Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Contest Experience- I survived!

Ok so this fall I entered a number of contests. Aside from one entry last year, this was my first foray into the world of RWA contestland.

It was interesting.

And I don’t think I’ll do it again :).

Now, it’s nothing against contests in general, or RWA in particular, I’m just not sure how much feedback I can winnow out that is not related to me not having followed established romance parameters- particularly for not introducing the “meeting of the mates” sooner.

Of course, I don’t write Romance books- so that could be the problem. But as someone who reads Romance, I would argue that many books I have enjoyed don’t have the romance build in until AFTER the first 20-25 pages (the length of a standard contest sub.) In fact I find myself very annoyed with the sudden introduction and immediate “falling for each other but fighting it” that is often found in romances.

I want it to build. Having them be “inexplicably drawn to each other on first sight” on page 12 just doesn’t work for me. So even if and when I do cross into writing Romance, I would still have this problem in terms of contests.

Now, there was some good feedback, and once I finish the rough of The Glass Gargoyle I’ll be really digging into the feedback and adding in what works.

Here’s some things that don’t work:

1) Giving a high score and NO comments. Most contests say the judges have to comment for a half or less score. Well one of the highest scores I got had no comments. Which makes me wonder- did the judge even read it? Or were they in a rush and just gave very high scores just to get it done? I was also a judge in this contest (different categories than I was entered obviously) but even on the ones I LOVED, I made comments. To anyone out there who may find themselves judging- do it right, give some feedback- or don’t do it! The high but useless score is akin to a critique where the person just says, “I loved it!” Nice to hear but useless for feedback.

2) Commenting on how well a specific aspect was done- then giving a low score for that aspect. Ok, what’s up with that? The judge forgot which number meant “good”? This happened a number of times; the comments didn’t match up with the scores. And I’m not talking about the “I’m criticizing you so now I’ll say something nice to make you feel better”- I’m talking “Loved this!” then being given a 3 (think C) for that component. SIGH. Not real helpful.

Things that did work:
1) Getting your work in front of folks who don’t know you and who you hope will be honest. Really did get a few bits of good feedback and ideas. I think for newer writers this could be a way to toughen the skin anonymously.

2) The chance to final. Ok, I didn’t think this would be a big deal- but when they announced my name it was cool. LOL. As writers we don’t get all that many kudos moments and that one rocked. And taking second in the Miss Snark’s First Victim contest REALLY rocked.

So for the fall I entered the blog Miss Snarks First Victim’s Secret Agent Contest (Sept) and came in second (with a request for a full from an agent) * I cannot recommend this blog enough- go NOW- great stuff there*.

Then entered the Golden Palm Contest with one entry- didn’t final;
the On The Far Side Contest– two didn’t final, one did;
and the Launching a Star- no word back yet.

All and all it’s been an interesting experience- both not as bad as I feared, nor as good as I hoped;).

Any of you have great ups or great downs brought on by entering contests?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why every writer should do NaNoWriMo…and why I’m not this year

Ah fall. The time of year when nights grow shorter, weather grows cooler (ok, not here in So.Cal…but in SOME places), and writers across the land think of what they will do for National Novel Writing Month- aka NaNoWriMo- aka NaNo.

For those of you who don’t know, NaNo is a month (November) when writers decide to announce to the cyberspace world their intention of completing 50,000 words in a new manuscript.

Now there are guidelines, and while they aren’t enforced, why do it if you’re not going to follow them? It should be a new work and it should be a book. Not a collection of short stories- a book. Like they say if you think you’re writing a book, they will also.

There’s no cost, you just go to their site and sign up. Then you look for folks you know and add them to your “buddy” list so that you can egg each other on. There are local groups for most areas, so even if you don’t know someone- you can meet some like minded folks.

Why would thousands of people, for the most part semi-sane, choose to inflict 50,000 words upon themselves like that? Why do people run marathons? Climb mountains? To have the experience. NaNo is like Mt. Kilimanjaro for writers. And it’s a great learning tool. Most writers, even we seat of the pants type folks- have some inner censor going on when we write. Some little voice that makes us stop and question ourselves mid-chapter.

You can’t do that during NaNo. In pure self-defense you have to take that little voice, stick a gag in his mouth and ship him off to Siberia. When you’re cranking out 50,000 words (page count of 170-200 pages depending on the writer) in one month- you are writing CRAP. Lots, and lots, of crap. And you don’t care! Your only goal is to fill up those pages. You can’t listen to any inner voice no matter how loud- because you simply don’t have time.

When you win (and even if you don’t I would think- I’ve won both times I did it ;)) you really feel like you’ve done something amazing. You wrote, created, and slaved over a damn good sized chunk of a book that didn’t exist until Nov 1. Does it need work? Hell yes- probably lots of it. But you did it.

It also teaches you to write through any blocks that come your way. You just bowl right over them. So when you return to your more normal level of writing, you’re not the same person. You’re faster, leaner, more stubborn.

I know since Dec 2008 (my first NaNo) my writing style has changed for the better. Dec 2009 (NaNo two)saw the launch of multiple projects at the same time. This September I did my own NaNo trying to finish a project under a tight deadline. I did about 15-20,000 words in ONE WEEK. I could never have done that without two years of NaNoWriMo under my belt. I write faster, and I focus tighter now than I did before NaNo and I think every writer needs to try it at least once. You may not finish, but you still tried something way outside your normal everyday life. And its fun trying to explain to non-writers what you’re doing ;).

Alas, this year no NaNo for me. That Sept. NaNo of my own kinda did it for me, plus I still have one more project to finish. Once it’s done and sent in for critique, I need to finish polishing the other two books. I can’t start a new project with the others not ready to go. I’m sticking to the plan I made Dec 1, 2009.

But I will be longingly thinking of NaNo 2010- and I’ll be back in 2011 ;).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Schrodinger’s Cat Phenomenon of Writing

Ok, to sum up (and butcher) a theory of quantum physics, Schrodinger’s cat postulated that when a cat was in a room (no cats were ever harmed- it’s a thought experiment folks) in which poison was released- that before the door opened the cat was both alive and dead (again rough ROUGH summation for my point ;)).

I hypothesize that the same thing exists for writers. When we have sent out a requested partial or full, or even entered a contest- we are existing in both the realm of acceptance/winning and the realm of denial/not winning. We don’t know which it will be, so it could be both until that door is opened.

This week has been a wild one. Even though I said I was not going to submit to agents this year, I have found myself in a very nice position to have had both a full and a partial requested from two (or three- one is a two for one deal ;)) very well respected agents. For two different books.

I also entered three different novel contests and one short story contest. All of which are hanging out with that cat in the box right now and the door doesn’t open until later this month on any of them ;).

I will be sending out the requested items this week, but I already find myself in that odd neither dead nor alive position. I’m very happy and excited about the requests, but I almost don’t want the result to come back too quickly. If the answer is negative, it will pop the bubble. But even if it is positive, this limbo state (which I argue is unique and actually sort of enjoyable) will end.

This liking of the limbo is new and I think a result of having four unique series “on the boards” as it were. I will be disappointed if the results from the requests come back negative, obviously, the agents in question are very good and “on my list” of top agents I would like to work with. But at the same time, I’ve proven to myself that I can write more.

I like being the cat now ;).

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Blogging at Castles & Guns today

Today I'm over at Castles & Guns blogging about the craziness of writers.

Come say hi!