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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.

2015 Goals

  • do more crafts
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  • research degree programs
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  • get healthy and well
  • 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 Mar 2015

  • The Edinburgh Problem by snorklepie
  • Of Shoes and Ships and Mobile Phones by sc010f
  • Tea by Marmosette
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 35 by serpentynka
  • Countdown by missilemuse
  • The Right Question by RetardedCookie
  • The Pillars of Hercules by orphan_account
  • The Burden of Atlas orphan_account
  • The Spot of Art by sc010f
  • We Wear This Mask by ImpishTubist
  • Time Yet by sc010f
  • What's in a Name by steptostars
  • Lay Down by sc010f
  • Business Time by sc010f
  • And Yet You Proved Me Wrong by treez_r_green
  • Learn to Wear Each Other Well by sinuous_curve
  • Let Me Take You For a Ride by voxangelus
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 34 by serpentynka
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 33 by serpentynka
  • Finally by Meredydd
  • Right Hand Man by SilentAuror
  • Pistachio by Marmosette
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 32 by serpentynka
  • Learn to Wear Each Other Well by sinuous_curve
  • Unrepentant by squire
  • The Trouble With "Greg: by wendymarlowe
  • The Holiday Cycle, ch. 2 by flawedamethyst
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 31 by serpentynka
  • And Stand There at the Edge of My Affection by coloredink
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 30 by serpentynka
  • You Bring the Rain by orphan_account
  • At Least There's the Football by sheffiesharpe
  • At Least There's the Football by sheffiesharpe
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 29 by serpentynka
  • Interview with Wendy Marlowe by May_Shepard
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 28 by serpentynka
  • Sherlock's Soldier!John Kink is Getting Out of Hand by wendymarlowe
  • Just Another Day by mia6363
  • When a Fantastic Plan Comes Together by mia6363
  • Nobody Told Him by mia6363
  • The Long Way Home by mia6363
  • Forever Dom by Lavender Daye
  • Same Time Next Week by mia6363
  • Told in Texts by et_cetera55
  • The Bruce Partington Conspiracy by marysutherland
  • Five Times Lestrade Gave Comfort by lucybun
  • The Speech by mia6363
  • Another Man by trillsabells
  • How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sherlock by trillsabells
  • Learn to Wear Each Other Well by sinuous_curve
  • Bulletproof by mia6363
  • Someone Like You by orphan_account
  • Out of the Ashes, chs. 1-8 by wendymarlowe
  • The Key by 221b_careful_what_you_wish_for
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 27 by serpentynka
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 26 by serpentynka
  • Two Solitudes by Like Cheese for Mice
  • So Quite a New Thing by forthegenuine
  • Happy Fucking Christmas by gloria_scott
  • Bacause You're Worth It by wastingyourgum
  • Love Letters by aislingdoheanta
  • Jealous Guy by marysutherland
  • You Cannot Libel the Dead by marysutherland
  • Perseverance by marysutherland
  • MISex by marysutherland
  • Persuasion by second_skin
  • Virtually Perfect by Random_Nexus
  • Ex Libris by saki101
  • Seat Assignmnt: Open by saki101
  • We're Sorry for Any Inconvenience by saki101
  • The Kidnapping of Gerg Lestrade by Marmosette
  • First Words by irisbluefic
  • Bonheurs Enfantins, Trop Vite Oubliés Effacés by fyria_yiries
  • A Brother to Relieve by heartofstanding
  • Proportional Response by babydrache
  • Sedation by phoeliac
  • The Sensation of Falling Just as You Hit Sleep by greywash
  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 25 by serpentynka
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  • Ashes Rubble and the Debris by sc010f
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  • A Bleeding Heart in Longhand, ch. 24 by serpentynka
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  • Take My Breath Away by Quesarasara
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  • A Very Delicate Mission by SarahT
  • All the Lonely People by pir8fancier
  • A World More Full of Weeping by Eva
  • Kill Switch by todesfuge

Read in Feb 2015

  • It's Going to Take A Lot to Drag Me Away From You by therestisdetail
  • Proxy by CherryBlossomTide
  • Be Here Now by todesfuge
  • Fic Challenge (16 fics) by Various Authors
  • A Helping Hand by misanthropy
  • Ends by insane_pyro_fic
  • When I Stop by lindentreeisle
  • Gravitational Resonance by ivywatcher
  • How Mycroft Stopped Worrying About Sherlock by jupiter_ash
  • Yet Again the World Sets In by thinkpink20
  • Sonata Form by cj_ludd18
  • A Bleeding Heart in longhand, ch. 22 by serpentynka
  • Father Christmas by azriona
  • The Seat of Reason by thesardine
  • You Didn't Ask by Raspberry_Blond
  • In the Space of a Breath by Mice
  • An Interesting Puzzle by awanderingbird
  • One Photograph by thatautumn
  • Ministry of Blogging by cleo_2010
  • Family, Genu, Species by abundantlyqueer
  • Silenced by abundantlyqueer
  • The Date by wendymarlowe
  • Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh (audio)
  • Why Would I Need You by burnteggshells
  • A Bleeding Heart in longhand, ch. 21 by serpentynka
  • Corpus Hominus by mycapeisplaid
  • Without a Clue by naughtyspirit
  • Coda by SilentAuror
  • Battle Scars II by Char Simser
  • A Bleeding Heart in longhand, ch. 20 by serpentynka
  • A Bleeding Heart in longhand, ch. 19 by serpentynka
  • Firebird by vulgarweed
  • Legwork by yonwords
  • The Sexual Awakening of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson by suitesamba
  • Scales of Justice by Ngaio Marsh (audio)
  • Death in a White Tie by Ngaio Marsh (audio)
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries & Other Stories by John Taylor (audio)
  • Thrilling Stories of the Railway by Victor L. Whitechurch
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  • Seven Times a Night in Baker Street by achray
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  • A Bleeding Heart in longhand, ch. 13 by serpentynka
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