Posts Tagged ‘Contests’
Sunday, March 16th, 2014
Last week, I had Julie S. Decker on my blog to talk about her experience as being a mentor for the Pitch Wars contest. See here for that post. This week, she’s talking about the problems and issues she saw with submissions, which would be helpful for someone querying since her advice is similar to what agents say.
So what were the most common problems with the Pitch Wars Submissions?
The most common problem in queries was lack of trajectory. Many queries failed to tell me about their story arc, and that’s very important in a query. I found a lot of vagueness, like “she must find herself” or “in a race against time, they must succeed before it’s too late” without giving me a clear understanding of what the characters want/need and what will happen if they don’t get it done. I also found that too much detail was a problem, and occasionally I would see explanations of themes or morals that didn’t need to be there. And some authors praised themselves in their queries, told me irrelevant details about their writing process, or included inappropriate personal details.
In the writing samples, the most common problem was infodumping on page one. When I saw awkward recitations of background details or people having conversations that were clearly contrived to convey context to the reader, I froze up and disengaged. Readers should never feel that the characters are standing still while the author lectures. Books need to begin when something is beginning–something we want to watch. It’s a delicate balance to suggest the characters and world have history and depth without halting the story to tell us about it, but that’s why writing is an art! Other problems included failure to get us invested in the characters, “telling” me a character’s attributes instead of showing me, and spelling/grammar/punctuation errors.
I did get a few weirdly categorized books–like projects that were pitched as YA to one mentor but NA to me for some reason–and a few people sent me things I specifically identified as NOT my style in my bio (horror, category romance, stories where women characters are objectified or killed for the sake of the male hero having “motivation”). I think most of the people who didn’t follow directions just didn’t realize that they weren’t allowed to send manuscripts to someone who wasn’t taking their category, but other than that people were good about following the directions.
One thing I’ve always wondered about with these contests is whether the judges (or agents) feel that the submissions were ready for querying. Of course that’s subjective, and part of Pitch Wars was to work with a mentor to prepare the submission, but what did you see, Julie? Were a lot of them query-ready or did they need a lot of work?
I thought most of what I received wasn’t polished enough to get an agent. Sometimes that was just a query issue but usually it was the pages. I’d say around 20% of what I got was definitely not close to ready, and 80% of it (including that 20%) probably needs quite a bit of work (though some might be close enough that an agent will give an R&R or offer representation and then give pointers). Then maybe around 20% of the submissions I received had both a decent query and decent pages which made me think they will do well with agents if they query. Some, I found out, haven’t started querying at all yet. Even the folks I picked for my top three need some help, though there were a couple in my top ten that I didn’t pick for personal reasons and still think they will do well with agents. In a couple cases I have even mentioned that I might be willing to set up a referral even though I didn’t pick them. I don’t do that often though.
I’ve been in several contests over the years, and I can definitely say that I wasn’t ready for some of them. It’s hard not to jump into contests because you’re so excited about getting your story presented to agents, but it’s best to wait and make sure it’s polished and ready.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about contests in general?
I think any author entering a contest should do it more for the experience than the prize. The mentee I chose actually volunteered to me during our first conversation that he was primarily interested in forming relationships with other writers and trying to expand his team of willing beta readers and critique partners. Even if you’re not chosen, you can really enjoy the community and form relationships with others in it, and start following their blogs and learning about their lives s/o you begin to build a network of people with similar interests and similar aspirations.
Thanks for stopping by, Julie. It was interesting to hear about your experiences. For prospective judges, I’d definitely recommend looking into the time commitments before you volunteer. And for contestants, don’t jump into contests until you know you’re ready.
Anybody out there want to be a judge/mentor for a contest? Despite all the work, I think it would be fun, but obviously for me, I’m not quite qualified yet to be a judge or mentor.
Sunday, March 9th, 2014
Just recently I’ve gotten to know another writer, Julie S. Decker. She’s in a unique circumstance in that she has an agent for fiction and a 2nd for non-fiction. And she has a deal with a publisher for her non-fiction book
Earlier this winter she was a Pitch Wars mentor. What happened for that contest was an applicant sent their query to three mentors of their choice, and the mentor picks their favorite out of all the submissions. Then the mentee and mentor work together to prepare it for the agent round.
There were around 2000 submissions, and about 35ish mentors. Julie had 74 submissions sent to her. Which I’m sure was a lot to wade through. And FYI: her mentee ended up getting an agent. So, good job, Julie!
Since I’d gotten to know her a bit, I asked a ton of questions to learn how Pitch Wars worked behind the scenes, and here is the first question. How did you narrow down your submissions?
I read each submission’s query letter and made extensive notes in the form of a letter to the author as I was reading. It took a while–as I was expecting–but I was determined to leave decent feedback for everyone who was brave enough to enter the contest. It was generally very easy to see in the query if I was not going to be working with someone. I would then go on to read the pages, and usually make fewer notes on the actual writing. If I liked something a lot, I usually gave MORE criticism–if someone is closer to a polished project but only needs a little push, I’m willing to invest more time into them. And if, based on the pages, I thought a project was not ready to query, I said so. I left at least one, but up to two and a half pages of feedback for everyone. My total amount of feedback was 46,000 words written over the course of four days.
All I have to say is wow. I don’t know what other mentors did, but that sounds like a ton of feedback to give.
After reading the submission I would rank each one. I just kept a list of them and every time I read a new one I slid it into the list above something I didn’t like as much and below something I liked better. At the end I had a complete ranking of 73 submissions. (One participant got an offer of representation during the contest and dropped out. She happened to be one of mine.)
I modified some of my feedback to let some of them know if they’d made my top five, my top ten, or my top twenty. I didn’t tell people their “rank” in general and didn’t mention it if they were below twenty. Since I had a rank at the end, I did not have to go back and re-read or wrestle too much over my team choice.
I believe my choices were more about good writing than they were about personal preference, but I acknowledge that personal preference did figure in. I am all about character. Some of the writing that I thought was excellent still pushed me away a bit if the perspective was more distant or if I didn’t feel a connection to the character. If I liked an idea but thought the writing didn’t carry it, the idea couldn’t save it for me. I value execution over concept.
My top ten was entirely made up of fantasy and science fiction except for ONE women’s fiction that I thought was an excellent character piece. The top ten did contain some genres I normally am not interested in, such as hard science fiction and supernatural romance. One of my top three–my first alternate–is about supernatural happenings at a military school, which is normally something I’m not interested in either, but the writing is fantastic. My second alternate’s work also involves the military since it takes place on a submarine, but I loved it for the character. Several other stories with military elements made up my top twenty, and that really surprised me.
It’s kind of nice to hear that mentors will branch out into genres other than their favorites.
All these contests run a little differently, and I’m sure that once a mentor/judge gets into it, they discover how hard it really is. Did being a Pitch Wars mentor turn out to be what you expected?
Honestly it was pretty much exactly what I expected, except that I didn’t think I’d get quite that many submissions. My bio was very picky and I thought I came off like a curmudgeon and a very strict killjoy at times, and it was kind of intentional; I wanted people who can take criticism. I was pleased and surprised that so many people connected with my style and thought I was a good match for their writing. The only other thing I was surprised by was how many technical problems we had with our mentor e-mail, but nobody could have predicted that. Ah, and the backstage discussions with the other mentors were more active and supportive than I’d initially expected.
What really surprised me was the amount of time Julie put into this contest. And that didn’t even include working on the story with her mentee. As a contestant in these types of contests, I would definitely appreciate that kind of feedback.
So next time I’ll have more on what kinds of problems she saw with the submissions, because really, these mentors see the same type of things agents do. And it’s a good list of things we should check before we query.
So have you ever done any contests? Or been a judge/mentor in a contest?
Monday, December 2nd, 2013
I’m having technical difficulties w/my blog, so I apologize if the home page looks weird. Waiting for support to return my e-mail.
I thought this Pitch Wars Mentee Bio Bloghop thing looked kinda fun, so I figured I’d better jump right in. Check out Dannie Morin’s site for the linky list of other participants.
For Pitch Wars I submitted my young adult novel, VARYING DEGREES OF BLAME. And yes, it is complete, around 56,000 words. It’s a dual point of view, told by a boy and a girl. There’s some romance, but that’s not the story. There’s bad parents… and there’s good parents. There’s a girl who is motivated to avoid the mistakes of her mother. And there’s a boy who grows and learns how to forgive.
So if any of the mentors I submitted to stop by, here is why you should pick me.
1. I picked you, so obviously I have good taste.
2. I wrote my story for NaNo. That’d be NaNo 2012, so don’t worry, it’s been critiqued and revised before you. And I so want to add my name to that NaNo page where it shows published NaNo books.
3. I’ve written more than 1.4 million words (in novels) and I’m ready for that next step. (Agent. Publisher. Movie Rights. Becoming the next JK Rowling, except for contemporary young adult.)
4. I am very open to hearing all your comments and suggestions. Even though I’ve written a bunch and have queried 2 other novels, I am quite aware that I do NOT know it ALL. And I’m always wanting to learn more.
5. I hate querying, and I would be forever thankful to you if you help me find an agent via this contest so I don’t have to query.
6. I think it’d be so cool to be a Pitch Wars Mentor. And being chosen by you, and then picked up by an agent and publisher would be the best way to assure an invite for me to be a mentor for Pitch Wars next year.
7. And last but not least, I’ve got a terrific story with characters I love, and I want the world to love them too.
So those are a few reasons why you should pick me.
Now on to the more boring stuff which you can probably find on other pages of my site, but I’ll summarize right here.
-I mostly write contemporary young adult. I’ve also done some new adult/adult, but have always stuck to contemporary.
-I like writing about people with problems. But I like happy endings too.
-I am also a mom.
-I am also a civil engineer. (Hence the Literary Engineer title)
-I have a husband, a dog, and 2 kids.
-I love to write. (Yes, big surprise.)
Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to check out some of the other mentees by clicking on the link above.
Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
This is my submission for The Writer’s Voice. Thank you to these wonderful ladies for their hard work: Krista, Cupid, Monica, Brenda, and Kimberly.
Title: The Proper Way to Say Goodbye
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Word Count: 66,000 words
Only one person knew Chloe was gay, and his love and support disappeared when he hung a noose around his neck. And jumped.
Eighteen-year-old Chloe attends the college where her brother Brock spent his final days, hoping to uncover the reason behind his death. His whispers often invade her mind, and she can’t bear to tell anyone how he died. Or that she likes girls.
She soon finds Murphy—a boy who totally gets the wrong idea about their friendship because Chloe refuses to tell him the truth, afraid of losing his support when she needs it the most. And Sasha, her gorgeous young teacher, who reveals Brock was sexually abused as a child. Even after Sasha gives her his journals, Chloe still can’t figure out what pushed him over the edge.
Brock’s plan for revenge against his molester consumes Chloe, and her depression deepens. She pushes away the important people in her life and begins to stalk the one girl who might have the answer: Brock’s former girlfriend who is the daughter of his abuser. But Chloe’s obsession comes at a cost, and she might have to give up everything she’s ever wanted—her girlfriend, her best friend, and her sanity, in order to discover Brock’s final secret.
First 250 words:
The biggest thing I had in common with my older brother, Brock, was that we both liked girls. Two months after he killed himself, his whispers still invaded my mind. I didn’t need a therapist to tell me it wasn’t really Brock talking. I wasn’t mental.
Usually his words comforted me, but other times they annoyed me.
Each step I took up the stairwell, my nerves grew exponentially. It’s only book club, I repeated.
Cricket’s got a crush, Brock’s voice teased.
I rolled my eyes at his comment and the stupid nickname he used to call me, but he was right. In a few minutes, I’d see her for the first time outside of class.
Beautiful long blonde hair, gorgeous full red lips, and a big chest to match. Perfection in every way. Unfortunately, she was also my Freshman Composition teacher. Teaching assistant technically, so she couldn’t be more than a few years older than me. Not that it mattered.
I could imagine the horror on her face if she found out I liked her. She wouldn’t laugh it off like she did with the guys in class who lusted over her.
A female student—yeah, that’d trip her out.
Nobody knew I was gay. Not here at college. Not at home. Brock took that secret to the grave when the noose snapped his neck.
Sunday, March 31st, 2013
Tomorrow is the start of the A to Z blog challenge. For those who don’t know, it is a post for each letter of the alphabet every day in April. Except Sundays. When I checked last, there were just under 1500 participants. It’s huge.
So for the month of April, I won’t be doing my Big Reveal or Sloppy Writing postings. It’ll get to be too much. They will return in May.
And I look forward to visiting other A to Z participants.
One other thing I wanted to mention. I just participated in Brenda Drake’s PitchMadness this past week and was lucky enough to get 2 requests. It is one of many contests put on by writers.
And I just wanted to give a shout out to all those writer/bloggers who do these terrific contests, bringing writers and agents together. They look like a ton of work and often take many volunteers to organize them.
Here are some of the blogs that host regular contests.
Cupid’s Literary Connection
Miss Snark’s First Victim
Krista Van Dolzer
I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I’m familiar with. So thank you to all these bloggers for freely giving their time and effort.
And see you tomorrow for the A to Z.
Monday, February 4th, 2013
Thank you to Cupid at Cupid’s Literary Connection for hosting the Blind Speed Dating Contest. Here’s my kissing scene entry.
THE PROPER WAY TO SAY GOODBYE
Setup: About 2/3 way through the story. Chloe (age 18) and Sasha (21) have just returned from visiting Chloe’s best friend, where she revealed for the first time (to anyone) that she is gay and that Sasha is her girlfriend. Now they are in Chloe’s room, and it’s the first time she will be sleeping in a bed with Sasha.
“Are you sure this is all right?” she asked. Her tank top hugged her breasts, both exciting and terrifying me. I needed new pajamas. Ratty t-shirts and shorts wouldn’t cut it anymore.
“I promise to stay on my side.” Her grin reassured me, and she tugged the hair band off one of her braids. Then the second. She grabbed the braid to unwind it.
“Wait.” My mind spun a hundred different directions. Would she think I was weird?
She didn’t say a word as I scooted over—my knees barely touching her back. I took hold of one braid and slowly unwound it. Then the second. The scent of Sasha—her sweet peach lotion, filled my nose as I spread my fingers through her silky hair like I’d always wanted to. I could sit like this all night long but stopped, worried again she’d think I was strange.
Sasha twisted around and placed her hand on my cheek. Her fingers burned a tender trail down to my chin, and I wanted to freeze this moment, to gaze into her deep blue eyes forever.
Eyes that understood me. That accepted me. That wanted me.
Her hand gripped my neck, and her lips welcomed mine, making me feel like the only thing that mattered. Like I never wanted to breathe so I could just drink in her lips.
Sasha pulled back; her sigh resonated deep inside of me. Her fingers squeezed my knee, and even though she wore only a small smile, her eyes said she was feeling everything I was.
She turned away, but I didn’t want this to end. I pressed my body into hers, wrapping my arms around her waist and resting my chin on her shoulder.
Her smooth hands caressed mine. Those first days in class, I’d thought Sasha was perfect. She wasn’t. And I wasn’t either.
But this was… perfect.
“I love you, Chloe.”
Her words hung there, scaring me, but also filling me with a happiness I’d never known. I wanted this—her—more than anything, and I knew the words I would say were true.
“I love you too.”
That’s it. So go to Cupid’s site to see more entrants.
Sunday, August 5th, 2012
I am excited to say that I just got another book to add to my signed book collection.
I won Come See About Me from C.K. Kelley Martin. This will be the first book I’ve read by C.K. CSAM is new adult story that I’ve heard a lot of good things about. Months ago, I stumbled on her website, which was the first time I’d heard about CSAM. The story interested me, but as what often happens, I hadn’t gotten around to buying it yet. (Too many good books out there.)
So that’s why this was really cool to win, and I can’t wait to get into it. C.K. also has several young adult stories, which I will probably check out after I read this one too.
So thank you, C.K.
And thanks also to Danya at A Tapestry of Words, who hosted the guest post and giveaway by C.K. Danya’s blog is a mix of interviews, guest posts and book reviews. And in September she has something interesting coming up.
“Psychtember is back this coming fall (mark your calendars!), and along with it, Dr. Carolyn Kaufman! She’s a clinical psychologist, author of the book The Writer’s Guide to Psychology, and writing coach.”
It looks like if you have any questions about the portrayal of mental health issues, you can submit a question and it might be answered. How cool is that? So check out Danya’s site to learn more and see all the other good stuff she does.
So thank you, Danya.
And I have a third thank you to send out to Kelley York. She chose 6 winners (me included–and yes, I’m lucky) to receive an e-ARC of her new book Hollowed, a paranormal story. I’ve read her book Hushed, and LOVED it, and am looking forward to this one too.
So thank you, Kelley.
Have you read any C.K. Kelley Martin or Kelly York books?
Sunday, July 22nd, 2012
I’ll admit I was a bit lazy. I typed this up the day ahead, and although I’ve got a few other posts I could’ve used, I didn’t feel like using them now.
So instead, I’ll tell you about a couple things I’m excited about.
Remember Christa Desir’s Band Camp flash fiction contest. There is still time to vote on your favorites. And if you come back here next week, I am offering a $10 gift certificate to B&N or Amazon to the one who guesses which is mine. If there is more than one correct person, I’ll draw names.
So come back here next week to guess. Christa’s contest ends July 31st.
Coming up in August is the What If? Fairy Tale Madness Blogfest hosted by:
Click on any of their sites for more information.
Take a traditional fairy tale and ask what if? Then write a 300 word or less scene that falls into one of four categories: plot twist, tragedy, love story, or comedy.
Each judge is offering a special prize.
I have officially joined Team Plot Twist, judged by Cassie Mae. My story involves Cinderella, but that’s all I’ll say.
It was hard to get it down in 300 words, but mine is written and now I’ll just have to do some editing.
Gearing up to get an agent blogfest/pitch contest in September.
This couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve sent my manuscript to beta readers. And barring any major changes, I can be ready, or almost ready, by September. This will be a good way to test the waters with my new story.
There is a lot of stuff going on during the month, so clink on the picture above to find out more about Deana’s blogfest.
And this is totally random. My twenty year reunion is next weekend, and I am so excited for it. I’ll get to see some good friends I haven’t seen in ages. Along with all my other classmates I haven’t seen since the 10 year, or before.
So is anybody going to participate in the The Fairy Tale or Gearing up for an Agent blogfest? Or are there any others out there that sound like fun?
Sunday, July 1st, 2012
Today I wanted to mention a little flash fiction contest I’m participating in. Christa Desir has been collecting entries for her This One Time at Band Camp flash fiction contest.
She is giving away an incredible prize, a gift card and a 10-page critique to the story with the most votes. Very cool.
So since I submitted a piece, I thought it might be fun if the readers on my blog can guess which one is mine. Christa will be posting the band camp stories soon and will leave them up for the month. On July 31st she will announce the winner. So make sure you vote on your favorite.
On July 29th, I’ll do a post on this blog inviting you to guess which was mine. Of the people that guess right, I’ll throw their names into a hat to pick a winner, and that person will receive a $10 gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
Here is a little blurb from Christa’s site:
Keep in mind that all stories must start with: “This one time at band camp…”
They do NOT have to be true. Although if you want them to be because you have an awesome band camp story, then go for it. You do NOT have to be a writer. Just do it. It’ll be fun and get your creative juices flowing. Stories will be posted ANONYMOUSLY.
So make sure you watch her site for postings. Or check back here, I’ll let you know when they go up.
I’m excited because this is my first attempt at flash fiction. Have you written any or competed in ff contests?
Saturday, May 19th, 2012
Go Team Cupid!
May 17th was the start of the second round of The Writers Voice contest hosted by Krista, Cupid, Monica, and Brenda. TWV had 200 entries and I figured myself lucky just to get in. But then Cupid chose me to be on her team of ten + one alternate. What an honor.
So this last week, we got a look at all our teammates queries and first pages. We got comments, then revised. Then comments. Then revised. (Some of us at least.) With any critique, you don’t agree with everything, but I made a lot of great changes from their comments and really appreciated the help.
Now I’m sure that everyone believes they have the best team, but I just wanted to show you why we really are the best. And I apologize because I won’t be able to do these stories justice, so make sure to go to Cupid’s site to read their query and first page yourself. (Keep in mind I haven’t read any of these, I’m just pulling my description together from what I’ve read of their query.)
Dahlia with Behind the Scenes, a contemporary young adult novel about a girl who works for her celebrity best friend. But when the publicists decide they want the celebrity friend to “date” her co-star, the guy the girl’s just begun seeing, she needs to decide what means more: her best friend, her future and her shot at love.
Favorite line: She’d had an audition that morning for a teen dramedy show, and despite having been in plenty of movies, she was more desperate to land the role of Ditz #3 on Daylight Falls than she’d been to play Brad-freakin’-Pitt’s stepdaughter three years ago.
Melanie with Dazed and Knights, a young adult romance novel where a girl goes back in time and has to deal with a spoiled princess, a handsy lord and no toilets! But of course there’s a knight in shining armour and she must decided if she wants to stay or try return home.
Favorite lines: Staring at the back of his head, I imagined lightning bolts shooting from my eyes and frying that perfect blond hair. I could almost hear the sizzle.
Ann with Supertastic ScienceGirls, a middle grade novel about a girl who discovers her parents are involved in this super secret experiment and she ends up in danger from the people who want to stop it. They attempt to kidnap her, but she and her Scientastic SuperGirls club won’t let that happen.
Favorite line: We’ve found ourselves a sub loonier than the lady who walked on tiptoes and only talked about leprechauns.
LeighAnn with One, a young adult sci-fi novel about a girl who doesn’t fit in. She has one power, whereas everybody else has either two powers OR none. But when she discovers a boy, a one, they realize together they have both powers. Except that somebody doesn’t want to see that happen and kidnaps the boy. But rescuing him might be the end to her chance to develop her two powers and she must decide what to do.
Favorite lines: I’m a One – a half-superpowered freak. It’s the same sad story for all of us.
Kelsey with But Not for Me, a contemporary young adult novel with a girl who is constantly bullied and teased. She’s tremendously overweight, is labeled as a special ed kid, and just got a new step-sister who’s making her life hell. When she gets a chance to shine, but is pushed back down by her fellow classmates, she must decide if she will take charge of her life or remain the girl everyone thinks she is.
Favorite lines: I hate buttoning my jeans. I would rather skip straight to the inevitable muumuu phase of my life than try to encapsulate my size 20 ass into this denim prison ever again.
Derek with Stealing the Sun, a sci fi novel about a notorious space pirate who is not only trying to escape from his past, but from the people who want him dead.
Favorite line: Yep, Trig thought, he was pretty well nerfed.
Amy Rose with Burnout, a contemporary young adult novel about a drag-racing girl, her deceitful ex-best friend, and the boy the girl is falling for. And it all takes place in the underground world of illegal street racing.
Favorite lines: Hello, Universe. Callie White here, future professional drag racer extraordinaire. 10.5 seconds is what I need. 10.5 is what I’ll get. Just try and stop me. I dare you.
MarcyKate with Monstrous, a fantasy young adult novel where the murdered girl is brought back to life by her father, except she looks like a monster. As she’s trying to save innocents from being murdered, she’s falling for a boy who hasn’t seen her hideous self, and she’s trying to figure out who the real monster is: her father, the wizard who murdered her, or herself.
Favorite line: When I opened my eyes, the colors of the world swarmed me, filling up all space with hues and objects for which I had no name.
Becky with Here Comes the Sun, a contemporary young adult novel about an often-teased girl who gets to go to England on a school trip. She meets a boy, a Beetles fanatic, and hopefully he will help her learn to break free from her shell and that life doesn’t always suck.
Favorite line: So here I am, flying so damn high in the sky that Chicago looks like Lego City, crossing my legs so tight that they are literally tingling from the pressure.
Cortney with Phobic, a young adult horror novel where the main character realizes that the house she is living in is alive and that she is physically connected to it. And if she doesn’t figure out the truth behind the house, she may just permanently become a part of it.
Favorite lines: When I was six years old I found the man my mother murdered stuffed under a trap door in our kitchen. The smell gave him away.
And here’s my Frosty.
And thank you once again to our fearless leader, Cupid! Not only has she helped with our query and first page, but she critiqued some additional pages too. I can’t thank her enough!
So go check out all the entries to see some great stories. Sunday is the last day to leave comments, then Monday the agents will stop by.