Tag Archives: Reading (process)

Living a week in an agent’s shoes

I recently had the opportunity to judge a writing contest.  I, and two other brave souls, volunteered to read all the anonymous entries, and choose one winner who would win “the pot” collected from the entry fees.

I am going to admit that this was a grueling experience at times.  I swore, somewhere around the seventh entry, that I would never do this again.  My relief when I’d finally read the last entry, and made my choice for winner, was overwhelming.

Then I got to thinking.  What I went through is probably not unlike what an agent or a submissions editor goes through every day.  They get a mailbox full of submissions, and they have to review them all and choose only one, or none.

Now, consider this.  The people who entered this contest paid an entry fee.  This is one of the reasons I volunteered.  I mean, seriously… if you are going to fork up ten bucks to get into a contest, you gotta know your writing is good enough to have a chance, right? I imagined my mailbox filled with fantastic, wonderfully imagined and carefully crafted stories.

Did I get that? Ummm… Not always.

Now, this is not to say that there were not some great entries. There were. But at times, I held my hand to my head and thought, “What was this person thinking”?

The good thing that came out of this is the realization that what you hear is true. There is a lot of poorly written or poorly executed work out there in the query-sphere.

If you can honestly look at your work and say:

1.       It has been edited multiple times

2.       It has been critiqued multiple times

3.       It has been beta read by multiple readers

4.       I have listened to critiques/beta comments and made changes without thinking “they just don’t understand me” and ignoring them.

5.       I have a story arc with a beginning, middle and end.

6.       There is a journey/change in the main character that makes the story worth reading.

7.       There is conflict.

I could keep going, but I’ll stop there.  If you can say “yes” to all of the above, then you at least have a chance of getting read by an agent or editor. If you work stands out as well written and conceptualized, you will be in the 25% or so that will actually be considered.  This is the place where good writing is a given. This is where you are in competition for the best story.

This is where you want to be. If you answered “no” to any of the list above, and you are querying and getting rejections, there is a possibility you are just wasting their time. (And yours)

What I realized judging this contest is that there must be hundreds of thousands of people out there that are wasting their time by submitting before they are ready.

Do your research. Make sure you have learned your craft.

Don’t be afraid to ditch a story you have worked on if it is not marketable.  Move on to something else. Every time you sit down to write you are better than the last time. Be patient until you can honestly say “This is my best work.”

_JenniFer____EatoN

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The Results Are In! How Did Others Do With Their Breathless Critiques?

The results are in, and here’s how things panned out…

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7.12% – “Other”

7.14% – Received few/unhelpful comments. They did not mention anything about submitting again

21.43% – Received useful comments, but they did not mention anything about submitting again

28.57% – Received comments and an invitation to send a query once they were done.

35.71% – Fast tracked – asked to send in the full manuscript as soon as it is complete.

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Interesting.  It seems a lot of people were fast tracked.  That means there must be some sparkly manuscripts out there.  I wonder what the stats are of “fast tracked” manuscripts that actually end up published?

The world may never know.

Thanks for contributing!

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What’s the Funniest Thing You’ve Found When You’ve Editied Your Manuscript?

Manuscript bloopers. Aren’t they a gas?  I sometimes look forward to that first read-through after I’ve finished a novel, just to see the funny things I accidentally typed.

What’s even better is when I completely read over them and send the novel out to beta. Boy do my beta-partners get a blast out of that!

Here’s J.K. Ford to talk about some of her bloopers.

If you write at all, you’ve had your share of manuscript bloopers, whether it’s a novel, term paper, short story or newspaper article.  Manuscript bloopers come in the form of misspelled words, incorrect words in wrong places, nouns doing odd things they can’t do, misplacement of words and dangling participles.  Here are five examples of manuscript bloopers from my own writings. Go ahead.  Laugh.  I did.  After I bonked myself on the head.

Marci laughed as Jason hip-bumped around the room, signing an old Aerosmith tune.

(Really?  He signed a tune?  Interesting.)

 

David shuffled to the bathroom and let out a long yarn.

(The imagery here is too comical for me.  Poor David.)

Standing at the window, Eric’s hands rested on the sill.

(Don’t you hate it when hands can’t decide to stand or rest?)

Lily laid back and sighed as her eyes following her father around the room.

(I’d do a bit more than sigh if my eyes were out of their sockets and following someone)

“Where is that blasted hat at?”

(I NEVER place participles at the end of a sentence.  Ever.  It’s like a huge pet peeve for me, and yet I found one!!  Agghhh.  To tell you the truth, I think my son snuck in and added it when I wasn’t looking just to make me cringe and turn 10 shades of red.  And yes, he would do that.)

Give you E-Reader a Christmas present. J.K. Ford’s One More Day Anthology is now on sale for just $3.99!  Click here to BUY IT NOW!

What are some of your manuscript bloopers?

About J.K. Ford:

As a young Army brat, Reader’s Choice award winner J. (Jenny) Keller Ford, traveled the world and wandered the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles hoping to find the dragons, knights and magic that haunted her imagination. Though she never found them, she continues to keep their legends alive.  Her story, The Amulet of Ormisez, is available as part of the MAKE BELIEVE anthology. Dragon Flight, is part of the One More Day anthology.  When not at her keyboard breathing new life into fantasy worlds, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, riding roller coasters and reading.  She works as a paralegal by day and lives on the west coast of Florida with her family, three dogs, and a pretentious orange cat who must have been a dragon in his previous life.

Cut your weakest player — Rule #26 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #26

26: When you finish your book, pinpoint the weakest scene. Cut it. If necessary, replace it with a sentence or paragraph.

I have contradicting views on this.  If I was reading this with my first novel (that I pantsed) in my hands, I’d say “yes”… and to probably more than one scene.  However, now that I am outlining and clearly plotting my novels, I’m not so sure this is true.

I’d agree to cut it is it has no conflict, or does not draw the story forward. That’s a given.

My fear is that if everyone follows this rule, they will take out important scenes, and replace them with three sentences of summary… which is a form of tell.

I’m going to put my foot down and NOT agree with this one.

What do you think?

Jennifer___Eaton

Remember to finish your story – Why the movie “Timer” failed

Hubbs recently rented the movie “Timer”. It had all the squishy romance stuff he likes, plus a little Speculative Fiction twist to make me happy.

The premise is that an invention has hit the world where on your 14th birthday, you have the option of having a device implanted in your wrist that will “Count Down” to the day when you will meet your soul mate.

Very Neat Plot Device.  I was interested.

The story is cute and sweet as a woman in her thirties living with sister both date and wait for their timers to start “ticking”.

Despite the sound problems in the move, which had my husband and I asking “what did he say” – we really enjoyed the first 99% of the movie.  It was well done, and a great twist at the end that had us both saying “No Way!”

**So why did it fail?**

Stories need closure.  Without closure, there really is no story, is there?  It’s like being forced to read a book, but not getting the final chapter.  It’s annoying.

As the camera zooms away from our protagonist, and the music starts to get louder, I was happy to hear my husband say “They are NOT going to end it there, are they?”

Yep sweetie, apparently they are.  I was glad that he was as miffed as I was.  Here lies the problem:

***Spoiler alert from here until the next bold.***

Stop reading now if you don’t want to know the end of the movie…

During the move, both sisters fall in love.  Our main character falls in love with a much younger man in a rock band, and gives his CD to her estranged father, a record promoter.

Problem #1:  Why even have her do this if you are never going back to this plot line.  We don’t know if he signed them, or if he hated them.  They make a big deal of it, and it is never mentioned again – NO CLOSURE

Problem #2:  The MC’s timer goes off at her birthday party, while she is looking at her sister’s boyfriend.  His timer goes off too.  – Her sister is very upset.  She’s heartbroken.  I can’t blame her. We never see the sisters or the boyfriend really reconcile, and the sister, who we’ve grown to love, is left unhappy. – NO CLOSURE

Problem #3:  We watched the MC fall in love with the musician.  They are better people when they are together. We LOVE them together. Despite their differences, we are rooting for them.– He is left crying, saying the MC broke his heart (We don’t even know if he got a recording contract out of it) – NO CLOSURE

Problem #4: We don’t even know if the MC and her soul mate get together.  It’s left open. No closure in a big and unforgivable way for me.

Nothing is sewn up.  I’m even left HATING the MC because she left the man she loves for someone she doesn’t know, leaving him distraught and crying… and also, in my opinion, stabbing her sister/best friend in the back by considering a relationship with her boyfriend, and not even seeming upset by all of this.

***End spoiler alert***

It was really frustrating for me.  The only good thing about this is it’s making me comb through my novel and make sure I tie up EVERY loose end.   As a creative artist, I don’t want anyone feeling this way about my work.

Great premise.  Great story. Great execution. Poor attempt at a surprise ending.

Bummer.

JenniFer_EatonF

Writers: Don’t worry about the Statistics

I came across this article that really hit home.

Why statistics discourage prospective writers

We all hear the statistics.  1 in 500… 1 in 5000… 100,000 novels are being queried right now.  They are all scary.  Many people are daunted by this.

This article points out something that I hadn’t thought of.  Think it over.  All of us have at least one friend who is querying thinking there novel is great, and they are getting rejected.  I talked to someone the other day doing this and the only other person whose read her novel is HER HUSBAND.  Really?  What are you thinking?

Now, if all of you count up their one or two friends who refuse to get beta readers, and are SURE they are geniuses without getting a lick of feedback… are you counting them up? Are you getting a mental picture?  Get my meaning?

This is what I am getting at.  So what if you and 499 other people query at the same time.  If 300 of these are sub-standard, your chances just increased, didn’t they?

If 50 of the remaining 100 had bad queries, or boring plots, your chances just increased, didn’t they?

What you have to ask is this… Are you destined for the slush pile, or are you one of then ten that the agent or publisher is actually going to read?

Make your choice now, and work hard to get yourself out of the slush pile, and onto that agent’s desk.