Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mining for the Precious in Contest Results with Guest Jeanne Takenaka


Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at freedigitalphotos.net
Thank you Tina and Seekers for inviting me to be here today. I’m so honored!

When we enter a contest, we begin the process of digging for treasure.When we receive our results, the real work of evaluation begins. We, as writers, must first process through the emotions our scores evoke within us. Joy at a final, disappointment over scores that were not what we hoped they would be.

Whatever the judges’ scores, we all come and stand at the mouth of the mine where we must decide what our next step is going to be. Will we stomp those nasty scores and negative comments into the dust beneath our feet? Or, will we step through the mouth of the mine, fasten on our hard hats and get ready to  excavate, digging for the precious among them?

When I entered my first writing contest, My Book Therapy’s Frasier Contest, I just knew I’d receive at least a bronze for my amazing writing (listen as Jeanne, two years wiser on the writing journey clears throat. Loudly). When the email arrived in my inbox, I opened it, read the greeting and then clicked on the judges’ comments. In case you have to ask, no, I did not final or receive a bronze rating in that contest. What I did gain, though, was solid gold. The scores and comments unearthed both strengths and weaknesses regarding my newbie writing skills and style.

Because that’s what this left-brained girl does best is analyze, I printed out every page of the score sheets and my entry, double-sided. I began laying scores side by side. Within about a nanosecond, twenty pages lay in a disorganized jumble around me. Trying to match up judge one’s and judge two’s scores next to each other turned into a frustration. There had to be a better way.

Then, a light bulb flashed, in my mind, not literally. What if I did the left-brained thing and created a spreadsheet? I could input my scores, examine them side by side and evaluate my writing strengths and weaknesses. Thus began my quest to create a spreadsheet I could use for evaluating my contest results. 

Now that I’ve entered a few more contests (not nearly as many as Supreme Contest Diva Tina Radcliffe though!), I have created a spreadsheet. I use it with the feedback received from the contests that provide results via a chart (Genesis, Frasier, Phoenix Rattler, etc).

Going back to the mine analogy, contest judges examine entries with certain criteria in mind. Their scores reflect what they find in our “mines.” Coals, rocks, ore, gold, gemstones, all of it.
 

THE ORE:

Image courtesy of dan at freedigitalphotos.net

In studying result sheets, I found contests evaluate similar categories. The wording may vary by


contest, but the overriding ideas are similar. I’m going to put these ideas into my words, but hopefully they will resonate with what you’ve found. Let’s start looking from a big picture view and go into detail.

The big-picture topics many contests score on are Story Elements, Interest in Story and Professional Impact.

STORY ELEMENTS: This category usually includes character development, setting, dialogue, conflict, flow/pacing, and for CBA, the spiritual element.

INTEREST IN STORY: This category usually evaluates a writer’s understanding of the craft, the writer’s voice, the originality of the story (within genre structures), how well the story hooks in a reader, and if it holds a reader’s interest through the entire contest entry.

PROFESSIONAL IMPACT: This category determines how well the writer knows his/her grammar, punctuation and spelling, genre compatibility and how marketable this story would probably be.

Digging in a little deeper, I discovered common veins of descriptors judges assess. I “borrowed” phrases and ideas from score sheets I’ve received to compile the list below. Actual wording for specific contests will vary somewhat. You won’t find all these sub-categories in every contest.

Story Elements:
Setting:
1. Is time and place well established?
2. Does the setting support the story?
3. Are the five senses employed to enhance the scene?

Character:
1. Are the lead characters unique and distinct?
2. Are the secondary characters distinct? Do secondary characters contribute to the story?
3. Do characters show realistic emotions?

Dialogue:
1. Does it sound natural or stilted?
2. Do the characters have distinct voices?
3. When narrative is used, is it used well?

Conflict:
1. Are the character motivations compelling and realistic?
2. Is conflict natural or contrived?
3. Is there good potential for conflict to move the story forward through the book?

Flow/Pacing:
1. Does the story flow smoothly?

Spiritual Elements:
1. Are spiritual elements organic, shown through the character and plot, or are they contrived?

Story Interest Elements:
Understanding of the craft:
1. Does the writer have an understanding of POV, and stay in one POV per scene?
2. Are POV transitions smooth from one scene to the next?
3. Does writer use back story sprinkles or backstory dumps?
4. Does writer use “show vs tell” effectively, especially when it comes to emotions?
5. Is pacing smooth and natural?
6. Does the story build plausibly, logically and believably?

Writer’s Voice:
1. Is the voice fresh?
2. Does writer avoid cliches?
3. Does writer write with clarity?
4. Does writer overwrite?

Professional Impact:
Marketability:
The story is unique, or has a fresh twist to a common story line

Language Elements:
Uses grammar, punctuation and spelling correctly

Genre Compatibility:
1.    The story’s tone and use of humor, drama and words fit within the genre

THE EXCAVATION:

Once I know what’s being evaluated, I can begin excavating the precious out of the ore. I input the numbers from my score sheets onto the spreadsheet. This allows me to begin to pick away at the information in search of gold and the gemstones. They sometimes appear in unexpected places. 






 THE PRECIOUS:





Viewing judges’ scores next to each other enables me to detect patterns. For example, if all judges scored me lower in a certain category, that is a great indicator of something I need to work on. On the flip side, higher scores from all judges indicate a writing strength. When I find a discrepancy in the scores that I don’t know how to explain, I talk to a mentor about them.

A few closing thoughts for evaluating contest results:


1.    Pray and ask God to help you see the gemstones among any disappointments that come through scores.


2.    Identify one area where you received lower scores to work on. No, you can’t shred the rest, but set them aside until you master the one focus area.


3.    When judges offer positive comments and suggestions for growth, don’t focus only on the negative. Believe in your writing strengths. Even seemingly negative comments have gold  nuggets hidden within their words. If someone says, “This story isn’t original,” you’ve just been given a great clue about a weakness. The challenge: mix things up in your story and add some sparkle.


4.    Most importantly, have a teachable spirit. Remember, God gave you your story, and He’ll help you write it.




Make your contest results show you how to improve your story. 

Here's the link to the “Contest Evaluation Spreadsheet." If you choose to click on the link and use it, please remember not to input any data in the “Total” sections highlighted in yellow. Scores can be automatically tallied and their sums placed in these sections.

Okay, so if you’re still with me after the longest blogpost I’ve ever written, I would love to hear how you take contest results and make them work for you. Do you have questions about what I’ve shared? Let’s talk!

I’ve left my favorite chocolate macadamia coffee straight from Kauai, along with my husband’s favorite chocolate truffle pie for you late night readers. For breakfast there are chocolate drizzled croissants. Enjoy!







Bio:
Jeanne Takenaka writes women’s fiction that deals with real life issues with a heart to draw women closer to God and to those around them. She is wife to one amazing man who is her real life hero, and mother to two exuberant boys who hope to one day have a dog of their own. She loves being God’s girl always learning about His grace, hanging out with friends and enjoying a great cup of coffee. She and her family live near the mountains in Colorado. She is a member of ACFW and My Book Therapy Voices. 





 Seekerville note: Jeanne was kind enough to created a sample Contest Evaluation Spreadsheet. One with all the comments filled in to demonstrate how to use the form for all us form challenged writers. It's in pdf format-remember the actual blank form is available on Jeanne's blog.

It will be on the Seekerville web page through the weekend. www.seekerville.net.

Additionally, in honor of Jeanne's visit today, Seekerville will be giving away a Seeker book of choice  (must be available on Amazon) to one commenter today. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


This is a great tool, so don't forget to Tweet and share on FB! Thanks Jeanne! 

108 comments :

  1. What an excellent day for Jeanne to host in Seekerville. They just announced the Frasier finalists and she's one! Congratulations!!

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  2. Love this, Jeanne. I'm a spreadsheet girl, too. Seeing all the scores next to each other is the only way I can take it all in and objectively evaluate.

    And it's obviously working for you, my friend. Congrats on your Frasier final! :0)

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  3. Congratulations, Jeanne!!!

    What I've done several times is make an extra copy of my entry. Then I copy each judge's comments into that file, highlighted in a different color. Then I print the new file.

    Coffee is ready.

    Helen

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  4. Congratulations, Jeanne!!

    And thanks for a great post—I liked the analogy of mines, very interesting!

    Mary

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  5. Welcome Jeanne.

    I am Not a spreadsheet girl, but my husband is. So if I can't figure it out, he can teach me. Thanks for sharing this practical and useful way to look out the feedback.

    Helen, I like your idea also.

    Thanks again, Jeanne, and congrats on your Frasier final!

    Jackie L.

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  6. Congratulations on all your successes Jeanne!

    I have been having a dandy time trying to separate what is helpful from what is not. When judges have conflicting points and one says too much of this while another says add more...I want to scream. So I do.

    Another thing I've learned is that judges have pet peeves. Generally something they have been called out on and will jump all over your use of it. We probably all do that when we judge.

    And sometimes judges correct something and are just plain wrong and not helpful.

    Finaling is a good thing but everything is so subjective we must take all results with a liberal helping of (fill in the blank with your favorite method of chilling out)

    I love good honest critique. Sometimes it really takes some digging! Jeanne I'm impressed with your scoresheet spreadsheet. How have I not done that before?

    I'm hoping a few followers strike gold in contests this year!

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  7. Congrats Jeanne,

    I like reading what happens in contests and like seeing advice taken. I am not a writer but am on a few forums for writers and readers and get frustrated when someone says they were rejected but given feedback to improve a book only to reject most of it because they believe the advice is wrong. I know not all feedback is useful but when its from a reliable source or someone who sees the potential and knows what is needed to sell the book I find it frustrating reading the advice is being rejected cos its not what they want to read.
    (this is mainly people who haven't be published and are on there first book)

    its almost 8.30 and I am tired but not exhausted. didn't feel I needed a nano nap today. I hope this is the start of a new better sleep pattern for me. sleeping over 6 hours was wonderful and to do it 3 days in a row amazing! At this rate I will be able to read before bed again soon.

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  8. Great tips, Jeanne!!! Can't wait to check out the contest sheet

    Also another BIG CONGRATS on being a Frasier finalist!!! Oh yeah!!!!

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  9. Congratulations on being a Frasier finalist, Jeanne ~ great news!!! I remember reading a comment you made on another blog about this spreadsheet. Thank you so much for sharing it! I'll definitely print this post for my Seekerville notebook.

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  10. Excellent post! Thanks, Jeanne. This one is a keeper. Need to check out that spreadsheet thing... Add my congratulations on earning Fraiser finalist!

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  11. I'm going to try the spreadsheet.
    It can be overwhelming. I still haven't processed my results from the Genesis.
    I tend to go with "two out of three," meaning two out of the three are positive about a certain point, but I also don't discount the "three" until I've really examined it and seen if she/he has a point. Thanks, Jeanne.

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  12. Thanks so much for inviting me, Tina! I'm so thankful for all the Seekers. I've learned so much here!

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  13. SUSAN—I'm glad to know I'm not the only writer who needs to see scores side by side. That objective evaluation is so helpful!

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  14. Congratulations on finalling in the Frasier, Jeanne! You go, girl!

    Great advice in developing a method to evaluate and maintain contest feedback. I always appreciated judges comments, even when the scores were high.

    I love your line about maintaining a teachable spirit. That's priority one. What's the use of getting feedback on your work if you don't learn from it?

    Thanks for the excellent post!!

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  15. HELEN—I have never thought to use color code judge's comments. What a great idea!

    Thanks for providing coffee!

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  16. MARY—Thank you for stopping by. I've never been in a mine, but they fascinate me.

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  17. JACKIE—My husband is a "spread sheet master." I've used them for years to compile simple information. When I began using them for evaluating my contest feedback, he really took them up a notch. He loves them. Hopefully your husband will be able to help you with this one. :)

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  18. DEBRA—I know what you mean about conflicting information. And yes, I've seen the pet peeves of judges in comments and scores. Like you've said, contests are subjective. I try to mine out the valuable and leave the worthless behind. :)

    I'm with you, I hope many followers strike gold in contests this year!

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  19. Congratulations, Jeanne!

    Loved this blog on mining contest results. I just got back feedback from my first contest and I am tickled with the comments and marks but feel kind of like a yoyo as I open one attachment, read it over and then try to remember all of it while I open the next one and read it. LOL. A spreadsheet is an obvious solution, isn't it? Well...not for me I guess. Thanks for not only the suggestion, but the template and the sample.

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  20. JEANNE ... WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!!

    Oh, man, does this bring back memories when I used to try and rival Tina as contest diva. Notice I said "try"!! AND, WOW, you sure drive the important points home that I learned through so many contests, so THANK YOU for the reminder and the excellent post!!

    Especially appreciate this point:
    1. Pray and ask God to help you see the gemstones among any disappointments that come through scores.

    Oh, AMEN to that!! As I've mentioned before on Seekerville, I got a perfect score once from one judge who wrote "Please, please, please, please (yes, there really were that many "pleases") let me know when you get published because I want to read this."

    WOW ... I was on Cloud Nine till I saw the 2nd judge's comments/score. She gave me a 50% score, saying I utilized too many subordinate characters and POVs. Sigh. Talk about canceling each other out!! Only I didn't let that happen. Like you so wisely said, I prayed about both and tried to glean (mine) from the 50% judge any nuggets I could, then took the encouragement of the other judge and continued on. That book finally got published and I am now working on my 10th book.

    Your 4th point also hit dead-on: Most importantly, have a teachable spirit.

    Oh, YES, indeed. It's called "humility" and before I was through, I practically OD'd on it!! ;)

    Great post, Jeanne!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  21. JENNY—Entering contests is such a humbling experience. You're right, they are much more beneficial when we who enter are able to accept the feedback. Receiving less than positive feedback is hard, but it's oh, so helpful when it comes from a reliable source! :)

    I'm so glad you're feeling better. I hope it's a sign of your new normal!

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  22. PEPPER—Thank you! And thank you! I hope you find the contest sheet helpful.

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  23. Great post, Jeanne! I love the concrete ways to make the most of those contest results.

    I've learned to wait a few days before looking at them too closely, though - especially the ones I don't agree with. Otherwise I spend too much time arguing with the judge in my mind to get anything useful from the comments.

    But there's ALWAYS something useful there, right?

    Congrats on your Frasier final!!! That's wonderful news!

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  24. JILL—I'm so glad you found this helpful. Wow I made it to a notebook. (Smiling) I'm honored. Thank you!

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  25. CINDY—Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope the spreadsheet is helpful.

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  26. KAV—you're describing exactly how I felt with my first contest scores—like a yo-yo bouncing between judges' scoresheets. I couldn't remember it all. I guess coming up with the scoresheet shows I'm definitely a left-brained writer. Have fun evaluating your scores!

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  27. Welcome to post side of Seekerville, Jeanne! Huge congratulations on the Frasier final!

    The idea of entering a mine gives me the willies. Thankfully we can dig for gold above ground, too. :-)
    I've mined a lot of gold from contests, but I've never thought of keeping a spreadsheet and comparing contests as you have. I'm impressed! Your are teachable and your method helps you know what's a gem and what isn't.

    Thanks for sharing your spreadsheet with the left brained among us.

    Janet

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  28. AUDRA—Thank you. I'm with you. I appreciate the judges' scores and comments. The ones that are high are always nice to read. I always hope for good feedback among those scores. The ones that aren't so high are a little harder to read in the beginning, but I'm always thankful when they include helpful feedback.

    Yes, a teachable spirit helps us accept the less than glowing feedback, doesn't it?

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  29. So what's your next contest hill to climb, Jeanne?

    And your finaling book...is it ready to send out? Tell us about it!!!

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  30. Okay another question before I go search for some decaf.

    Tell us about the Frasier. Where does your msc go from here? Who is the final judge?

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  31. BTW folks I saw yesterday..and I don't know where..that the RWA Maggies is low on inspy entries.

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  32. Jeanne, you managed to explain this in such concise, simple terms that even a gal like me totally understood the analogies (and loved them!) and the basic lesson involved.

    You know, judging is subjective, but the analytics of judging are objective.

    They either approve or not.

    They either like it or not.

    They either glimpse the precious within the coal or not. And that usually means we need to "mine" our craft more concisely.

    Thank you for this! It's a treasure trove of information and I'm so grateful you brought it to us today!!!

    And I brought some Starbuck's Lemon Loaf for the lot o' youse. It's cool today, and I needed to make up for my blueberry streusel disaster a few weeks ago...

    It was a stunning failure and a crushing blow to my over-inflated Ruthy-ego!

    But this: Lemon Bread.... Oh, this is worthy!!!

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  33. JULIE—Thanks so much for having me! I had to chuckle at your judges' feedback. I guess that is typical of lots of contests, where judges see different things in our entries.

    It seems like the trick is to take the positive, embrace it, but also to take the not-so-positive and embrace it, looking for the nuggets in each that will help us grow as writers. :)

    Thanks for your kind words!

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  34. JAN—Thank you! You bring up a great point about waiting a few days before really doing anything about the scores. Working through the emotion so we can have an accurate perspective is an important part of learning from our results, isn't it?

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  35. Jeanne, I just saw the Frasiers' results! Congratulations!

    I lamented many a contest result in my day. And celebrated others. But that Finally a Bride that brought me to Melissa Endlich's desk...

    The OKRWA will always have a piece of this New Yorker's heart. And Alice Clary, the coordinator? Great gal.

    Jeanne, I also noticed the crazy weeks of hubby's back and sick kids.

    It's always okay to put family first. Our first job is our children, right?

    And those boys sound delightful.

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  36. JANET—I don't mind going a little bit into a mine, but I don't think I'd want to go waaaaay down deep into the earth. :) I'm with you, glad we can mine for gold above ground. :) And, I'm glad to know there are other left-brained writers among us. :)

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  37. Jeanne,

    Congrats on your Frasier final! Woot! And thank you so much for your generosity in sharing your spreadsheet. I think I will give it a try.

    Tina,
    The Maggie thing was on the ACfW main loop. If I read it right, it said all of the entries were low across the board. I won my Maggie entry in the Brenda Novak auction, but I may put something else in there to get the feedback and to keep the category going. I don't know--the deadline isn't until the 10th and they will probably get a surge at the end of the week.

    Piper

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  38. Jeanne, I loved reading about how you organized your contest results. I did the same kind of thing, just w/out a spreadsheet. It does help put perspective on the writing though.


    I had a friend before she was published, who used to enter contests all the time. Once she had the craft pretty much down, she told me she no long read the judges comments. I thought, "Wow, how can she resist to peaking at what they have to say?"

    This author always impressed me. She was an ex Navy officer and was one of those people who would stop at nothing once she set her mind to it. She had written 12 novels and kept sending out her books to publishers w/one rejection after another. Once a book made the rounds, she would change the title, characters names, maybe tweak something, and then send it out again. Yep, finally it work. Book number 8 sold and they asked if she had more.

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  39. Morning Jeanne, Welcome to Seekerville and with a spreadsheet no less. Pam wlil be tickled. Me too. Love spreadsheets.

    And CONGRATULATIONS on finaling in the contest.

    ANd those breakfast croissants. yummmmm Thanks for those also.

    I agree with Julie, the encouragement and guidance from the Lord is key.

    Have fun today.

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  40. Interesting post!
    Congratulations, Jeanne, for being a Frasier finalist!

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  41. Congratulations, Jeanne. I've been away from Seekerville....I had some serious catching up to do on my reading list. Most we're great, but had at least two that would have benefited with Seekerville input ( in my humble opinion) have an awesome day, and thanks for the coffee, Helen

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  42. Congratulations, Jeanne. Great timing.

    I'll take a caramel mocha latte if you got one. :D

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  43. If only I had a diamond that large:) good post!

    Clp1777(at)aol(dot)com

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  44. TINA—I'm in the midst of really figuring out the nuances of my next story. So, as I get it figured out, I hope to have enough of it ready to put in contests in the fall.

    No, I confess, the finaling msc isn't ready to send out, but I am working more diligently to finish it up. :)

    It's WF. This is a draft of my story:

    As much as she loves working with women in unplanned pregnancies, what crisis pregnancy director Charis Brennan wants most is to be a mother herself. When her husband reveals indiscretions from earlier in their marriage, she must come to terms with the results of his choices. Will she cling to her life as she knows it or will she embrace an unexpected gift?

    The Frasier is a contest hosted by My Book Therapy. The entry is the first 1500 words of a manuscript. I love this contest because the feedback is specific and almost always encouraging. They point out areas for improvement but not usually in a condescending way. The final judges are Steve Laube, Susan May Warren and an acquisitions editor (I'm not sure who).

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  45. Excellent post! Thank you, Jeanne! And congratulations on the Frasier final!

    I love your mining analogy because my husband is in the mining industry. I've been in mines...and don't like them...but I'll gladly head into the contest mine searching for precious jewels! I got a few from my one spring contest entry, so will dig deeper for more using your spreadsheet. Thanks so much!

    I'll try the chocolate macadamia coffee and go right to the chocolate truffle pie...yum!

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  46. LOL, Marianne! Good to see you again!

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  47. Jeanne, your story sounds wonderful.

    I am a huge WF fan.

    Luanne Rice, Cara Stewart, Ginny Ytrrup, Claire Cook, Myra Johnson, Diane Johnson, Lisa Wingate.

    But I admit, I have to have happy endings. Can't do WF with sad endings.

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  48. Oh, I am not on the ACFW at the moment. I am too easily distracted.

    So I bet I saw it on the FHL loop.

    Congratulations on winning your entry, Piper.

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  49. I just love how detailed you are here, Jeanne. I've actually never thought of creating a spreadsheet for contest results. I think I'll be trying that this go round. :)

    And of course, congrats again! So excited for you.

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  50. Jeanne, who are some of your WF influences?

    Have you ever written anything else?

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  51. PIPER—Thank you. I hope you find it helpful. I hope your entries do well in the Maggies!

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  52. CONNIE—Yes, having an accurate perspective is so helpful when it comes to our writing, however you can gain it. (smiling)

    I love seeing the different ways people process contest results and work with them. It sounds like what your friend did worked well for her. Thanks for sharing that story!

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  53. SANDRA—I'm glad I'm among kindred spirits in "Spread sheet land" in the writing world. :) Thanks for having me today. Yes, encouragement and the Lord's guidance ARE key. :)

    Enjoy those croissants. I just brought some more, fresh from the oven.

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  54. I've got to get the littles to camp, so I'll see you all in a few hours. :)

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  55. Jeanne, great post. Love the mining for gems concept.

    Glad you mentioned the importance of the good feedback received. Knowing our strengths is as important as recognizing the areas that need work. IMHO, of course.

    I try to write to my strengths...including scenes that allow me to highlight those areas where I feel my writing works best. At the same time, I work to improve what doesn't come as easily.

    Strengths and weaknesses are the two faces of the same coin...hmmm, and today's scripture was "render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." So I'll stay with the coin analogy.

    Our job is to improve where we are weak so that more and more of our writing reflects strength.

    A lifelong challenge, for sure.

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  56. First, congratulations on the final! You had some lovely advice. "Be a teachable spirit." Fabulous!

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  57. I'm still HaPpY dAnCiNg for you, Jeanne (just check my FB page) and am thrilled you're a Frasier finalist! I love your analytical mind and it's obviously paid off for you--that, and hard, hard work learning the craft!

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  58. Wise words, Jeanne. Thanks for being with us today, and congratulations on the Frasier final!

    What a great idea to develop a spreadsheet for comparing contest judge evaluations! I'd almost suspect you've been hanging out with Spreadsheet Queen Pam!

    And so true about how subjective judges' opinions can be. What one likes, another will take exception to. It's important to weigh each comment carefully, but in the end, it has to be about what feels right to you and what best serves the vision for your story.

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  59. CONGRATULATIONS JEANNE on being a Frasier Finalist!!! WOOHOO!!!

    And thank you for this wonderful post today---I confess I've only entered 2 contests (so far) but they were both great learning experiences. Thank you for sharing your amazing spreadsheet with us--WOW.
    Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

    p.s. Just baked a Georgia Peach cobbler--enjoy while it's warm!

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  60. Congrats on being a finalist, Jeanne. Enjoyed your post and enjoyed learning more about you!
    Blessings in the future!

    Thanks for the giveaway today, Seekers!!
    jackie.smith[at]dishmail[dot]net

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  61. Just popping by for a moment on my lunch break to say CONGRATULATIONS to Jeanne. And thank you for sharing such a wonderful tool.

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  62. wow. this is a PRINT OUT NOW post. thank you so much for providing a spreadsheet sample - i am excel-challenged... severely so. give me something already made up and i'm happy to swap out contents.

    how to find the hidden gold will be so valuable to me once i bravely forge into the world of contests. armed with this information, i don't have to be as brave (whew!)

    thanks for sharing!

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  63. Mary Curry! How goes the testing? When is school out???

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  64. Patti Jo, one of these days I'm gonna have to have a hearty serving of your Georgia peach cobbler for real!!! With a huge dollop of vanilla ice cream!

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  65. Oh, this was a great post! I'm a new admirer of spreadsheets and I can just SEE how this could pick out the gems of criticism right away!

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  66. Can't you just see a Seekerville Writing Retreat catered by Patti Jo's Cafe and Bakery??

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  67. LOL, Tina, I have a feeling we might do more munching than writing!

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  68. Wonderful post, Jeanne. I'll be printing it out. And congratulations on the Frasier finalist.

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  69. RUTHY—I loved this truth! "You know, judging is subjective, but the analytics of judging are objective."

    What will we do with what we get? :)

    Thanks for the reminder that family comes first. Hubby's back is slowly improving, and both kids are healthy. In the meantime, I had the privilege of serving them in ways I don't usually. It's all a part of what love is about.

    And yes, all that writing I thought I'd get done last week, well it's still waiting for me. :) The time for it will come, right? (smiling)

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  70. MARIANNE—so nice to see you back. :) I love reading just to read. I get so wrapped up in stories. Unless they pull me out, of course. :)

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  71. ANITA MAE—Thank you. I love how God times things. He has such a sense of humor sometimes. :)

    Caramel mocha latte waiting on the barista bar for you!

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  72. COURTNEY FAITH—If you had a diamond that large you could take any time you needed to craft the perfect story, and get published, right? :) Ahh, well, I guess we can all dream. Have a great day.

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  73. SHERIDA—I'm with you. What does your husband do in the mining industry? I'll stay with you above ground and mine contest results. :)

    Enjoy the coffee and the pie! They're both delicious!

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  74. TINA—I'm with you, I love happy endings. :) Some of my faves are Lisa Wingate, Susan May Warren, Deborah Raney, I liked Rachel Hauck's trilogy that started with Sweet By and By. I'm still looking for other WF authors. I'll have to read some you suggested.

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  75. TINA—I knew I missed a question. I've written one other story (the one you've seen). The one I shared above is my second effort. :)

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  76. LINDSAY—Thank you! You know me, Detail-Girl. :) I hope the spreadsheet is helpful!

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  77. DEBBY—Thank you for your kind words. And I like the idea of strengths and weaknesses being two sides of a coin. Great analogy. I'm still learning how to write to my strengths. :)

    I loved your thought: "Our job is to improve where we are weak so that more and more of our writing reflects strength."

    Thank you for that!

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  78. SHERRI—Thank you. And thank you!

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  79. Hi Jeanne,

    Congratulations again on your Frazier final. That is one tough contest so you should be very proud of your accomplishment!

    I grabbed a copy of your spreadsheet and even though I'm 'spreadsheet challenged', I will give it a whirl!

    Great post!

    Cheers,
    Sue

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  80. BETH—Thank you! Lots and LOTS of hard work to learn craft. And a continuing desire to learn. :)

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  81. Oh Jeanne, a girl after my own heart! lol There isn't much I haven't applied to an excel spreadsheet!

    Love my spreadsheets. :)

    And, to take your spreadsheets addiction even farther, it's really cool to stack up several contest results on any given entry (well, and ENTRIES). Wouldn't it be cool to see how each area improves over time?

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  82. MYRA—Yes, I like my spreadsheets, but I'm pretty sure Pam puts me to shame in that department. :) I'd love to hear what she does/did with contest feedback though.

    I loved this: "And so true about how subjective judges' opinions can be. What one likes, another will take exception to. It's important to weigh each comment carefully, but in the end, it has to be about what feels right to you and what best serves the vision for your story."

    Such wise words. In the end it is what feels right to the writer, isn't it? Good encouragement not to lose the heart of the story amid the feedback.

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  83. PATTI JO—Thanks for the peach cobbler! I've had a hankerin' for some! :) I've learned tons from contests too. :) I hope your future ones are as helpful as the ones you've already entered!

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  84. JACKIE SMITH—Thanks for the kind words! Have a great day!

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  85. MARY CURRY—Thank you so much! Hope your afternoon has gone well!

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  86. DEB H—I hope it truly is helpful for you. Excel spreadsheets aren't so hard if all you have to do is put in some numbers and type in comments. :)

    Be brave—enter contests. When you're ready. ;o) I've learned so much through them.

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  87. VIRGINIA—Thank you! SEEing is what this sheet is all about. :o)

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  88. PAT JEANNE—(I LOVE that we have a name in common!) I hope the spreadsheet is helpful for you. :)

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  89. SUSAN—Thank you for the kind words. I hope the spread sheet is helpful for you! If you have questions, leave them on my blog. I'll be happy to help you. ;o)

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  90. Oh PAM, I like it! Study contest results over time? I never even thought about that! Oohhh, lady, don't get those creative juices flowing! I'll never finish my story! ;o)

    Spreadsheets are my friend!

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  91. I've never thought about trying this, but it sounds like a great idea.

    I remember one of the oddest nuggets I ever pulled from a contest was from the very first contest I ever entered my first Japan-based manuscript in. A judge made a comparison that was three centuries off. It initially got my dander up, until I realized the value of the comment: I hadn't done a good enough job as a writer to bring the reader into the time period I was writing about. It was a great lesson.

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  92. >>Identify one area where you received lower scores to work on. No, you can’t shred the rest, but set them aside until you master the one focus area.<<

    Wise words! Judges often do the same thing -- focus on one or two things even as they realize there is more to be addressed. The thought is to not overwhelm with information and discourage the writer. The hope is that some other judge along the way will address those issues after the writer has worked on the previous issues. Hmm. That's an overly complicated paragraph.

    Judging has also taught me how to read between the lines with contest results -- to look below the surface -- to mine :-) A remark asking why a character did a certain thing can often be an indication you've hooked the judge -- and not that you need to work on the motivation. If there are two good scores and one abysmal score that can mean your work has a strong voice -- just the way some people love a certain published author's work and other people don't.

    Your list would be a great score sheet on its own :-)

    I made a color-coded spreadsheet to evaluate results, but I like your spreadsheet much better than mine. What generosity! I couldn't seem to get a comment to post at the blog, so I'll say "thank you for sharing" here.

    Nancy C

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  93. Wow! Congrats on the final!!

    Nancy C

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  94. WALT—what a great nugget to take from that comment! Perspective is everything isn't it, both in reading and in writing.

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  95. NANCY C—thanks for sharing about this from a judge's perspective. It's so helpful for us who are a few steps behind you on the writing journey.

    Sorry about the blog being difficult for you. That seems to happen sometimes.

    I hope the spreadsheet helps you!

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  96. @MYRA and TINA: I would GLADLY host you Seeker ladies at my house and would provide ALL the goodies you could eat, LOL!! (of course...anyone allergic to cats would be miserable, but you'd be well-fed at least!). ~ Hugs, PJ

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  97. Ha! I didn't mean host us at your house. OMYGOSH. Even I am not that bold.

    A retreat for all of Seekerville somewhere like a farm house or ITALY!

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  98. HI Jeanne,
    Great post and congrats on news of the Frasier final.

    I just sent two contest entries out last night. I've been watching deadlines blow by me and finally caught the train to Texas and the Lone Star contest. Whoohoo. Feels good. Now back to editing!

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  99. Congrats Jeanne! Awesome news about the Frazier!!!

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  100. Lyndee, the Lone Star is one of my favorite contests. Good luck!

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  101. Yea, LYNDEE! I hope those contests yield pure gold. And a final or two would be the diamonds on top. :) Good for you.

    NAOMI—Thank you. Surprising news to be sure. ;)

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  102. Oh, wow. This is ingenious! I'm going to be using this. A lot. I will be sharing this too. Oh! And it's going in my Writing folder on Pinterest. Thanks, Jeanne!

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  103. I can see how contests could be very useful for a writer. Highlighting strengths and weaknesses.

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  104. Jeanne,

    We all want those diamonds in the rough. Sometimes the excavation gets tiring, but I suppose I'll keep on mining.

    thanks for the post.

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  105. Thanks so much Jeanne! I have only entered one contest so far...usually because I never feel like my story is ready enough. I love the free evaluation form...it will take away all my excuses for not entering.
    And congrats being a Frasier finalist!

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  106. Thank you so much for the spreadsheet Jeanne. I'm not to the point where I'm ready to enter contests but it will definitely be a great tool for when I do.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

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