Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Tagged contest judging

Am I Hooked Or Not Hooked?

STATUS: Today was pretty quiet because of the President’s Day holiday. I like that. I accomplish a lot and it isn’t even Saturday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FAT BOTTOMED GIRLS by Queen

For 2009, I’m pretty much on conference and contest hiatus. There’s just too much of a time crunch to take on extra tasks or travel but last year, I had promised to participate in a very interesting contest. When January rolled around and it was time to say ‘yes’ to the commitment, I was true to my word.

So over the weekend, I did the Secret Agent contest on the blog misssnarksfirstvictim. Obviously the secret it out but over the weekend, I was reading and commenting on 60 submitted first pages.

The question I had to answer was: “Am I Hooked? Why or why not.”

In other words, it was exactly like reading our slush pile but in this case, the submitters got feedback.

Yeah, I thought that might perk up your ears a bit. And it’s definitely worth popping over there to read the entries and my response to them. I signed each of my comments with the moniker secret agent.

Since I have the wonderful Sara, it’s been a while since I’ve read the slush slush (so to speak) and I’ll tell you right now that two problems rose to the surface on why I said “not hooked, wouldn’t read further” on some of the entries and I’m going to share those two things with my blog readers right now.

The two top problems were:

1. To much telling instead of showing the character in the scene (or too heavy a reliance on back story to jumpstart the story).

And

2. Not enough mastery of the craft—in other words, the writing needed to be tightened. Too much wordiness, overuse of adverbs, immediately explaining what was just revealed in dialogue, etc.

So if you are wondering how an agent reads and responds to an opening page, you might want to give that blog a look and read through the entries and the comments.

And here’s another interesting thing to note. When I did the contest, most of the the participants had already responded to each entry. I deliberately did not read any of the response comments until I had left my own comment first.

I was amazed at how often the things that tripped me up where spotted and noted by the author writers participating and reading the blog contest.

You want those folks for your critique group. I’m just saying….


Contest Judging—Again!

STATUS: I’m a bit tired so this one is going to be short.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CRUCIFY by Tori Amos

I spent the evening judging the paranormal category of the Daphne du Maurier contest for unpublished authors.

Oy! It was the point system again. Totally flummoxed, I decided I would just read each entry carefully and write a bunch of notes on the contest entries themselves rather than on the score sheet. This took about 5 hours to do. (Now you know why we can’t respond to sample pages received!) I figured that way the authors could see what I was thinking the moment I had the thought.

I still had to fill out the point sheets though. I totally struggled over how to score whether the writing was evocative or whether the dialogue moved the story forward. I liked each entry in different ways so to assign a point score for the same components—when I didn’t necessarily think the score divisions were what I would comment on for a particular entry—was a challenge.

Still, despite all this, my rankings were clear in my mind. I knew which entry was number 1 for me and then down the line.

And nope, I can’t talk about it. You are just going to have to wait for the Daphne awards at RWA.


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