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Friday, May 25, 2007

ACFW 2007 Genesis Contest...Round One

I found out this week that my book, Rock Bottom, is a finalist in the ACFW Genesis contest. With that news has brought some mixed emotions. First, I'm proud that I've made the second round and I will honestly say I needed the encouragement. I've been a bit overwhelmed with doing my freelance jobs and still finding time for the fiction. I've doubted my ability lately and will benefit from the confidence booster.

Having said that, on our member forum there's been a huge discussion about this year's judges and whether or not they were too harsh in their critiques or unfair in some way. I got to thinking about the whole concept of a contest and what it means to final. Ironically my scores are actually lower than they were last year (for the same story) but because we have a stand alone Chick Lit category this year I still had a better chance...which brings to mind the question how subjective are contests and are they worth our time to enter???

Here's my two cents for whatever it's worth, and as late as it is it's probably not worth much. LOL. Anyway, I believe that any type of art-- and our writing is an art form--is very subjective in and of itself. Just as I may look at a painting and think it's beautiful and glorious and envy the talent of the artist, another spectator may look at it and see distorted lines and bad use of color or whatever...a judge may read my story and think it's crap and then the next judge reads the same exact story and may say "wow this is great"...but then as writers that's exactly what we set ourselves up for when we submit to editors and hopefully the general public if we make that first sale. So I believe that even if we don't agree with the comments and the scores, isn't it at least good to get the feedback and learn whatever we can from it? Good or bad. Even if all we learn is to be a little tougher.

For instance if a judge says you don't have enough conflict set up in the first 25 pages and you're thinking "but it's coming later" The judge is right, the story needs to start from page one. A reader may not necessarily read all the way to page 48 to find out whether the story is going to hold their interest. You don't have to agree with the judges, but if you pay to enter the contest and it's with an organization you respect, then shouldn't you at least take the comments into consideration? That's what I did last year. (even if my scores are lower this year, LOL)

I'm tired and I'm rambling so I'm probably not making much sense, but I just hope everyone who entered got at least something from the contest and can find some value in their experience. I didn't final last year but I can't tell you how many times I took out my scoresheets and re-read what they said and thought about how to apply the concepts they suggested. It was even a help to me with my other book, Prescription for Murder. I used one of the judges examples and reworked several scenes in PM.

It's tough and disheartening when the remarks are less than favorable, but I truly think it's at least worth the experience to enter contests. (as long as it's from a reputable organization)

Next week I'm going to be interviewing Ramona Cecil and we'll see how a contest changed her life when she won the top prize. They published her book Larkspur. It's a fab book and she's generously offered to give a copy away. Stop by to meet this very kind woman.

Oh, and I wanted to congratulate all the Genesis finalists. Especially Jenny Cary and Georgiana Daniels. You both rock!


Jennifer Tiszai said...

I think your conclusions are right on. Judges are human and subjective and, especially when there's a large number of entrants, not all judges are going to be published authors or even skilled unpubbed authors. It's entirely possible to have one judge 'ruin' your whole chances. Then again, that's pretty much life in the publishing world.

I don't think anyone can draw any conclusions--positive or negative--about their writing as a whole from one contest. But I do think it is an opportunity to have eyes other than people who know you on your work. And to possibly get your work in front of editors and agents.

Congrats again, Sabrina. You did awesome and I'm so proud of you!

Sabrina L. Fox said...

That's what happened to me last year. I had two high scores that I was pretty proud of and one low score. A 79. Threw my whole average off. This year, though my scores were a little lower, they were all three within 3 points of each other. So I have to believe my judges were consistent. I know two of my judges were published authors. I don't know about the third.

I think that even if the experience is bad and the comments are all tough there is some merit no matter what. Because above all else, the judges are readers, no matter what level they are as writers. So even if they go about saying what bothers them about your story in a way we may not agree with--we have to see that if they saw that problem a potential reader may also see that problem. :/

There was a consistent comment in my story about something that needed work. Ironically, Jen, it was something you noticed last year. I have to say I left the scene in and should have listened to you back then, because it's obviously not working. I know now. LOL.

I do wish there was a way to have a consistent level of judge. But then again, I heard two published authors with very different ideas about the way scoring was done so there you go. Who knows.

Thanks for commenting and thanks for all you've taught me over the last couple years. ;)

Georgiana D said...

Congratulations again! I agree, it's pretty much subjective. I think the comments are the most important thing because it's impossible to get judges to do the numeric portion absolutely consistant with one another. I had 2 high scores and 1 low, but the one that scored me low had almost the same types of comments as the other two. Hmm. Go figure.

Rachel Hauck said...

First, congrats to Georgiana and Jenny! And of course to you Sabrina!

I think you are right about contest. But the good thing is to look over your comments, find the ones that are similar or the same, and take them to heart.

Discard the rest.

But remember, an editor or agent is going to too look much beyond the first 25 pages, if that, so it's important to get that hook in there right away.

Anyway, blessings! Havea great day!


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