Friday, March 9, 2007

Contests and target audience.

I'm not a big fan of writers' contests. The main purpose for writing organizations, such as regional chapters of RWA, to hold contests is to raise funds for their chapter.

I question the qualifications of some judges, who are sometimes simply "PRO" status - that is, they've submitted their own work to an editor or agent, thus qualifying for "PRO" status through the RWA, but they aren't necessarily published or experienced.

And, going by the crazily diverse range in scores I've received, some judges don't "get" my work. Contest judging seems far too subjective for my taste. If a judge doesn't "get" what I'm trying to say, then most likely they aren't my target audience.

For example, I brought a story to my critique group a few weeks ago and the prologue included some rather disturbing imagery and some foul language. One of my critique partners asked, "Don't you think you may lose some readers here?"

I responded, "Then those people aren't my target audience."

As readers, we all have our favorite genres and types of stories. While some people may be content to stick strictly within those confines, I prefer to read a wide range of story types, often depending on my mood. Some days I want sweet, funny romance. Other days - my cranky days - I'm in the mood for some grisly murder mysteries or somber, gritty realism.

My critique partner had grown accustomed to the stories I typically bring for review - funny, sweet romance. Romantic comedy. And some quirky slice-of-life stories. So my experiment with writing a darker story took her by surprise. It took some readjusting in her thinking, but she and our other critique partner shifted gears nicely and both gave my chapter a constructive critique.

But in contests, I suspect not all judges have this capacity - to switch gears from what they are accustomed to reading in order to effectively and constructively review something a little different, something that doesn't necessarily follow the tried-and-true rules of a particular genre. (For those of you who write romance, you KNOW all about the rules of the genre!)

Usually a judge is compatible with the category she's judging; i.e., she's comfortable reading that type of story and it's ideally one of her favorites. But often, contest coordinators scramble for judges, sticking judges into categories for which they aren't particularly suited. The results? Contests scores that vary too greatly and comments that demonstrate the judge's lack of qualifications and basic understanding of that category of story.

So I'm not a big fan of contests but because I've got this manuscript that I've sent out twice and I'm trying to determine my next move. I've entered it into a contest just to see what kind of crazy results it garners. After all, contest judges are readers. Hopefully I'll get at least one judge who gets it. And maybe I'll get a better idea of what's not working in the story.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

News and what EVER.

This blog is boring, I know. But I've been faithfully spending my time writing rather than blogging. No, I'm lying. Well, kind of lying. I just didn't want to post anything and have my killer bunny picture scroll further down on the page. It's so cute. Well, I think so, anyway.

I just found out another short story of mine will be published by The Wild Rose Press. More news on that later as I get the details. I love The Wild Rose Press, and not just because I'm one of their authors. First, let me preface this by saying I've been reluctant to touch the e-Publishing market, mainly because I'm an old fashioned girl and love the feel of a good book in my hands. I'm a big fan of turning pages and find when I read things online or in a digital format, I tend to skim. A lot. I'm an awful skimmer, so I frequently miss important details.

But, in addition to my mountain of novels-in-progress I've got going, I write tons of short stories. I love short stories. I like the fact that I can sit down and write one in a few hours and with a bit of editing and tweaking, it's ready to go. I like the almost instant gratification in knowing quickly how the story will end. When writing a novel, I usually don't know how it'll end until I write the end.

I love the look of The Wild Rose Press's site and the editors I have worked with have been phenomenal. My fellow authors are great, too. I love the ease of purchasing a story, too. Instant gratification. It's all good. And I predict good things for TWRP; I know someday they will become a RWA recognized publisher.

Sometimes I want something so much, it feels like it's rightfully mine. I'd like to elaborate on that but I'll save that for another post.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Man-eating bunny.

I was in fourth grade. The first story I can recall writing was about a cute, white bunny who hopped along innocently and then went on psychopathic homicidal rampages, killing innocent humans.

I remember the Teacher's Aide, who'd been working with students on these writing projects, sitting down with me to discuss my story's plot. As I read the story aloud to her, I distinctly remember how her smile faltered, her face blanched as the horror of what I'd written unfolded before her. Though she probably discussed the mechanics of my writing at length, I only remember her asking, "Why did you write this?" My answer? Because it was fun to write. Anyone can write a dumb old story about a cute, white fluffy bunny hopping happily in a meadow of wildflowers. I wanted to write something exciting, vivid and . . . different.

Being only 9, I didn't know that Monty Python had already snatched up the white, fluffy, man-eating bunny idea in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

And so, years later I've learned there are very few original ideas remaining, only original execution and voice.