraeulein_IreneAdler
  • Where Else Would I Be by cwb
  • When Harry Met Sally by destinationtoast
  • May Your Hert Purr Like a Bumblebee by destinationtoast
  • Where Else Would I Be by cwb
  • A House Divided Against Itself by destinationtoast
  • Not Against the Rules by destinationtoast
  • They're All That's Left You by destinationtoast
  • Boundless by destinationtoast
  • Prelude to Hen Night by destinationtoast
  • Saying Yes by destinationtoast
  • The Sound of Settling by destinationtoast
  • Disregard the Danger by destinationtoast
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 48 by serpentynka
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 47 by serpentynka
  • The Outcast HIghlander by R.L. Syme
  • Undercover Heat by Lavender Daye
  • As a Matter of Fact by OpalJade
  • M for Marriage by RonaSargent
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 46 by serpentynka
  • The Bigger Picture by msgeneivieve

Read in Apr 2015

  • Belstaff by Eligh
  • The Succinct Bucket List by OpalJade
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 45 by serpentynka
  • And They Say Take Me Home by Lothriel84
  • Little Light by Lothriel84
  • Covert/Overt by Elfbert
  • Worship by Elfbert
  • Haunted by Elfbert
  • The Sum of our Failings by wintergrey
  • Small Interruptions by Elfbert
  • Steamy by Elfbert
  • Two Up by Elfbert
  • Michelin Star by Elfbert
  • Countdown by Elfbert
  • Monster in the Bed by Elfbert
  • Impact by Elfbert
  • It Isn't Strange Until You Think About It by ivyblossom
  • The Adventures of the Dying Detective's Husband, ch. 1 & 2 by OpalJade
  • Five Conversations With John... by chellefic
  • Polaris by PipMer
  • Wherein Thee is a Case, Several Mysteries... by parsnips
  • A Winter Walk by cathedral_carver
  • The Sea in a Chasm by orphan_account
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 44 by serpentynka
  • Rebels of Texas: Quincy by Linda Warren
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 43 by serpentynka
  • The Least of All Possible Mistakes by rageprufrock
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 42 by serpentynka
  • Best Served Hot by VizardMask
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 41 by serpentynka
  • Saying I Love You Shouldn't Be So Hard by LikeATeddyBear
  • The White Lotuses by SilentAuror
  • The Progress of Sherlock Holmes by ivyblossom
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 40 by serpentynka
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 39 by serpentynka
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  • Shiver Me Timbers by msgenevieve
  • Growing Pains by ImpishTubist
  • I've Forgotten the Steps But I Remember the Dance by stardust_made
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 38 by serpentynka
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 37 by serpentynka
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  • I Know the Steps But I Don't Know the Dance by stardust_made
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  • Bad Influence by azriona
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