Monday, April 20, 2009

Contest Feedback Glossary

Missy Tippens here. I decided it would be fun to look back at comments I’ve had from contest judges, editors and agents and put them in some sort of glossary that might help other writers—especially those who may have never sent their work out into the world yet. So, without further ado, here are terms that I’ve seen over the years, along with MY interpretation of what they mean. Again, this is purely my speculation! And it’s in relation to my submissions.

“Cardboard characters.” I think what this means is that I didn’t go deep enough with the characters. I probably didn’t explore their backstory well enough before I started writing. Also, it may indicate they’re a little too stereotypical, or clichéd. Not different enough. And the way to make them different enough is to give them a past, to examine how it has affected them in the present, and to show how they will respond to the problems facing them in the present. Also, it may mean I didn’t let go with the emotion of the story. And I totally understand that. I’ve judged contest entries where everything felt superficial and boring. The characters didn’t seem invested in the story, and neither was I. So give your characters a past, and don’t hold back on emotion in your story.

Didn’t sparkle.” Okay, this one kills me. Nearly broke my heart when I got the rejection that said this. And I still don’t know for sure what the comment meant. But I have a feeling it has something to do with the story being fresh, with a new twist on the same old plot. Or maybe the characters didn’t stand out. Or maybe the writing wasn’t rich enough. Oh well. I’m still at a loss on this one from so many years ago!

“What’s the point?” This one just cracked me up! I loved it. Because it’s wonderful to have someone tell you that. Seriously. Because then you know the moment you lost your reader—not a good thing! So it’s something that can be fixed. Obviously, the scene wasn’t working. It probably had no real purpose for being there. All scenes need a purpose! Preferably a couple of purposes. So if you’re writing something, and a reader can’t figure out the point, then there probably isn’t a legitimate one. Consider cutting it out.

“I suggest you buy such and such how-to book.” Okay, when more than one judge suggests a basic writing how-to book, then maybe it’s time to take an online writing class or to consider reviewing the basics. Now, just one judge saying this shouldn’t throw you. It may just be that judge’s standard judging procedure to suggest good books. But if you get this from several, it may be time to look into some beginning writer training or training on the particular topic mentioned.

“Too convenient a plot device.” Most likely, this means you’ve been lazy or careless. (Yes, I’m talking to myself here, too.) Did you forget to set something up that’s supposed to happen later? Of course, maybe some plot idea came to you later in the book—just appeared out of thin air. Well, cool! But then you have to go back and make sure it’s set up well and work it in so it makes perfect sense when it happens. You can’t have some coincidence solve all your hero’s problems. Or you can’t have some new character pop up in the book who shows the heroine the way she should go or who (even worse!) saves the day himself. No, don’t do something that’s going to make your reader go, “Oh, puleeeze!”

“Add more introspection.” This is a problem I've had recently. And if you've seen the comment, it could mean you're caught up in the moment (in the action or dialogue) and have forgotten to put in the character’s thoughts and feelings. Or maybe you're still basically on a first draft and haven't yet added the needed layering. Either way, you need the action, but you also need the reaction. What’s going on in the hero’s head as he’s talking? How does he feel? Does he really mean what he’s saying? Or is there different dialogue going on in his head (subtext) while he talks? The reader doesn’t want just a play by play. She wants to know how everyone feels about what’s going on! So give it to her. It’s a great way to work in backstory as well if it’s the appropriate time. Just remember, “A little dab’ll do ya.” Don’t have the character think for ten minutes straight! Work it into the action and dialogue in snippets (unless you’ve purposely worked in a time for reflection).

“So what?” This isn’t meant to be mean. This is an honest reaction to a point in the story that simply means, “I don’t care right now. Make me care.” It means your character may not be sympathetic enough. The reader isn’t invested. So look back at the beginning and try to make your characters lovable. And even if one isn’t really lovable yet, at least make the reader be pulling for him or her to grow and change. Think about the characters you remember most from your favorite books. What made you love that character? Was he funny and clever? Was she a victim and you hoped she found justice? Was he fun and flirty? Was she generous? Was he a powerful man but very lonely? Was he in danger but risked his life to help someone else? Look at heroic qualities and see if your characters have them. If not, fix it!

Well, I could probably think of a million more. But I hope this short list helps you look at contest judge/editor/agent feedback in a different light. So, what about you? What comments have you gotten, and what’s your take on what it means?

P.S. Who else here is old enough to remember where “A little dab’ll do ya” came from? :)

Missy--who's latest book, His Forever Love, is about to release on June 1!


  1. Wow, I beat Ruthy here!! Of course, I'm just heading to bed, and she's just waking up. :)

    So Ruthy, I'll leave the coffee making to you. And I'd love to wake up to something yummy from your bakery!

    Night, night.

  2. Thank you so much for that information! I've entered two contests for the first time this year: Genesis and TBL. I'm getting more anxious as the time draws nearer to get judges' comments back! I will definitely refer to your post to help me interpret!

  3. Good morning, Jody!

    And goodnight, Missy!

    Coffee's on. I brought Hazelnut and Choco-Mocha along with straight, heads-up, mainlining caffeine stuff.

    Perfect for a gray Monday in upstate!!!!

    Jody, congrats on entering contests! And yeah, it's always dicey to wait and see what they say. Will they be wowed? Overwhelmed??? Nauseated? Laughing in their sleeves???


    Good luck, woman! It is what it is and if they love it, more power to you. If they don't, we'll double that power wish!

    And I brought chocolate-chip studded banana bread that Mandy made yesterday because the bananas on my counter (donated by a daycare mother who was sure I'd do something with them...)were really dark...

    Really dark.

    But the banana bread is yummy. And she made Kentucky Pie, too, a luscious brownie pie that tastes like everything wonderful in the world all poured into one crust.



  4. Oops, sorry.

    That was really JUST me...

    Lacey's sleeping in, a week off from teaching and a well-deserved rest.

    Love that girl. And the cute, spunky, wide-eyed grandson she gave me!!!!

    Ruthy (for real this time)

  5. Missy,

    The phrase came from Brylcreem hair styling goop for men. :)

    These are great tips about contest comments but I think the most important thing is your attitude about them. Accepting criticism well and implementing changes wisely is the trait of a writer who will one day sell, is my guess.



  6. Why Brillcream of course. And that glossary is plain brilliant, Ms. Tippins.

    (now you've spoiled her Ruthy!!!)

  7. My stomach always does a flip-flop when I receive contest feedback. I've gotten some great feedback that really helped me see my novels from a different perspective and some not so great feedback--not because I disagreed, but the feedback didn't explain anything.

    Thanks for your post, Missy. I'll keep your comments in mind when I provide feedback for the entries I'm judging. Spending a couple extra minutes helps the writer understand why I gave him or her a specific score.

  8. Good morning, Missy. I love the cover of His Forever Love!! Gorgeous, almost ethereal. Can't wait to read it!

    Thanks for the great post. Boy, can I identify! Over the years, I've heard most of those comments from judges and editors. All tools to grow my craft. Another thought on how to flesh out characters and make a book sparkle is to add details and memories to ratchet up emotion.

    Yeah, I remember where "a little dab'll do ya" came from. :-)


  9. Hi Missy,

    I remember the advertising phrase too!

    Thanks for this information. I've yet to enter a contest but have taken on line classes and had a couple of those terms applied to my homework critiques.


  10. I'm glad to hear some of those terms fleshed out.

    My dad used to say that, not about Bryl Cream, but other important stuff like 3-in-1 oil for gun cleaning; and-or lipstick on young teen; and-or perfume on same ;-)

    Anyway ... I, too, am waiting to hear back from contest entries.

    Good feedback is refreshing, like rain in the desert. A word of encouragement. I so appreciate a good word.

    Unfortunately for me, growth comes from hearing from the Simon Cowell type judges.

    Good coffee this morning.

  11. Good morning, everyone! Thanks for the interpretations, Missy. Those are really helpful!

    I'm like Jody and some others -- waiting for contest feedback to start coming my way. I learn new things every time (once I recover from the screaming fit LOL).

    Don't hit me, but I don't remember the 'little dab'll do ya' slogan. The closest I know was from the sweetest, most patient first grade teacher I ever knew who told kids, "Just a dot, not a lot" when they pulled out the glue. Maybe she got that idea from the original version. :-)

  12. Oh, these are great. I definitely never get the "Add more introspection", I way over do that and need to cut, cut and cut!

    But then I read something like the Twilight series and think, man, how does she get away with so much introspection and with teenagers, too. Yes, there is lots of conflict and action in there, but lots and lots of introspection, too. Personally, I love lots of introspection, but I repeatedly get told to strip away.

    Finding the balance is tricky for me.

    Thanks for these, Missy. It's comforting to know I'm not alone with many of those comments.

  13. Oh, Missy! You're doing all you can to seduce me into pulling out some old scoresheets or rejection letters to share.

    And comment on.

    Alas, I have much other stuff to do today. Thanks for the great insight into judge/editor feedback.

    I will say that two weeks ago, I got a rejection from a ABA inspy publisher that threw me for a loop. Well, for a day at least.

    "Story is too genre romance."


    My first assumption was that genre romance is okay (after all how can something be a romance and not be genre?), but TOO genre isn't.

    Still, that answer didn't set well with my reality check mechanism.

    Took me me a little mulling until I brewed to the sweetness of wassail to deduce that the editor was saying, "We publish literary romance with a Christian worldview, not inspiring bodice rippers tastefully unripped."

    The point being: inspy romances aren't all alike because inspy pubishering houses and editors aren't all alike.

    So it's up to the author to figure out if Publisher A is worth targeting. Seriously, why waste your or the editor's time by subbing a sweet, light-hearted fare to someone who likes dark and edgy.

    Hmm. Why is dark and edgy put together quicker than light and edgy?

    On that note, where's Mary? Last I heard she was writing a inspirational cowboy VAMPIRE story with comedic, suspeseful, and Amish elements.

  14. Ruthy, I am spoiled, like Tina said! I just sleep in a little a voila, banana bread is waiting!! :)

    Thank you for being hostess this morning. I've had my 3.5 hours sleep and am trying to read posts before my coffee. Not sure how well I'll do!

  15. Jody, good luck on your contest submissions! I used to keep the finalist call dates on my calendar. That way I would stew all day when they were supposed to call.

    For the pubbed contests I've entered, I decided not to do that. I just can't take the angst anymore! LOL I just hope for a nice surprise (and pray Janet Dean didn't enter the same contest to compete against me!) :)

    (Love you, Janet. I'm just kidding, because I LOVED Courting Miss Adelaide and know it deserves to do so well!)

  16. By the way, Ruthy, I'm Kentucky born and bred, but I don't think I know what KY pie is! But I bet it has bourbon in it. :)

    I'm off to look up the recipe now.

  17. Cathy, you got the jingle right! :) Are we dating ourselves?? I think it was used in the 1960's. :)

    Here are the lyrics I found on Wikipedia:

    Use more, only if you dare,
    But watch out,
    The gals will all pursue ya,--
    They'll love to put their fingers through your hair.
    Bryl-creem, a little dab'll do ya,
    Bryl-creem, you'll look so debonair.
    Bryl-creem, the gals will all pursue ya,
    They'll love to RUN their fingers through your hair.

    Note-When the dry look became popular, the last line was changed to, "They'll love the natural look it gives your hair."

    Thanks for stopping by this morning!

  18. Yep, I knew Tina would know the jingle. Have you all ever noticed how Tina knows EVERYTHING? And I don't meaning that in a negative, smarty pants way. I'm talking the woman is a font of information!!

    Missy :)

  19. I don't even get really nervous anymore when I open my contest feedback and start to read. But I've entered contests something like 22 times now. :-)

    The last contest I judged, my biggest problem was--and these were secular historical romance entries--that the hero was completely un-heroic in every single one of them. He was so unlikeable I had a hard time trying to get my point across in a nice way. I wanted to say, Hello. This guy is a complete jerk. No way would I read this book!

    But I didn't.

    Anyway, great glossary, Missy!

    And on the Too Convenient a Plot Device thread, I recently read a published book (well, I DIDN'T read it, I should say. After the first 100 pages I stopped) in which everything just seemed way too coincidental. And they were things that no amount of foreshadowing would have fixed. After a while, when something would happen, I would think, "How convenient, and how unlikely." One convenient event doesn't bother me, but after the third or fourth one, I can't bear to read any further. The story becomes contrived.

  20. Lisa, I'm with you on the flip-flopping stomach. I used to walk to the mailbox with such trepidation. Then sometimes I would stare at the package, afraid to open it. And I've had times where I started reading comments and then had to stop to do it again later when I was in a better frame of mind.

    Contests are not for wimps!! :)

    You're right about judging. It can be helpful to be more specific and to interpret those notes jotted right on the manuscript.

  21. Janet, excellent suggestion for how to give a book sparkle! You've done a great job in your books with the little, heart-wrenching details.

    Thanks so much for your comments on my new cover. I love it, too. And it exactly fits a scene in the book. They took it right off my art fact sheet! :)

  22. Rose, thanks for stopping by this morning. I hope you plan to take the plunge on contests eventually. It can be difficult but very rewarding and helpful, too. And of course, we'll be here cheering you on! :)

    I'm glad you're doing the online classes. That's what I did when I started writing, and they were a huge help. And actually, I've taken two or three a year ever since then. I love to learn!

  23. Missy, thanks for decoding the judges' feedback for us. Like Jody (waving), I too entered Genesis and TBL for the first time. But I have no idea when we're supposed to get feedback. Don't want to know or I'd make myself crazy. This way, I'll just keep writing, and when it pops up, it will be a pleasant(?) surprise.

    Gina, do pull out your examples and share. Nouggies on the ABA inspy thing.

  24. Ann,

    As a huge Idol fan, I can so relate! But as awful as Simon can be, I'm almost always sitting here saying, yep, he's right! (I wish he could say things in a nicer way, though.)

    I love your dad's take on the jingle. I think my dad did something similar, but I can't remember exact ones. But I imagine they did have something to do with makeup when I was in 7th grade! LOL (we wore hideous blue eye shadow and pale, sparkly pink lip gloss) :)

  25. Oh, and I also meant to comment on something else Ann said. About those positive comments...

    Whenever my editor draws a little smiley face on my manuscript, you would think I'd won an award! One smiley can keep me going for weeks! :)

  26. Leigh, good luck to you on your contest entries, too! And way to go for putting yourself out there.

    I guess I should add that I haven't always taken contest feedback well. I've fussed. I've cried. I've nearly quit writing. Seriously. I got back some particularly difficult contest results, told myself it was time to give up and just quit. [And honestly, that contest feedback was so difficult because I knew the judge was right. And that shook my confidence more than it had ever been shaken.]

    So I had decided it was time to give up my dream. And that very same day, I got a call that I had finaled in the Maggie.

    I think God used that Maggie call to keep me plugging away. And it helped! I didn't sell for another year or so, but I kept going.

  27. Eileen, I'm trying to remember the writing in Twighlight. (Oh my gosh, it was amazing!) But it's been a long time since I read the first book (and I haven't yet read the others).

    Maybe the comments have to do with what's in your introspection. Is it there to move the plot forward? Or is it mostly description? Just make sure it's revealing character-- has something to do with the characters' goal, motivation or conflict.

    I just went to a Deb Dixon workshop this past Saturday, and it was a good reminder to me that our scenes need multiple purposes.

    The things I've found that make me want to skip over a passage are if there's a lot of description (like about a setting or a meal or something I don't really care much about) or if the character is being whiny or repeating thoughts she's already had over and over.

    Don't get me wrong, I do like a rich setting. I think it helps, though, if that description has more than one job. How does the character feel about the setting? How can it reveal her past? How can it add to the suspense?

    Okay, I'm rambling! I need my coffee. LOL

  28. Gina,

    You mean you didn't go pull out the old judge sheets and dust them off?? :)

    Very interesting comment from the ABA publisher! Thanks for sharing that. It points out how important it is for us to know our target market, and to read books that publisher puts out. And to maybe even network enough to know what particular editors want. (I guess that's what agents do.)

  29. Melanie, thanks for your comments on the conventient plot device. It helps to see it from a judge's or reader's perspective.

    I read a book a while back where a totally new character came in at the end of the story and saved the day. Huh??? Very difficult to swallow.

  30. Hey, Patricia! Thanks for stopping by.

    I highly recommend not looking up the finalist call dates of the contests. LOL Just wait for the thrill of the surprise.

    Of course, once someone posts word on some email loop or blog, you'll start staring at your phone, willing it to ring. Okay, so we're talking about me here. But you might do it, too. ;)


  31. Morning, Missy, great job distilling all the terms many of us have seen before!

    The two places judges tended to nail me were on my multiple POVs and too much back story, so I fixed the back story and left the POVs. Irish writers are sooo hard-headed, you know ... right, Ruthy? :)

  32. Thanks, Missy. Very timely post for me. It was encouraging. While not a contest, I did just get back the results from my first professional critique this weekend. (Sigh)

    There were quite a few positive things said, a few straggling comments, but there was one biggie. And I'm trying to figure out what to do with it. Apparently I'm missing tension through a scene or two.

    I think the comment would be akin to the "What's the point?"

    Here's the thing--there really was a point. It's a mystery and there are clues buried in a fairly innocuous scene. That wasn't obvious to the reader. Grrr. And you can't explain that to a someone who has already put the book down because he thinks I'm rambling. Soooooo....back to the drawing board. How can I slip in the needed information without a) putting a big neon sign over it, or b) lulling the reader to sleep? But anyway, that's my problem, I guess.

    But it is encouraging to know that I'm just treading the same path that others have successfully traversed.

    Any coffee left? I'm going to be working for a while on this...

  33. As a judge I go through the story with the Track Changes on and sort of toss in comments as they hit me.

    I'm big into just typing stream of consciousness reactions.
    "This is icky."
    "This guy sounds girly here."
    "Is this your heroine because I really don't like her. Make me like her."

    I try to be really thoughtful later, go BACK through and read what I've written, balance it against the whole book, but once in a while I...I don't know...I think I'm unkind. I hate that.

    I really loathe judging contests because I probably do more harm than good. I try to be honest in a way that will help. I try to be kind if the writing is really bad. Honestly I'm harder on good entries because I can see how close they are, and my advice is far more specific.
    When I'm writing things like, "Keep up the good work. Keep writing." It usually is code word for, "You're a beginner and you've got a long, long way to go."

    I'm not sure I'm much help as a judge honestly and I probably ought to just quit before someone comes after me with a pitchfork and flaming torches.


  34. Oh, we've got coffee, Barbara.

    Gotta tank up because Gina might just come back with some old judging comments.

    In the meantime...

    "This writer sparkles with Nora Roberts wit and wisdom, her storyline quick and decisive. She drew me in from the first line and I couldn't put this entry down..."

    "If this writer continues to work on the craft, she may be able to create believable characters and dialogue in time. I found the hero repugnant and the plot thin."

    Same book, same contest...

    Can you say: Discrepancy judge???

    It went on to win, but one judge (depending on the contest) can make a HUGE difference if there isn't either built in discrepancy (low score dropped) or an outside discrepancy judge ready to offer a fresh assessment.

    Good, helpful comments?

    "I loved so many parts of this, but occasionally you went off on a tangent and I felt like I wanted to rein you in, have you go back to the quick-paced fun writing I was enjoying..."

    Over-pimped manuscript. I fixed it.

    "Why would his death be in the newspaper? Why would anyone care about some guy dying on the job? No real news show would report that."

    Must be a big city judge. Accidental job-related deaths are reported on the news here, but it gave me a clue to enrich my setting better to make that believable to ALL readers because not all of them will come from mid-size markets like Rochester/Buffalo and might not find that realistic. Fixed it.

    "After page three I got tired of looking up words in the dictionary to explain how you used them wrong. Readers want to READ a book, not study vocabulary to be able to understand what you write. I wrote the definitions of the words you mis-used in the margins, but eventually I got tired and just decided to stop. And I have no idea what Pleasantville is and people aren't placid. Bodies of water are placid. You should always go with the most widely accepted, first definition of a word in the dictionary."

    Obviously a less studious judge and my books will not be welcome in her part of Texas.

    In this instance I fixed NOTHING and ripped up the letter I wrote to her coordinator AFTER I wrote it. And growled. And whined to various Seekers.

    And the dogs.

    And the cats.

    And stomped around the house.

    Then I remembered my first judging experiences when I was the stupid judge and realized those authors probably wanted to silence me with s-l-o-w torture and would have been justified.

    One judge's sparkle is another judge's cliche and it's important to be savvy enough to see the difference.

    And the 24 hour whining rule ALWAYS applies.

    Don't come here in hour 25 and expect sympathy.

    And it gets notably scarcer in hour 22+.



  35. LOL, Missy! I can remember getting lots of those comments -- still do : )

    What about *huh?* My sequencing is always off. Any judge can tell when I'm submitting a first draft for an entry : )

    Brylcreme, I think. It's a toss up between that and Dip-id-di-do : )

    Great glossary.

    Love your cover!!

  36. Okay, okay, okay. Since Ruthy shared, I'll share.

    "The action and dialogue are somewhat backward here. Beginning in the middle of a scene is a good technique, but the opening declaration is out of place and should come later."

    The "declaration" the judge refers to is my opening hook. It wasn't the orignial opening sentence. In fact, it was somewhere in the middle of the scene. But after a handful of other judges and crit partners all said, "Hey, this line would make a great opening hook," I cut the scene so it began with an opening declaration, then heroine action beat to establish who is speaking and that's she's the heroine, then her follow-up statement.

    "Elipses are inappropriate here. Elipses indicate something left out. In this case they merely delay action to no good effect."

    My first reaction was "she's clearly allergic to elipses." Eventually I decided that if something is distracting enough to cause a judge to comment on it, then odds are I don't need it.

    In a recent contest entry that I judged, the entrant had a love affair with the em dash. She had so many in one sentence that I had no idea where the em dash began or ended. Case study for "no good effect."

    Okay, this next one actually cracked me up. Now I just roll my eyes.

    "[Heroine] cannot consider—or at least describe—herself as wise and obedient and lay any claim to the higher Christian virtues as preached by the church at that time. Standards of humility were quite rigid then."

    Did you know that in medieval times every person was humble? Think how much better our world would if we lived under the strict standards of humility that the medieval church preached. Oh, to live in 1100s when all people obeyed the standards and ordinances of the church. I would have been such an amazing woman back then. Gina of Arc.

    Ended up the judge gave me a 79 out of 130. That's about at the 50% mark. A month later I got a call from Terri Reed informing me that this manuscript finaled in the Golden Heart.

    Okay, I wasn't going to share any more of her comments, but I can't resist her closing statement.

    "If [this author] is truly intent upon publishing in the Inspirational field, she must also educate herself about what is acceptable expression of faith (in thought, word and deed) for her Christian characters (especially as it relates to time period). This readership is much more likely to take offense at inappropriate (suggestive) comments and behavior, even of the teasing or laughable variety."

    My first reaction was the good majority of Christian readers have no sense of humor and fully expect the main characters to have no flaws.

    The truth is people are different. I get rather ticked at judges who make blanket statement like the one did above. SHE clearly had no sense of humor. SHE clearly had taken her Protestant views and super-imposed them on characters living in pre-protestant time. What she should have said was "I'm uncomfortable with xxxx. I'm uneasy with xxxx. I'm offended by xxxx."

    Still, I did make significant changes to the heroine to emphasize more of her strenghts so her flaws didn't define her. I also removed a few of the interactions/thoughts that she felt were offensive.

  37. Oh, I forgot to add...

    My scores in that contest were (out of 130) 115, 124, and 79. Thus it was sent to a discrepancy judge who gave it a 95, keeping it from finaling.

    I'm not sure how others have fared with discrepancy judges, but none of mine have ever resulted in high enough replacement scores to final. Makes me wonder if discrepancy judges err on the side of the lower score. Do they carry hidden expactations that the one judge who loved it was just an overly generous judge?

  38. Why I don't have a critique partner by TMR.

    I used to have one that constantly said, WHY. Everything was WHY?

    I got to the point where I couldn't write because all I heard in my head is Why?

  39. Oh, one more thing.

    In the last two years of my helping coordinate the Touched by Love, we've had a handful or so entries that direly deserved a discrepancy judge. But the board didn't allot for them, so we had to adhere to using only those two scrores to determine the finalists.

    I begged as sweetly as I could for the board to add another judge. And they did.

    So this year in the TBL, each entrant has 3 judges (one being a published author) and the lowest score will be dropped. I'd much rather do it that way then use discrepacy judges when the need arises. In this case, each entrant gets THREE opionins to evaluate.

    Some contests that use discrepancy judges won't return the lowest scoresheet...if the entrant declines it. Me? I'm all for the blood-letting.

    Hey, that was a nice use of ellipses. I know shall be known as Gina of Arc, the Great Ellipses User.

    Man, I would have made a great medieval church-going noblewoman. I'm humble. I adhere to all religous laws. I only speak when allowed. I look great in black. I'm fabulous with ordering underlings about. And, most of all, I'm never sarcastic.


    I was born a thousand years too late.

  40. Missy this is such a good post! I love it. Great interpretations. I think the "sparkle" one would make me mope though. Chalk it up to subjectivity. :-)
    Looking forward to your next book!

  41. Tina, WHY were you bothered by that?


    I get that enough from three-year-olds.

    "Why is the cat lying down?"

    "Because she's sleeping."

    "Why is she sleeping?"

    "Because she's tired."

    "Why is she tired?"

    "Because she entertained male visitors all night long and needs her beauty sleep..."

    Okay, I don't really use that last one, but I'm sorely tempted...

    The "Why" question is important and it was a lesson I learned from Anne Goldsmith Horch, to examine the plot and make sure the reader knows 'why' because having it in my head isn't quite enough.

    But some things should go unexplained, to entice the reader further, right?

    Gina, discrepancy judges...

    I'm a big fan of some sort of discrepancy judging, either by dropping the lowest score or sending out.

    I've done discrepancy judging for several contests. I've also had a few contests I judged go to discrepancy because my score was lower than the other judges.

    In those cases once the judge agreed with me, the other time she didn't.

    Personally, I've always done well with discrepancy judges. My theory is that they're warped people so they like my work. That seems to hold true most often.


    And in the times I've acted as the discrepancy judge, I asked to not see the other judges' opinions or scores and to go in with a clean read. In all those cases I ended up with a mid-line score that wasn't great and wasn't terrible.

    A big exception (and this wasn't a discrepancy thing, just a judging thing) was a quirky Southern novel that I think was so weird it bordered on brilliance, but was self-published and filled with newbie mistakes...

    I cut the guy some slack. No one else did, I guess, but I saw wonderful potential in his fun, quirky style. And his Southern setting and characters. Loved how delightfully weird the whole thing was.

    Which means I've made at least ONE friend in this judging business, LOL!


  42. So I definitely don't want a judge from Genesis or TBL to say my stuff doesn't "sparkle." Got it. I'm going to add my own interpretation if I get that comment (so that I don't go into depression) and tell myself that it "just didn't do it" for that judge. :)

  43. Hey, Julie, you changed 50% of what they told you to change, so you were doing well! :)

    Besides, I love all your points of view!

  44. LOL! I loved reading your contest comments. Thanks for sharing guys. I know I've gotten my own share of contradicting things. Also, one judge mentioned action-reaction units throughout the entire scoresheet. Sigh. Maybe the judge has a point, but I'm not looking forward to studying these things.
    LOL I always hated studying. Can I still be a good writer without studying? *snicker*

    The verse that just popped into my head was "Study to show yourself approved..." Apparently God just read my heart and gave me the answer. Double Sigh.

  45. Sure, Barbara, there's plenty of coffee all day long! :)

    As for your critique. Hmm... Of course it's hard to say without seeing it. But how about making sure your scene shows the clue but does one other thing as well? Can you demonstrate something about what your character's goal is? Or what's motivating him/her to go after that goal? Or maybe show something that makes conflict for that character--show why he/she can't get that goal? Maybe if you can make the scene do double duty it would fix the problem the critiquer saw.

    Good luck with it! I've found that almost everything is fixable. :)

  46. Mary, you meany.


    Seriously, I'm sure you're a great judge. You don't have a mean bone in your body. Now Ruthy, she's another story...



  47. Ruthy, amazing comments on your entries! Just shows the differences you can encounter in one contest.

    Thanks for sharing!

  48. Okay, Audra. You caught me. When I typed the post, I thought it WAS Dippity Do!!! I wasn't going to admit that, but you nicked my conscience. :)

    I actually had to do a search for it to find out for sure. LOL

  49. Gina, what I liked about your examples is that you were able to find something out of the criticism that was a lesson to help your writing. I like how you said:

    "Still, I did make significant changes to the heroine to emphasize more of her strenghts so her flaws didn't define her. I also removed a few of the interactions/thoughts that she felt were offensive."

    You were able to learn something and apply it. It just took a little work to find it. And I love what you said about flaws not defining her! I'm going to keep that in mind as I work on my proposal with a very flawed heroine.


  50. Tina, I hope that CP wasn't me!! I've learned a lot about critiquing since we worked together! :)


  51. Thank you, Jessica!

    You know, studying can be hard if you're just reading a how-to book. I often highlight the first few chapters but then get anxious to use what I've learned and set the book aside. I've found online classes and in person workshops to be a great way to study, too.

    Not that I'm trying to push you into studying!! LOL


  52. Thanks, Missy!

    Let me add that Mary is NOT a meany judge. She's all bluster. I appreciated all the comments she gave to her TBL entrants last year.

    Whether the entrants appreciated her comments or not...well, I'm merely looking for another spot to use an ellipses.

    So, Mary, tell us about your multi-genre Amish vampire story.

  53. If anyone can write a good Amish Vampire multi-genre story, Mary could.

    Well, Ruthy might do a passable job, although somehow I just don't think she'd get so excited about dead bodies as Mary would.

  54. Jeannie, we won't even consider that you'll get that comment! So never fear. :)

    My sparkle comment was on one of my very first rejections from ages ago. Maybe that comment has gone out of vogue. :)

  55. We can't let a fabulous word like "sparkle" go out of vogue. I vow to use it someone in my next batch of Genesis entries. In fact, I shall begin today.

    Gina of Sprarkly Arc

    Hey, Missy, in all seriousness, while I don't enjoy criticial comments from judges, I refuse not to entertain the notion that the judge might be right. Not saying I make every change a judge or crit partner suggests. Mary had a good point about deleting away the obvious stupid ones. You know like when a judge says, "I have a cat named Sparkles. Hate the critter. Debated giving it tylenol to send it to permanent dreamland. Therefore, I seriously recommend you changing the name of your Heroine from Sparklina to something more normal and less cat-like. I have a fondness for Joan. She lived in an ark before some crazy and warped freaks burned her alive. I personally prefer burning once dead. It's less painful that way."

  56. I need to enter more contests with real feedback.

  57. Thank you for the information, only problem is . . . now I'm wondering which one of those will be attached to my contest entries . . . SMILE... Hopefully, I've made my stories so perfect there will be only praise. . .

    Okay, so perhaps not, and perhaps it is good to remember that there things to learn even from the criticisms of life.

    Hmmm I seem to remember a topic on this last week or so from Ruth, something about Lemons . . .

    I am interested to see what others have to say about my stories, and yes, scared spitless as well.

  58. Tina being scared spitless is really not a bad thing.

    At least you're prepared, LOL!

    And you guys might be pleasantly surprised.

    Or horribly disillusioned. Either way, the contest circuit is a great way to separate the men from the boys.


    Kind of.


  59. Oh sure, Ruthy,

    I was feeling pretty good until you added that horribly disillusioned stuff. Now I shall have nightmares.

    NOT . . .

    Of course I am now caught in another dilemma.

    Man or Boy . . .

    Man or Boy . . .


  60. Sheila,

    There is a big difference in the Golden Heart and contests that give detailed feedback. And then there are differences in those with a score sheet and those (like the Maggie) that gives a critique. So you just need to decide what's the most helpful for you (as well, of course, as look at who the judges are.)


  61. Tina P., of course your entries are perfect!! So no worries. ;)

    And of course you're one of the men! You can do it.



  62. Okay, that was supposed to be Gina of Sparkling Arc. Plase add in the "k" when you read my strange comment. LOL

  63. I'll be back to reread this when I get my contest results back. :) Love that cover!

  64. ...reading through the comments and I had to come back--Mary, it sounds like our brains work similar. If we ever got to choose our judge, I'd pick you. LoL My basketball coach trained me well--as long as she was bellowing me I knew I had a chance. If she didn't say much to me, I knew I was beyond hope.

  65. Thanks, Patty! I love it, too.


  66. I entered the Maggies, last year I think? My critiques were incredible. I hope I saved them because I need to fix that manuscript up and I just remember what wonderful advice the judges gave me.

  67. Hmm, I guess I remember watching the commericals with you when we were kids : )

  68. It was not you, Missy. It was a face to face group.c

  69. Jessica,

    I'm glad to hear that about the Maggie! It's my local chapter contest. I've had some great feedback over the years from it, too.

    Audra, my sister, I remember! :)

    Tina...whew! I'm glad it wasn't me!

  70. Hi Missy:

    I’m coming in on this a day late but I actually have a category in my ‘rewards-per-page’ index called ‘sparkles’. Here are some of the things I call ‘sparkles’:

    1. a poetic turn of phrase instead of the ordinary English
    2. the use of alliteration in a pleasing and creative manner
    3. a new way of saying a cliché phrase, such as ‘toes curled’ or ‘knees went to jelly’
    4. a clever comeback or repartee which the reader could use in her own life
    5. the description of a new experience which the reader can share in, as in trying a new tea or type of chocolate
    6. an insight that is meaningful to the reader and new to the reader which is derived from an everyday experience
    7. a 'factoid' that seamlessly flows from the story line, as in how ‘beyond the pale’ got its meaning…(if this could flow from the context of the narrative) which makes the reader feel smarter for having read the romance
    8. something clever the heroine does…maybe a unique way to open a can or wine bottle or something almost nobody knows about making coffee or something different the heroine does because her Italian mother taught her
    9. a snap display of irony or humor – something that causes a smile not a laugh
    10. clever pet names or terms of endearment that take the story out of the ordinary

    There are undoubtedly more ways to add sparkle to a passage than I’ve listed here but these are what I am now using. “Sparkles” may be hard to define but we know them when we see them.

    BTW, I can’t wait. I’ll be reading your new book, 'His Forever Love', at 12:01 am on May first if all goes well at eHarlequin.