Thursday, May 12, 2005

How many others don’t care…

Okay…after three days I am still stewing. I agree with my writing partner that to “attack” on the board where this occurred is probably not the best course of action. Yes, it would uphold a principle of sorts, but other than potentially causing strife, the parties involved are not gonna change their ways…or even care.

Here’s the deal:

Last year I decided that I would like to get involved in writing contest judging. Which I did. I was quite surprised at the amount of time that judging an entry consumed. A minimum of an hour and a half or more depending on the length of the entry. And since most contestants enter because they want feedback, judges are expected to make tons of comments not only on the score sheets but also on the manuscripts themselves. This takes time…especially when you are very conscious that feelings and emotions are involved. A good judge does not, will not, cannot, must not hack away at somebody’s baby.

Okay, here’s another part of the deal:

Entrants are supposed to be submitting publish-ready material. Now I don’t know what that means to some people, but to me it means that an editor can take those pages and send them to typesetting (or however they do it these days…god, I am dating myself no doubt!) and turn out a professional book. And yes, I realize that someone entering a contest is probably not gonna have this level of perfection otherwise they would be sending it to said publisher…for modern day typesetting… And yes, it is a well-known fact that many brand new writers submit to contests honestly thinking they have publish-ready material, their friends and family told them so! Also, equally important, is that entrants also guarantee that they have a finished manuscript to go along with these 15-50 pages they are entering…just in case they final, they can then immediately send the rest of the manuscript to the final judge (usually an agent or editor).

And finally, here is what happened that has me still stewing three days later:

Two members of a critique group that I am involved with entered a contest that my writing partner and I were judging. It is one of the more prestigious contests and quite large. I received three entries to judge and immediately recognized one of them as being written by a member of the group. I had seen the chapter a couple of times…and I was rather surprised to see that even after a number of crits, it hadn’t changed much…including some typos. I turned it back in since I could not judge it.

Finalists were announced last week, and Member Number One was thrilled to see that all three of her entries finalled! Woo Hoo for her we all cried! Member Number Two was also ecstatic to learn that two of her entries finalled including the one that I turned back in (of course, she did not know this…). Woo Hoo for her we all cried!

Thank you, they said! Member Number One then went on to say that she needed to scramble to get her entries ready to go…that she had just prepared the pages needed to enter the preliminaries. Now she needed to get some more ready for the finals…and who knew what she’d do if she actually had to submit a manuscript.

Nothing ready? Nothing written??? And yet…part of the bargain was that a manuscript was complete??? Is this ethical? Is this fair? Not in my book.

Then the question was innocently asked: will you have time to see your scores before you submit so you can make any tweaks?

Member Number Two says: She doesn’t give a damn what some (implying: dumb) judge says about her work. That she doesn’t enter for feedback. That as a matter of fact she heard via her writing partner that some judge had written on an entry “Get a critique partner”… She found this very humorous...she has a crit partner...the one who saw the comment! Seems to me that both the writing partner and she should be giving this another thought…(remember the typos in the submission?)

Okay…I am not some dumb judge. I guess I really resent this whole deal because it felt like a direct slap to both my writing partner and me since both these gals knew we had judged in the contest…and how did they know that we hadn’t unknowingly judged one of their entries…that we were a large part of their success. It almost happened except I recognized the submission. I could have spent a couple hours of my time judging her entry, cheering her on, hoping when her score came out high and that I loved the entry that I would see her name on the finalist list. As it turns out…the two entries I did judge both finalled.

This whole experience has left me wondering…are most contestants as apathetic as these two gals? I hope not. I much prefer to think that the world is still somewhat sweet…that writers are sending in their lovingly prepared entries and eagerly awaiting them to come back with details of what someone thought. Then again, my rose-colored glasses are currently pretty smudged at the moment…


Personally iwould be thrilled to even have been considered!

And if I had finaled I would be sending cards out to the judges that supported me, and took their comments into serious consideration!

But I have never finaled in any contests I have submitted to...

Add to that, writers who snag coveted appointments with editors and/or agents at conferences and then say, "hmmmm...guess I'd better whip out the kind of book Ms. Editor/Ms. Agent is looking for."

Yay! Charity! I have no doubt you would be excited and eager to have are still one of the "good guys"!

Ooh, Randy, I know! My other pet peeve! I could expound for many, many minutes (as your ears have already been tortured!) on the appointment subject...but it is so frustrating especially when appointments are pretty hard to come by...

Oh well, in both instances, I guess I have to believe that what goes around, comes around. It seems that acting has its superstititions, and so does writing: karma is the key word...

Any group I remember? Do the members read your blogs? Sounds like a very convoluted situation. How do you get yourself out, though? Is the subject romance? Too many questions.

I entered one writing contest about fifteen years ago. Children's book. Was told it was too mature for little kids (2-4)and not mature enough for older kids (5-8). So I was hitting the exact space in between, a rather narrow audience, I guess.

Actually, no...this is a different group. And I have to say I was more than a bit taken aback by the attitude.

LOL! you are writing for 4.5 year that is an age bracket all to itself... Take about a runaround! Too funny!

It's unfortunate, but I've come across a few too many people who feel it isn't necessary to have a completed manuscript, even though the contest rules require it. I have seen advice being given out quite regularly which runs along the lines of "don't worry about having it finished - no one ever has a completed one anyhow".

As for typos and feedback, it completely floors me when I see people who don't care about the quality of their work, and who figure that the editors won't care either. Throughout my school years, not to mention my years in business, it was constantly drilled into me to be totally anal about errors in writing. Anything I submit, be it for business, fun, or for that matter, even a personal email or letter, is gone over with a fine-tooth comb to check for errors. If I were to enter a contest, or submit a manuscript for publication, I would be more than grateful if someone were to point out any errors that I had missed. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would feel any differently.

It seems to me that people like that are trying to compensate for something and make themselves feel superior...