Some news!

was just revising something on the blog, literally right this moment in time (if you happen to visit the blog, you’ll notice in the right-hand corner a new text box. I’m keeping track of my daily word counts on the novel.)…

…when I opened my Gmail account…

and found an email from Patty Henderson of The Emily Contest, the contest I entered the first 35ish pages of the romance novel into. Remember that? Well, I didn’t final (I would’ve been notified New Year’s Eve), but I got score sheets and comments back! And guess what? It’s not terrible!!!

So here’s the text of the email:

Thank you for participating in The 2010 Emily Contest. As you know by now, your entry did not make the finals. Attached are two score sheets, possibly three, along with a corresponding judged entry. The judge’s number is noted after the entry number in the saved files. If you have three, it means that the two original judges’ scores were more than twenty points apart, and that one judge’s score was 85% or more of the possible 100 points. Many times, this denotes a writer with a strong voice. (Not every judge ‘gets’ it.) In those cases, the third copy of your entry was sent to another judge, then the lowest of the three scores was dropped. The two highest were averaged, that average being the score used when we determined the three finalists.

When comparing your scores, please focus on the similarities between the judges’ comments on the score sheets and on the manuscript. You may find valuable advice. If you are overwhelmed, put the score sheets aside for a few weeks and return to your writing. Remember, this is only one judge’s perception and opinion. If two judges remark on the same thing, you might want to consider it. If, after a time, you still disagree, simply ignore it. Regardless of how your entry fared in this contest, your time is well spent if what you learn from these judges helps you to improve your writing skills.

If you would like to send thank you notes to your judges within the next few weeks, I know they will appreciate receiving them. Send the notes to me at this email addy. Show “Emily Contest, Judge Thank You” in the subject line, and please note the title of your entry, the entry number and the judge’s number (noted on the score sheets) within the note. I have a master list and will direct notes to the correct judges.

The winners will be announced at the West Houston RWA Chapter Emily Awards Ceremony and meeting, which is scheduled on February 13, 2010. For further information, please check our web site at or e-mail me.

Thanks again for entering the 2010 Emily Contest. I know, firsthand, how much courage, hope and hard work is sealed into every entry. I wish you the best with your writing.

And stuff from the score sheets:
Scoring: 5 Excellent, ready to submit
4 Almost there, needs only a little polish
3 Average, shows promise
2 Below average, needs work. Author may not be aware of this element.

STYLE: 19/30. Far too much telling and explaining points that could be illustrated with action or dialogue. It’s deadening, which is a shame because you have a strong premise. As for viewpoint, you have not moved into close pov for any of your characters unless it’s Mady, and even then we feel we know her beyond the superficial.
PLOT/CONFLICT: 13/20. Because there is very little action, there is very little tension. All the telling and explaining make for a slow pace with low key conflict. Example: you have a great opportunity at the dock when Mady realizes she could be a slave herself – but it fizzles. A man looks at her funny. What if you made an Event of the moment – have something actually happen? – a man grabs her arm, or she sees another child just her age and color who is in chains, crying. Give us more incident and drama and up the tension.
DIALOGUE: 12/15. As you move through your revisions, this can be an area to concentrate on. If you do less telling, you’ll naturally make each character more distinct. You’ve already told us how different Mady and A. are, so now just add those differences into their speech.
CHARACTERIZATION: 11/15. Frankly, I’m a little confused who the heroine is. If Alex and Mady are to get equal billing with each having her own romance, that isn’t yet clear. Not sure what Mady’s goals are – Alex’s seem to be to run the estate. You’ve spent more time telling us about Mady’s personality than you have about Alex’s, yet I don’t know what she really wants other than to not marry (though I don’t know why).
CHARACTERIZATION-HERO:12/15. I’m assuming that Henry is to be the hero. His introduction is confusing. He seems menacing at first, a bad guy, spying on the woman. And then maybe not so bad. His attitude toward the woman who’d been whipped would be helpful. His world-weariness is a good start, but how is his ennui to carry him into drama and heroics? Need a hint that some sense of responsibility will spur him into something more interesting than fatigue. What does he want? What does he fear?
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:The old evil telling instead of showing is hampering this manuscript. Aim for an incident, a happening, a visual scene with strong verbs over and over. You almost gave us an incident on the dock when Mady sees the slaves – start there and rewrite to make it vivid and emotionally wrenching for the reader, not just for Mady. Explain less, show more. Tie every event to an emotional reaction to the event – how did Alex and Mady feel when they learned their sister was gone. Think visceral. Margie Lawson has some excellent how-to material on just that factor of energetic writing. Congratulations on coming up with this premise – I think you can turn this into an exciting novel. (a very small point — I think you mean for Jane to have TB instead of chronic pneumonia) I love the era, I love the idea of two very different but devoted sisters, of your grounding us in the slavery goings on, etc.

Score Sheet 2:
STYLE: 22/30. Your research is impeccable. I know you’ve really done your homework and undrstand the period completely. Maybe you’d like to feed the information in smaller pieces.
PLOT/CONFLICT:16/20. I’m not sure what the plot is. I know it’s difficult with just a few pages of ms to explain a whole book, but we really need to know sooner. Each scene should have conflict.Pace could be much faster.
DIALOGUE: 6/15. There is very little dialogue
CHARACTERIZATION: 19/30. I’m not sure who the protagonist is.
This is an excellent start. The opening hook is excellent. The idea of a mixed-race family in Georgian England is compelling. Good for you for finding something new and fresh. Watch your grammar. Make sure verbs agree. Vary the length of your sentences. Avoid using all the research you did. As long as you know it, it will come through in your story. It slows your pacing down if you use too much backstory. I hd to read several sentences many times to understand them. I’m sure you can do this. Remember, these are only my opinions, so use what you can and throw out what you can’t. Whatever, just keep writing. You have a new and fascinating premise here.

And General Comments:
Thank you for letting me read Keenan Inheritance. You have found a fresh and exciting premise for your story. I love the idea of a mixed-race family in Georgian England. Good for you.

Your research is impeccable, so I hate to say this, but you may know your subject too well. At times, the history reads like a textbook. It’s not necessary to tell us everything. If you know it, it will come through in your story.

You may want to rethink Mady as the protagonist. She comes across as shallow. However, on the flipside, she has plenty room for growth. Right? Who is the hero? Who is the antagonist?

I don’t have a feeling of what the plot is. I know it’s difficult to get it all in on the few pages a contest offers, but we should know much more than we do by now.

And most importantly, remember these are only my ideas. It’s your book; use what you can of my judging and throw the rest out. Just keep writing. You have a unique and fascinating story perking away here.

!!!! They didn’t hate it. Truth is, I haven’t looked at it since I sent it in, but still!

So, anybody have any tips for the ol’ showing-not-telling? I’ve always had problems with that. And what do you think of the critiques? If y’all want to see the email (with the chart with the numbers and everything), let me know, because I’ll forward it.

3 thoughts on “Some news!

  1. From Katie:Awesome. I totally enjoyed reading the comments.That must feel great to get that kind of constructive feedback.And I laughed at the \”excellent\” high grammar/punctuation score. Not surprised. You anal editor you.


  2. From Shawnese:This is really exciting! Even though we didn't get the most desired outcome, you got some really amazing feedback. Really constructive and honest and clear. What's your next step?


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