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What do you mean I DIDN’T FINAL???

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

As expected, the congratulatory e-mails and blog posts are making the rounds for those who were announced as semifinalists in the Genesis contest. But what about those who entered but didn’t final? Where are their consolation e-mails? Their “come cry on my shoulder” blog posts?

Never fear! Here are a couple of blog posts I read yesterday:
Not Finaling in Genesis Doesn’t Make You a Loser by Gina Conroy
I Never Finaled in the Genesis Contest by Katie Ganshert

I’ve been on both sides of this, both as an unpublished writer and as a published author—but it’s that first one I want to focus on today.

I entered ACFW’s contest—back when it was ACRW and the contest was called “Noble Theme”—the first three years of its existence.

The first year (2002), I received an honorable-mention certificate for the sample I entered—of the first manuscript I’d ever completed, after twenty years of “playing.” Though I’ve never received confirmation on this, I have a feeling that there were only five entries and mine came in #5—but they felt like everyone who was brave enough to enter should receive something. I got tons of great feedback on that entry—but by that time, I already knew I was never going to do anything with that manuscript, so I learned what I could from that feedback and applied it to the manuscript I was currently writing.

The next year (2003), I entered two manuscripts—and both failed miserably. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement. They received fair to middling scores. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a lot in the way of constructive comments; for example, I had one judge who scored me a 3 (out of 5) on everything and the only comment she made on the entire entry was, “Well done.”

By the time the contest opened up for entries in 2004, I knew I had THE WINNING ENTRY! You see, just before conference in 2003, I’d come up with an idea of a romance novel involving a wedding planner who takes on a contract for a huge wedding—only to discover it’s her ex-fiancé-turned-movie star’s wedding, and she has to work with his personal assistant to get the wedding planned. When I came up with this story idea, I recognized it as the strongest idea I’d ever had and felt like God was telling me it was going to be my first published novel. I’d completed three manuscripts (those three contest entries above), so this was my year. Manuscript #4. I’d win the contest, and editors would by vying for my attention, waving contracts and money at me for the chance to publish this wonderful work of whimsy.

So imagine my surprise—my astonishment, my anger, my grief, my utter rage at the judges…and God—when I not only didn’t final, but received back scores that were even lower than the scores I’d received the year before. How was that possible? Didn’t these people know that God told me this was going to be my first published novel????? Of course, I’d already completely re-written the first ten chapters since I’d submitted it. And I was about to start on another rewrite of those ten chapters within another month—once I started graduate school (though, naturally, I didn’t know that at the time).

Talk about a game changer. Talk about having to go back to square one—no, before even square one, having to go back to sit at the foot of the throne of God to find out why the judges hated me so much, why He hadn’t told them what He’d told me. And that was when I learned that just because God gave me the story and just because God told me it would be my first published novel, He never said it was going to be easy. He never said He was going to throw success and the adulation of others into my lap. He showed me that if I really wanted to be published, it was going to be a long, hard, sometimes disappointing road. It was up to me to decide if I wanted to take that road or if I wanted to quit.

I’m no quitter.

I’d already enrolled in graduate school, so I put my head down, my nose to the grindstone, my ear to the ground (insert other meaningless cliché here). Over the next two years, I went through the ringer with this manuscript: two years of graduate school, two published-author mentors, six or seven critique partners, public critique workshops, and so on.

In 2006, I felt it was ready—this was my chance to see if “the industry” thought so, too. So I entered it in Genesis again. And then I had to prepare the manuscript for thesis review to see if I would actually be receiving a master’s degree with this manuscript. And before I submitted it, I re-read it—and realized how boring the first chapter was. I cut the first three pages and rewrote it to eliminate an unnecessary character—all the time knowing that these things were still in the version being judged in the contest. So I had my excuse ready at hand if I didn’t final. But—surprise, surprise—I did! And I came in second place in the contemporary romance category—shocker, since I knew how much work what those judges read needed.

More important than finaling in the contest, though, were the invitations to submit a proposal from the two top agents on my target list. But finaling did give me the courage to approach them and ask them if I could submit my work to them.

That was in September 2006. In January 2007, I signed with Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary. In December 2007, I received my first book contract for that manuscript. And in December 2008, that manuscript became my first published novel—Stand-In Groom.

But there are so many people who have never finaled in a contest who’ve gone on to get published and have successful writing careers.

And think about it this way: Look at how many writers over the centuries have gotten published before writing contests like these were ever even thought of, much less considered mainstream and “normal” for people to enter.

Unpublished writers: Do you enter contests? Why/why not? If you do, what do you do with the feedback you receive? What do you hope to accomplish by entering contests? How many do you enter each year?

Published authors: Did you enter writing contests before getting published? Did you final/win? Did your finaling/winning entries get published? What did you learn from entering unpublished-writer contests you’d like others to know?

Readers: What’s your opinion of writing contests for unpublished writers? Would you be more likely to read a debut author’s book if you knew this author had finaled in and/or won a contest with the first chapter of the book?

54 Comments
  1. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 6:19 am

    I’ve entered a few. I’ve had a couple of successes, and then some NOT so successful. And even the successful contests were conflicting. I might have finaled in a contest, but there was a 37 point difference in the top and bottom score. It is really confusing. I also noticed that the judges giving the lowest scores will have the least to say. I guess it is the “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”! :)

    I do like the feedback and many of the suggestions are spot-on. It really helps to have others take a look and help you get better.

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:12 am

      We did an interesting, unscientific, unofficial tally a year or two ago in MTCW in which we looked at everyone’s scores (no one in the group that year finaled, which seemed highly unusual to me, because I know how talented all my “minions” are!) and discovered an interesting trend—that unpublished judges’ scores tended to be a good 5 to 10 overall points lower than published judges’ scores. I’d be interested to know if that was just a fluke or if others have found that to be true, too.

      • Wednesday, April 13, 2011 8:00 am

        Kaye,

        For me, that is totally half-true. I’ve entered four contests, the forth being this year’s ACFW’s Genesis (I semi-finaled!!!), and in 2 out of 4, the lowest scores were definitely from the unpublished author. In one contest, two of the three judges were unpublished and each gave me the same score, a whole 50 points lower than the published judge’s score!

        In the two contests where the unpublished authors actually gave me a better score than the published, the scores were only by a difference of 3 points, in both contests! I’m not sure if that means the opinions in those two contests were more on target because the scores were similar or not. :)

  2. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 6:55 am

    As a reader up till a couple of years ago when I started reading blogs etc I had no idea there were contests for unpublished authors. I had heard of the Chrisy’s only cos some books said Christy’s winner but new nothing about them. So for me it really doesn’t have any effect of whether I would buy a book or not.

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:14 am

      Last year, when Stand-In Groom was up for a Christy award (which is for published books and judged by librarians and booksellers, which puts it in a whole different ballgame than these contests for unpublished writers), I happened to mention that nomination to an independent Christian bookstore owner . . . and got the same reaction from him that you have, Jenny—he’d never heard of the Christy Awards. That really helped me put the whole contest thing in perspective as a published author.

      • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 6:45 pm

        I get excited for authors I know finagling in contests and I am now helping judge the Caleb awards in Australia (bookshops get sent books to give a score and write a review) but I doubt it would influence me to buy the book because it won an award unless it was the type of book I really like (still struggling with one of the books I am judging)
        But for an author trying to get into the business I could see the benefits.
        Reading a book has sold 1 million copies doesn’t sell a book for me either.
        Oh I hadn’t heard of the Caleb awards until Paula Vince mentioned them to me and got our bookshop on the list to judge the books as we promote alot of aussie books.

  3. Kav permalink
    Tuesday, April 12, 2011 7:42 am

    I haven’t entered any contests yet. The scary synopsis part stops me in my tracks. Plus I haven’t finished my manuscript yet and I understood that your book should be finished before entering, though I’ve found out that a lot of writers submitted unfinished material so now I’m kicking myself because I would have loved the feedback.

    One question — do the non-finalists still get feedback?

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:15 am

      I did an online course with my local group on writing the one-page synopsis before this year’s contest. I’ll have to do it on the blog before next year’s!

      • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 12:19 pm

        Oh yes please! I hope to enter my 1857 WIP next year (after it’s finished, sitting at 40K!!!!) and I’ll have to write a synopsis.

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:18 am

      Oh, and, yes—nonfinaling entrants do get feedback from the first round of judging. Hopefully more than finaling entrants, since their scores are lower. My rule of thumb is that the lower the score, the more comments/explanations the writer receives from me. If I score something lower than a 70 (out of 100), I do a full out critique on the entry and include lots of resources, suggested reading—both craft books and novels in the genre—and craft lessons, if I feel the writer needs it. I don’t know how much detail other judges go to, but that’s what I do. (And conversely, the higher the score, the fewer the comments—they just aren’t necessary.)

  4. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 8:57 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiances with everyone. It can be discouraging at times but I love how you stuck with it and saw it through. I hope some day we can all say the same thing! God bless and Congrats!

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:21 am

      I’ve always said that one benefit of contests that most people don’t think about is that it’s good training for those of us who want to be published authors in two areas: submitting and rejection, and “bad reviews.” Contests teach us how to let go—how to send in that entry, how to prepare it, how to get mentally prepared for someone else to read it, and having someone else say it’s “not worthy” with a low score—as well as how to learn to accept it when those people who read it might have some not-nice things to say about it. That last one never gets easy, but experience in entering contests can help one learn just how subjective this whole thing is.

  5. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 8:59 am

    I submitted to the Genesis with the same manuscript under consideration by Revell. I got a 3-book contract with Revell and had to withdraw. Since the judges had already read my entry, they sent me scores anyway. I would not have finaled. The same humor that the editor loved, the judges feared were too unusual for historical romance.

    If God has a plan for you, He will see it to completion. Most of the time, I’ve felt like I was along for the ride on this publishing journey.

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:23 am

      Lorna, I’m hearing similar stories more and more—that someone entered Genesis, didn’t/couldn’t final and yet still got a publishing contract for the manuscript. Just goes to show how contests aren’t the be-all and end-all of the journey toward publication.

  6. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:02 am

    I’m unpubbed and I enter contests, well, only the Genesis, actually. And, Kav, yes, in the Genesis contest every entry should get feedback, but depending on what judges your entry got, the amount of feedback will vary.

    Why do I enter? For the feedback, to see that I’m improving each year. :( Sadly, it looks like I fell back more than a little with the one I entered this year. But onward I write, to regain my worth once more.

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:25 am

      I didn’t enter Genesis in 2007, partly because I was agented and *assumed* I’d have a contract and be ineligible before the contest period ended. I could have entered Ransome’s Honor—it was ready. But in the back of my mind was that niggling little fear that it wouldn’t score as high as Stand-In Groom had the year before—that I wouldn’t be a finalist. That somehow, I would be invalidated as a writer—especially in the eyes of my agent—if I didn’t do as well the next year. So I’m in awe of people who can enter year after year and learn and glean from it no matter if they final or don’t.

  7. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:09 am

    So well said, Kaye. Your road resembles mine, minus the MFA. It’s been a long one. Now I’ve been in and out of pub board a few time (I think they installed a revolving door for me). But I keep one writing and submitting. I’m not a quitter either. :)

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:27 am

      It sounds trite to say it, but it’ll happen when it’s supposed to. All we can do is make sure we keep going through all of those open doors and windows of opportunity that come up instead of just waiting for “something” to happen.

      Hang in there!

  8. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:14 am

    Great post, Kaye! I entered a couple contests before I was published. One almost devastated me, the comments were so low, and the other told me I was close. Both books have been published: Canteen Dreams and Deadly Exposure. So to those who didn’t final this year: Hang in there and take what is of value from your contest entries. Most judges really do want to help you get better so someday you too can be published!

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:31 am

      When Stand-In Groom finaled and I got my scores back (which were all sent back together after the winners were announced, I believe), I was shocked to discover that one of my three first-round judges had scored it quite low, and that one of the two editor/agent judges in the final round hadn’t liked it much either—at least, that’s what it seemed like from the few comments left on the manuscript. But, as mentioned before, seeing that, even on a manuscript that came in second place in its category, started preparing me to receive negative feedback once I was published. Didn’t make it sting less, but at least I knew how to react to it!

  9. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:18 am

    Loved your contest story and since you linked to mine (big thanks!) you already know mine. I think we need more sharing of experiences like this especially after contests. You never know how your story can change someone else’s life. Yesterday I received and email from a Genesis “loser” who was ready to quit, but after reading my story didn’t. THAT is worth so much more to me than winning any contest!

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:32 am

      I got a thank-you note from one of the entrants whose manuscript I judged and was blown away by this writer’s absolute joy in the feedback I gave her—especially since it was something of a low score (which I always feel bad about). Even just one note like that each year makes the time and effort I put into judging worth it!

  10. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:22 am

    I enter them and usually get two glowing (or at least fair reviews) and then one that totally contradicts the other two. (I haven’t received my genesis ones for this year, yet). I always comb through the reviews, take what is good and leave the rest.

    Of course, like any person who bares her soul in art, failure rends my heart. However, I do believe in my writing. And from a person who always puts herself down, I have to believe that’s God encouraging.

    So, I keep writing. (What else can I do?) And if God doesn’t want me to be published–I can be a supporter of others and I can brag that I have two finished manuscripts when most of the world has none.

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:34 am

      And soon, you can brag that you have three finished manuscripts. And then four . . .

      I love Mary Connealy’s story of her journey to publication. She had something like twenty finished manuscripts—and a bunch of contest finals/wins—before she received her first book contract. Just goes to show that perseverance really does pay off!

  11. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:28 am

    Thanks for this post. I just got my scores back from the Genesis, which I didn’t final, but my scores were good. My feedback was great and encouraging. The judges were consistent and showed me exactly the points that needed fixing. I did find that the freelance editor and multi-published author’s scores were slightly lower than the other judge, Kay. Of course, I wanted to win, but an editor had just rejected my novel for the very issue they said needed fixed. When you know what’s broke, you can fix it.
    I really enjoyed the story of the editor who bought the book that did NOT final.

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:36 am

      It’s always good to get confirmation from multiple sources when someone tells us something in our story/writing isn’t working, and that is one of the greatest benefits of writing contests—seeing if it’s one out of three that has a problem with it or if it’s the majority/all. The more people who give us the same feedback, the more we really need to listen to it!

  12. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 10:03 am

    As a reader, whether or not a book has won any sort of contest has never had any bearing on whether or not a decide to read it. Just my two cents… :)

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 10:05 am

      And how did that affect your decision as to whether or not to judge in a book contest?

      • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 10:30 am

        Talking the INSPYs?

        • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 2:00 pm

          Yep.

        • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 2:06 pm

          Well, I accepted that position for a couple of reasons: 1) a friend was in a bind and needed help and 2) I thought it would be a great opportunity to network with other book bloggers. (And I met Rachel…and many a White Collar-centered e-mail conversation has ensued. LOL!) I liked the INSPY platform because it reflected many of the reasons I started blogging in the first place…raising awareness about Christian fiction. So…long story short…that’s why I accepted. :)

  13. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 10:21 am

    Thank you Kaye!! This post was exactly what I needed to read. ~ After finally “becoming brave enough” to enter my very first unpublished writer contest, I entered the Genesis…..and no surprise to me, I did not receive notification that I was a semi-finalist. Of course, I didn’t expect to be one–I only did this for the judges’ feedback and for the experience (okay….and to prove to myself that I really CAN enter a contest *grin*). However, even though I was VERY happy for those that are semi-finalists, I began doubting my own writing. Hardly touched my computer for almost a week. But after much prayer (and reading articles such as this one from you) I’ve been reminded (yet again) that the writing journey is NOT easy, and what’s important is for me to focus on what the Lord wants me to do at this “empty nest” season in my life.

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 2:03 pm

      That’s something that contests definitely taught me—if I shut down and stopped writing each time I got some not-so-positive feedback (whether outright negative or actually constructive) on my writing, I’d be right back to where I was when I dropped out of college at age 21 and swore I’d never let a single living person ever see anything I wrote again in my life. It took God almost ten years to peel that scared (and scarred) young woman’s hands away from her writing, but, in the end, I can’t thank Him enough for leading me to Christian writing organizations and conferences that showed me feedback could be constructive and instructive instead of destructive (as it had been for me as an undergraduate Creative Writing major the first time in college).

  14. Charmaine Gossett permalink
    Tuesday, April 12, 2011 10:27 am

    Never entered novel contests, but have submitted short stories to two anthologies. The first one was to Paper Machie Press and they responded past their deadline that they were considering it further, but the story didn’t make it. I have submitted short stories to Glimmer Train contests and rejected. No feed back from either, however the “will keep it for further consideration” was a good feeling.
    Thank you, Kaye, for sharing your experiences. Thank you for mentoring the group. I gave up a few years ago because I thought it hopeless to get published because of the Christian emphasis. It has given me hope to know that there are so many opporunities for Christian authors today and to be a part of a group or Christian authors who are determined to keep at it and eventually succeed.

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 2:03 pm

      Charmaine, I’m so glad you didn’t give up but kept on trying! That, to me, is success.

  15. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 10:43 am

    Wonderful post. I felt you could have been writing about me. It’s nice to know that all the voices in my head have been talking to someone besides little old me. Even though I didn’t final, I’m having fun on this writing journey. :)

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 2:10 pm

      It’s always nice to know when someone else thinks/feels the same way we do.

      Because the only other writers I knew early on in my life were the ones in my Creative Writing classes at LSU—the ones who believed they needed to rip everyone else’s work to shreds in class in order to look good in front of the professor—I went through the first almost thirty years of my life keeping my writing, my stories, my passion, bottled up in side, locked up in secret (as a teen, I literally wrote in the closet—in my small walk-in closet sitting on an old footlocker).

      When I returned to college at age 29 with the view of teaching Creative Writing, I swore that I would never do to other writers what was done to me. And then I went to my first conference a year later and was absolutely in awe of how open and honest the Christian fiction authors there were. And how they were saying things I’d barely allowed myself to think over the years, and talking about their writing processes—things I’d been doing that made me feel like there was something wrong with me, like collecting photos from catalogs and magazines of my “characters.” And I made a vow then and there that I would never keep my writing—or anything about it—secret ever again. And even though sometimes I do worry about what people might think when I write about certain things I do when I’m writing, or when I post pictures of the Real World Templates for my characters or the Post-it Notes stuck to my wall representing my half-finished novel, being able to be completely transparent about the writing process has been so healing and encouraging to me. Especially when I get comments like this—when I know I’ve made one other person feel not quite so alone in the world.

  16. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 11:35 am

    Great discussion. Thanks for posting this!

    I entered one ms. in the Genesis last year (first time to enter) and it finaled. This year, I entered two. One semifinaled, one did not. The one that didn’t was was last year’s finalist. It had also placed highly in another contest. I had modified it a little since last year (mostly based on the final round judge’s comments), but not significantly.

    In this year’s first round (I got the score sheets back yesterday), one judge gave it quite a low score. Like, almost 20 points below any other scores it received last year or this. I’ll admit to some initial irritation at seeing the low-scoring judge’s sheet and reading what he/she had to say. That judge commented on some things no one else had mentioned. Not my crit group. Not the other first round judges from this year or last. Not the final round judges last year. Since that’s the case, initially I wanted to mentally “toss out” his/her comments. But I didn’t. I have thought about them. And you know what? Some of them are right. Not all, but some.

    So it all has value, whatever the placement! :-)

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 2:11 pm

      I usually found that my lowest scores, while they stung the most, were the ones that I usually learned the most from!

  17. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 12:38 pm

    I’ve only entered the Genesis, and only twice. 2008 and 2010. My average score last year comes out to 73, and there are good reasons for it. I did not expect to final because I was working on edits during a really bad personal time. It was not my best work and it shows.

    The feedback ended up being incredibly helpful! It had a prologue, which I’ve since cut. One comment about the prologue was worth the entry fee. The antagonist is a step-mother and one judge said to be sure I didn’t go down the Cinderella’s step-mother path. I had started doing that and didn’t even realize it. That comment made me pay closer attention to the step-mom and really dig into her past to see what made her do what she did. That one comment combined with something Gail Roper said in her CE track at conference, made the step-mom a three-dimensional character with a real goal and believable motivations.

    So, I’m living proof that low scores can still be of HUGE benefit to the writer. If you’re willing to step back and truly evaluate them. I hope to enter this same story next year, as a completed first draft with at least one revision complete.

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 2:12 pm

      Yay! And I can’t wait to see you post—some day soon—that you’ve completed your first draft. You know I’ll be doing the Snoopy dance with you!

      • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 6:45 pm

        You may get a call when it happens! I’m hoping by the end of summer, since I’m almost to the halfway point.

  18. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 3:58 pm

    I have a story a lot like Lorna Seilstad’s – inlcuding the same publisher :) I entered the Genesis in 2008 with the first two books in my trilogy. They were ready & polished, and I “knew” it was my year. I submitted the same exact section to my target editor at Mount Hermon almost simultaneously, and she asked for a formal submission. Yes! My year! Then my Genesis scores came. I didn’t final. One of the judges called my heroine “icky.” Icky??? I was devastated – mostly because I knew my horrid ms was sitting on my target editor’s desk! I was stunned when she contacted me a few months later and asked for the complete ms – and even more a few months later when Revell offered me a three-book contract.

    Now I know God used it for good purposes. 1) To show me what needed fixing in the second book that made my wonderful heroine come across “icky” – which led to axing a prologue and improving the book 10-fold, and 2) Humility. Oh my goodness, God humbled me. Yes, He knew it was “my year,” but first He showed me it was only because of His timing – not because of my hard work. And of course, those scores prepared me for reviews. So…I’m glad I entered. God can use all sorts of things to teach us.

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 5:18 pm

      I’m so thankful to God for judges, crit partners, and editors who can see all of those areas of my writing that I think are wonderful which they know just don’t work!

      But still, “icky”? That’s a bit harsh!

  19. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 4:02 pm

    I entered the Genesis twice, and didn’t final either time, although my scores were respectable, and the comments were helpful both times. I decided to skip it this time and revise before sending to a couple of requesting parties. Now it’s a waiting game of another sort!

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 5:19 pm

      And I think that’s the question a lot of people need to ask themselves before entering a contest, especially if they’ve entered multiple years—has entering contests become a “comfort zone” to stay in instead of getting the manuscripts out there in front of editors and agents? Good for you for focusing on following up on those requests!

  20. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 4:18 pm

    I’ve entered both my nonfiction MS and Biblical fiction WIP in several contests – the latest being Genesis for the fiction. Did NOT semi- final – haven’t in any I’ve entered. I often have big discrepancies between judges (haven’t gotten my Genesis results back yet) – for Pike’s Peak I got a 90 from one judge and a 65 from another. NO idea what that means LOL. The comments, however really HAVE been helpful. That’s why I enter contests – even though when you find out you don’t final, it is DEFINITELY a bummer. But I learn from each one. VERY curious of my Genesis scores. Soon I hope ;) Another benefit to those contests is that it forces you to REALLY polish up those first 25 pages (or however many it is!!). Now, if only I could get to the pages after that!!

    And GREAT post, Kaye!

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 5:23 pm

      Thanks, Joanne! As far as discrepancies . . . it isn’t just contest judges. When we send my proposals out, we can get the same kinds of disparate responses from editors. One will love something that another one thinks is garbage. (In fact, the “other” agent I submitted my master’s thesis manuscript to indicated that I needed to “study the craft of writing” in the rejection letter I received. Ouch.)

      And yes, definitely get to those pages after the first fifteen to twenty five!

  21. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 4:46 pm

    Hey Kaye – thanks SO much for the link to my blog post. Seriously appreciate it. :-)

    • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 5:24 pm

      You’re welcome, Katie. I really enjoyed reading it!

  22. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 8:33 pm

    Great post, Kaye, and I enjoyed reading the comments from the Genesis entrants and how they responded to the scores and comments. I volunteered to do some judging this year with great trepidation. I found actually deciding on the number scores for each item was the most difficult thing for me. I wanted to be encouraging with my comments and scores but honest too at the same time. However, I have known plenty of rejections on my own writing path and I think the rejections that hurt most are the ones with no explanation. Was it just bad timing? Was it stinky writing? Was the editor just tired that day or overstocked? It’s hard to know. But what I always did know was that I wouldn’t give up. That I’d keep writing and hope that someday the timing/editor/story would be right. I published my first novel in the general market over 30 years ago. I have never entered any contests although I wrote my first young adult novel with that in mind. Missed the contest deadline, but the story found a publisher.

    I’m sort of an oddity among Christian writers since I have been publishing for years but had never attended a writers’ conference until last year. I’ve never had a critique partner. Never really knew any other writers until I published my first inspirational book in 2005. I really admire the Christian writers I have come to know via internet mostly. They reach out and welcome new writers. They pat each other on the back and cheer each other’s successes. They want good for one another and that’s the way it should be. I want all of you to write the stories you’ve been given and to find the readers who will love those stories.

  23. Wednesday, April 13, 2011 9:29 pm

    Thank you so much for this great blog, Kaye. The comments have also been very interesting, informative and challenging also for a judge of the first round this year. I had two entries I thought were outstanding, and as has happened more than once over the years of judging unpublished writers’ efforts, I am humbled so many times that God in His wisdom has made it possible for me to be a multi-published author and those two great writers were still waiting for that to happen!

    I wonder if other judges sweat and pray as much as I do over the entries – especially another couple I felt forced to give really low scores to? I long to encourage, but also be helpful to a writer who clearly is very much a “beginner”. It does no writer any good not to be honest, but to try and point out problems and do so lovingly, clearly and above all helpfully is the biggest challenge I have as a judge.
    I mentored a writer many years ago in a scheme organised by a writers’ group I was a member of and I have never forgotten what happened. The first few chapters she sent me made me really groan. I hardly knew where to start telling her what she was doing wrong. With some tridation I pointed out two or three things and did suggest a couple of “How To” books she might like to study. She revised and sent it back. I shared a few more and the next time more still while she ordered and studied writing books. Bit by bit this lovely, committed woman persevered, rewrote and rewrote. However, over the years I still wondered if I had tackled mentoring her the right way. We became good friends and years later she had become a Mills & Boon multi-published author. At a writers’ conference I plucked up the courage to ask her what she would have thought and done if I had told her EVERYTHING that was wrong with that first effort she sent me. She laughed and said, “Wasn’t it aweful Mary! But I would never have written another word.”
    Judges do need to be gentle and very wise as many comments here have shown once more. As much as I would like to believe differently, unfortunately none of us can be gentle and wise all the time – and I do include myself in that!
    I hopefully will be able to place author names to entries I judged if they final, but I sure wish I knew the names of the writers of those I scored – especially those low scores – and had the time to help them more!

  24. Wednesday, April 13, 2011 9:32 pm

    Oops and I hope you don’t judge me too harshly for my typos in that comment – and forgive me for its length!

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