Archive for the 'Writing Contest' Category

What do these terms mean in my critique/contest entry

By Tiffany Colter

Today’s blog is going to be lots of fun! I also think it will be tremendously helpful and is worth printing off and keeping with your writing notes. That is because today I’m going to talk about a few of the things I continually tell writers during edits. You may see similar comments in your own critiques or contest entries. Now you’ll know what to do with them.

I’ve been a full-time writer for more than a decade and for the last 6 years I’ve also been a contest judge and content editor. I’ve started to see some very clear patterns when I edit writing for people of all levels [newbie to multi-published]. In fact, I realized there was such a pattern that I’m finishing up a book called, “Wisdom from Writing Career Coach: Volume I”. Don’t worry, this isn’t an advertisement. It is simply a statement.

This week, I’m going to clip some of the pieces from this book and share it with you. I have taken only a few things, but watch out for these in your own writing.

These tips are from the book, “Wisdom from Writing Career Coach: Volume I” by Tiffany Colter. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Don’t draw conclusions for the reader, present information that leads them to draw conclusions for themselves.

~

Think about how you’re trying to move the plot in each section and then decide if you are actually moving it forward.

I need to see growth of the character, developing relationships, or other movement [growth or retreat] in each section. Show me more about the danger that I assume is coming. Describing houses, mountains and car rides may be lovely, but how is that advancing the storyline? Make me feel it.

~

Avoid info dumps. This is where you decide you need to explain something and so you stop the story to follow a rabbit trail for a few sentences or paragraphs. It is really important for the author to know the backstory so you can write in the proper motivation/reaction to events, but just like life, a reader must learn these things by watching the characters.

~

It is as much what you leave to assumption as what you say outright that will lead your reader down the false roads that later give those great, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming” moments.

Well, that continues for over 100 pages in the book, but I hope these few things have given you some cool ideas to play within your own writing.

And Write-to-Publish is only two weeks away! If you can get to Wheaton, IL [outside of Chicago], go! I’ll be there teaching [and giving gifts to my blog readers]. There is an amazing line up of teachers, panels, and even a free critique of some of your writing. Pretty cool. Finally, there will be free appointments. I have room for 20 people to meet with me for 15 minutes of free coaching. Make sure you sign up when you get there. And if you’re not registered yet, register at www.WritetoPublish.com and, no, I’m not paid to do this. It is simply a great event and I’d love to meet my readers in person.

If you’re in the US, have a safe and wonderful Memorial Day on Monday! And if you’re a Vet, thanks for your service.

See you next week as we cover the last installment of this series on how to use critiques.

 

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter, The Writing Career Coach

Don’t miss a single posting! Subscribe here to receive these postings by e-mail. Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at WritingCareerCoach.com.

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How to use feedback from Judges in Writing Contests to improve my writing

By Tiffany Colter

 

Today on my blog, I’d like to share as both a writer who’s received judge critiques as well as someone who has served for years as a judge [including at least 4 years as a Genesis Writing Contest Judge].

Welcome to all of my new blog readers! In the last 10 days, 60 new readers have signed up. Glad to have you.

I didn’t realize it, but this blog is perfectly timed! Just today the American Christian Fiction Writers announced their first round winners for the Genesis Writing Contest. The Genesis is a widely respected writing contest for unpublished writers. It is also one of the writing contests where judges offer feedback to improve craft.

Over time I’ve gained some perspective that I hope will help you. First, I’ll share how to use the edits, then I’ll share how I’ve moved past this sting of less than ideal scores.

  1. Don’t change every single thing that every single judge points out. While most judges are professional editors or writers, as you know, writing is subjective. Even professionals have certain tastes and opinions. Look for general consensus among multiple judges. Even if only two of them keyed up on something, consider tweaking it. If only one judge noted an issue I strongly urge you to look at it—particularly if they offered explanations or suggested revisions—but you don’t necessarily need to change it.
  2. Notice trends, pet phrases, or common issues across multiple projects. Whether you’ve entered the same project in multiple contests or you’ve entered multiple manuscripts, see if there are common issues that you have. For example, you may have an issue with telling instead of showing [or worse yet, EXPLAINING rather than showing]. You might have a phrase you use often. Once I had a manuscript where every person’s name ended in a long e. Timmy, Tommy, Janey, Carrie,…you get the idea.
  3. Find what they liked about your writing and continue to strengthen those areas. If you had really strong dialog then show as much as you can reasonably show in your characters through their dialog [or their non-verbal communication]. If you have a really strong sense of story world, then see how you can make setting serve as more of a character in your book.
  4. Refer to these from time to time and see how you’re improving. Note areas where your scores were lower and check them again the next year to see if you’re showing improvement. While you won’t have identical judges, over time you should see growth in your writing and areas that improve. Really work to build up your strong areas and minimize the detriment of the weaker ones.

 

Okay, so now that I have you excited about the ins and outs of craft again, let’s talk about the harder parts.

  1. The scores can hurt! Sometimes they really sting. I think the worst is when you get a maximum point value of 100 because your mind instantly makes it a percentage. However, on most scales, average is the 4-6 range in each category. That means an average writer can expect a 40%-60%. While our mind turns that in to an F, it really means average. So, the first bit of learning is to NOT look at the total score. Look at the category score or component score and determine if you’re average, above average or below average.
  2. Recognize that writing is highly subjective. I learned this lesson REALLY well in 2008. In 2007, I’d won the Daphne du Maurier award for my suspense manuscript, “A Face in the Shadow.” One of the judges simply LOVED it. This high profile win helped me get the attention of the man who would become my agent. It also helped me gain even more credibility with my editing, speaking and teaching. Bouncing on that success I had requested fulls for my other manuscript, “Silent Danger” coming in and requests for proposals on other books. It was AWESOME. I simply KNEW that I’d arrived. So, imaging my SHOCK [I know, lots of capital letters here. Bear with me.] when I didn’t make the final round when I entered a similar writing contest the next year with the same two entries. I was angry, hurt, furious, devastated, by the scores. I cried out about how unfair it was. But, even as judges are subjective, readers will be subjective too. I face rejection even now. While I may have 30-40 people who sign up for my blog or send me an email of praise or hire me to coach them, it is the one person who unsubscribes that burns their name in my memory. If you’re a writer you must remember that it is all subjective and all a matter of taste.
  3. This is super important—please don’t assume that judges are bitter, wanna-be writers who have nothing better to do with their time than to destroy the hopes and dreams of writers. A good many judges volunteer their time. They sacrifice hours of time to help up-and-coming writers. As a judge over dozens of contests I can assure you that I agonized over every score. I am a writer too and my hearts cry was to give excellent and honest feedback so that other writers could write well. I spent as much as an hour on a single entry—up paid, unknown. I did it even when I had work that needed to be done that would pay my bills. I stayed in my office late to judge entries. Think about that as you read the edits. Take them with the same love that you would if a critique partner shared ideas. And when you see something that comes across short or dismissive, remember that you may be the 17th entry that judge has read this week and they’re trying to type fast and get their message across before their 5 years old tries to pick up their 2 year old sister.

I hope that these lessons on characters have been helpful. On May 17th, I’m going to release a new set of teachings on this topic. These will include a few audio lessons, PDF worksheets and writing exercises from my Teaching Novels. They will go deeper in to what we discussed here and also help you apply these to your writing. My blog readers who preorder using this link will get them 5 DAYS EARLY and for only $5! All you have to do is click the link between now and May 16th and on May 17th, pay using your credit card or PayPal account, and you’ll receive the link to all of the lessons in your email box on May 17th [US Eastern Time]. This offer is available worldwide and there is no add’l fee for international currencies. On May 17th, the link will remain but the price will jump to $20.

Get our monthly newsletter [it is free and you get an eBook when you sign up] by clicking this link.

See you next week when we start to talk about how to use feedback from Critique partners, friends, contest judges and editors to improve your writing without losing your voice.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter, The Writing Career Coach

Don’t miss a single posting! Subscribe here to receive these postings by e-mail. Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at WritingCareerCoach.com.

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Writing Contests: Using the comments

Today’s blog is going to be fairly short. It’s about using the comments that you receive in writing contests.

The best piece of advice I ever got was to

  • look at all the comments overall. See what they have in common.
  • look at the extremes, see what they’re honing in on.
  •  and use that to develop and shape my writing.

You don’t want to lose your voice, so don’t take every comment that every judge says and change every single place. All that will do is cause your writing to sound like someone else. But what you want to look at across the writing contests, and from one contest to another, one judge to another, is what is being said consistently.

If you’ll do that, you’ll be able to get the most out of the comments of every writing competition and whether you win or not, use it to help you grow as a writer.

Sound Off: I’d like you to share some of the most useful comments you’ve received from judges or critique partners. Also, what are some great lessons on craft you’d like to share?

Read the previous posts on writing Contests:

Writing Contests: A Judge’s Perspective

Writing Contests: How to prepare

Don’t miss a single posting! Subscribe here to receive these postings by e-mail. Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at writingcareercoach.com.

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Writing Contests: A Judge’s Perspective

Today I’d like to step out of the writing career coach role and talk a little bit about my experience as being a judge in a multitude of writing contests, for both published and unpublished writers. One misperception people have is that judges go in to these contests for some kind of personal gain. I can tell you as a judge, the only gain I get from it is helping another person grow as a writer. Nearly every writing contest is a volunteer contest. The judges are not paid in any way. The only exception to that is that in published writing contests the judge will usually get the copy of the book they are judging. Judges are giving their time out of their love for the craft, and their desire to help other writers. It’s important that writers keep that in mind when they’re reading through critiques and comments from the judges.

I, as a writer, completely understand how painful it can be sometimes to receive those critiques from the judges. I also understand how painful it is when you have one judge who gives you straight perfect scores and another judge who rips you apart. You wonder how you can even use this information to develop your writing. We’ll talk a little bit about that in the next blog, but for today I want you to think about using the comments the judge says and recognizing them as individual readers because once you’re published, the readers are going to be just as subjective as the judges are.

Understanding that people are going to have wildly different opinions and that there is some validity in each perspective, can help you grow as a writer. Understanding that judges are there to genuinely try to help you as a writer will help take away that animosity that we sometimes feel when we get those harsh critiques.

If you have questions that you’ve always wanted to ask a judge, I’d love for you to put them in the comments and get a dialog started. As I said, I’ve judged a number of categories in both published and unpublished writing contests, large and small and I’d be happy to give you the point of view of a judge and help you with your writing.

Next time we’ll be talking about how to use those comments to help you develop your writing.

Don’t miss a single posting! Subscribe here to receive these postings by e-mail. Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at writingcareercoach.com.

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Writing Contests: How to prepare

For writers, writing contests are an imperative part of the process because they provide us with feedback and also help us thicken our skin. Remember, writing is a highly subjective industry, which means that we are constantly going to face rejection and conflicting opinions, whether by judges, readers, family members or even our own edits.

One way to effectively prepare for a writing contest is to have a professional edit done. If you have a crit partner that’s great. Not everyone has the time. I myself have to hire someone to do my edits because I simply don’t have the time to give the feedback to the other person. I always urge people to get a critique done first or a full edit because this is putting your professional foot forward. You wouldn’t go in to a job interview wearing jeans and likewise you don’t go in to a writing contest with a first draft.

Research some places. Writing Career Coach, of course, offers editing and I usually offer specials around the times of large writing contests. But beyond that, find either a critique partner, someone who is knowledgeable in the industry or a professional editor, to go through your writing and give you some feedback.

You can get a detailed edit where they will pick apart every little piece, or have somebody just do an assessment and give you an overview generalizing areas of strength and weakness. Either way, make sure before you go in to a writing contest that you’re taking the time to learn about the craft and build a strong showing in the contest.

Once you’ve toughened your skin and polished your writing it is time to get it out there. Find contests that have trained judges who are going to give you feedback on your work. While we always want to win writing contests in this subjective industry that won’t always happen. We need to be able to get something out of the contest no matter what. That is why feedback is so important. I’ll talk more about using the judges’ comments to improve your writing, but for now simply focus on finding good contests that provide real feedback.

If you’ve entered some good contests I’d love for you to share below. I know the Genesis Contest [unpubbed] and Carol Award [pubbed], both of which are sponsored by ACFW are good contests. The Daphne du Maurier Award from the RWA KOD chapter also has a good reputation and excellent feedback.

Don’t miss a single posting! Subscribe here to receive these postings by e-mail. Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at writingcareercoach.com.

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