She’s Back: Angi Morgan

SHOULD YOU LISTEN TO CONTESTS?



Hello again. I’m really glad to have the opportunity to be a reappearing guest of SCWW. It’s giving me a fantastic opportunity to share some things that have affected my road to publication. Not much happened in the last three weeks, so I though I’d share some specifics about contests and their subjectivity. Because I’m sharing quotes from each contest I entered, the post is a little long.


Let me start by stating that judging is extremely subjective. When we write, we bring our life experiences to our work. It’s the same for a reader. Joy, stress, promotions, family problems — anything that’s happening in the life of the reader affects their interpretation of the writer’s hard work. Reading the story at a different juncture in their life, a reader could interpret it a different way.


The following are quotes that HILL COUNTRY HOLD UP received from 2009 judges. Each contest received exactly the same entry. No significant changes (only corrected errors) were made to the manuscript when it sold. I am neither endorsing nor condemning any of the following contests. This is my personal experience that I’m sharing, but I have found it’s very typical of any writer’s journey.


Great Expectations (130) WON FIRST PLACE, Editor requested Synopsis


127: “Most everything reads very well, with the exception of needing more setting and clarification on setting in several places.”


120: “The first scene needs to be simpler and some of the motivations of the characters could be tweaked a bit.”


130: “The story grabbed me from the beginning. I was intrigued.”


Dixie First (100)


78: “It’s disingenuous to save the Tah-Dah about the child until page 25. The sheer number of names you’re throwing around makes it hard to keep up.”


69: “Grammar and punctuation need a second look. If you’re not in a critique group, you might want to consider joining one.”


Sheila (100):


95: “If the rest of the book is written in the same fast paced, snappy dialogue, intriguing characters, sexual tension and suspenseful emotional impact as the chapters I have read, then I believe this book will be published. I look forward to seeing it on the book shelf and reading the full book.”


98: “This is excellent, well thought out and developed. The GMC for both the H&H seems appropriate and with proper depth.”


84: “Because of the long passages of narrative and internal dialogue things get a bit slow at times.”


46 –this is not a typo–it really is a 46: “I had a hard time believing she doesn’t just tell Steve that Rory is his son. She would have done it the moment they were in the cabin together.”


Connections (200/20)


139/8: “I’m not getting an original ‘voice’ here.”


198/20: “Wonderful Opening Scene”


156/14: “Double check your vocab and word usage. Also with internal thought dialogue or brand name’s, I believe you should italicize instead of underling.”


Great Beginnings (4 ranks between 1 & 10)


8 – 8.5 – 8 – 8: “Well written and interesting.”


9 – 8 – 7 – 8: “I would have like to know a bit about the connection between Jane and Steve.”


8 – 8 – 9 – 8.5: “While the characters were interesting, I didn’t feel connected to them.”


Daphne (123)


123: “Interesting. Guess I’ll have to wait for the book. Great story. I wouldn’t be able to put it down.”


121: “Gosh, what can I say? Your story really held my attention, good action and interaction.”


119: “This was a fantastic read. I would definitely pick this up if I saw it in a bookstore. Good luck finding a home for it!”


88: “somewhat enjoyable”


WON FIRST PLACE, Editor & Agent requested full manuscripts


Received offer from Agent October 1st


Sold to Harlequin Intrigue on November 12th




Molly 1st Round (100): 95, 83 ADAVANCED TO SECOND ROUND


95: “Good sense of time and place.”


83: “Make sure action and plot stay believable.


Molly 2nd Round (100): 86, 83


86: “Jane’s conflict is great. She has the promise of being quirky but doesn’t quite come off as interesting as I think she could be. Steve might need a little more work too. There’s nothing unique about him. ”


83: “Make Steve someone I want to love – right now there’s nothing extra special about him.”


Rebecca (100): 73, 98


73: Judge made no comments, just re-wrote sentences.


98: “The pacing is fantastic. Just the right blend of action and narrative.”


Maggie (no scores or score sheets returned): two published judges


FOURTH PLACE, by Susan Litman, Silhouette


“Thanks so much for a very enjoyable read. I hope someday soon I’ll be able to read the rest.”


“Send it to a publisher!”


Daphne 2008 (123)


I mentioned that I have entered the Daphne several years. I used the same basic entry in 2008. What changed? The number of pages for the entry.


2008: 15 pages, 1 page unjudged synopsis


2009: 5000 word entry, 675 word synopsis


Words worked in my favor, I entered 5 additional pages in 2009. I have a lot of white space in my work.


119: “I love your story. I’ve judged this contest many years and the entries as a whole are much better this year. You have stiff competition. Good Luck.”


99: “Bitchy I know, but I’d like to see a little more of where they are.”


108: “Tightening your pacing will give the story more impact.”


101: “The writer should try to get out of her own skin and into the skin of the hero, heroine, and (most-importantly) the reader.”


SO, should you listen to contests?


Honestly, you have to listen to yourself first. WAAAYY back in 2003, I wrote a book called See Jane Run. The entire conflict turned on the lie that the heroine kept from the hero: he was her son’s father. At the time, numerous judges and critique partners reflected the opinion of my low-scoring judge above: I needed to have the heroine tell the hero immediately. I listened. I changed the book. I did not sell the book. No matter how I changed the book, I couldn’t get a strong conflict onto the page. It was hard to pin (even for editors) exactly what was wrong with the book.


I set SJR aside for several years. I talked about it. Threw the idea around. Was fortunate enough to find a new critique partner who didn’t mind reading SJR. We talked some more. The book finaled in a contest and received a request. But I hadn’t made changes. I knew it would ultimately be rejected again.

Several years have passed since I changed my original story. For some reason–call it experience or gaining confidence in my own opinion–I knew I had to rework SJR back to its original plot. I did.


And each time I received comments back in 2009, I stuck to my guns: my opinion, my vision for the book, my instinct that *I* knew the story better than anyone else. And it definitely helped that I had a critique partner (waving at Amy) who supported me and continually told me the story was mine.


Can contests help? Certainly. I love comments and seeing how others view my work. I’m actually missing them.


Can contests hurt? Yes. Definitely. We’ve all experienced the hurtfulness of a stranger’s words regarding our work. I can’t say that the initial hurt ever stings less, but this past year, I laughed more than I cried. Especially when the book sold to Harlequin without me changing anything.

This Week’s Lesson Learned: Seek the opinion of others all you need to, but always remember you’re telling the story.

Have you found your inner voice? The one that’s not telling you to jump off a cliff? >LOL< Let me know your “aha” moment. When did it dawn on you that you could write?
‘Til next time,


~~Angi




Some upcoming topics of discussion:


An On-Going Behind the Scene Look at Getting Ready for Publication


(revisions, promotion, copy-edits, AA’s, character sheets, log-lines, bios, etc.)


How I Chose My “Dream” Agent & Editor


My Hero Has Brown Hair?


Targeting Your Book & Choosing Your Market


Seeing Your Cover For The First Time






AngiMorgan.com

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31 Responses to She’s Back: Angi Morgan

  1. I love this post, Angi, because you're saying exactly what I've been thinking. I've started sending my third story out and in one contest I got 100 percent scoring from one judge who said everything was done right and one judge who have me 48 and said she wouldn't read my story if it was the last book on earth. GO FIGURE!! Luckily for me I have a great backup system with the best friends in the world. I think I learned a lot about perception and chose to listen to the judge who said it was perfect. 🙂

  2. Angi, thanks so much for sharing all your comments. This is a great lesson to keep in mind. I've just entered my first few contests this year, and I will be sure to weigh the opinions I get carefully and not go jumping off any ledges if my scores aren't what I want them to be. 🙂

  3. Mona Risk says:

    Hi Angi, I can relate to your experience in contests. I had my share of good and bad judges but in general I must say contests helped. Can't wait to read your book.

  4. Nicole North says:

    Wonderful post, Angi! Thanks for sharing! I've had similar experiences with awesome scores and terrible scores in the same contest. It can be very confusing. It's fantastic you stuck to your guns and wrote the story your way. Congratulations on the sale!

  5. Angela says:

    I'm glad everyone's enjoying the post!

    As you can see, the opinions I received on contests were varied. But I always remember what a very good friend of mine told me about subjectivity: It's very hard to get 100% of those reading your story to love everything about it. But if two thirds of those reading your manuscript love it…that's a very good return readership base for your next book.

    ~~Angi

  6. Anonymous says:

    Excellent post. I so agree with the subjectivity of judging contests. I've had scores from one end of the scale to the other.

    Anne-Marie

  7. Good job, Angi! I got the “get a critique group” thing once, too. I had one.

    I also got a wide range of scores on the same submissions. One judge who began her critique with the comment “At the risk of giving faint praise, it was well written,” which was the only good thing she saw in the entry. Deborah Smith read the full on that story and said it deserved to be published, even if I had to publish it myself. Belle Bridges wasn't buying any more women's fiction.

  8. Dawna Rand says:

    Hi Angi,

    So true, so true! Anybody who has been in a contest will chuckle at this post. 🙂

    The tables are turned, now, and I'll be judging my first contest! I hope I'll use my own experiences as a contestant and be a better judge 🙂

    Dawna

  9. Angi,

    I enjoyed reading through these. I have a few gems of my own along the way 😉 What a brave woman you are to lay them out there. All the best on your release!

  10. Beth Trissel says:

    Interesting. I really enjoyed this post. As a long time participant in contests I also had very mixed comments. All in all I think they were well worthwhile.

  11. Regina Richards says:

    Your experience illistrates so clearly that writers must take all comments on their work and weigh those comments against their own gut instincts. Great post, Angi.

  12. Angela says:

    Wow — I'm really glad this is striking a cord with everyone.

    FYI: The quotes of the judges are EXACT quotes, including typos. Has anyone else experienced a judge who wants you to get grammar lessons, but they forgot to run a spell check on their helpful hints? LOL
    ~~Angi

  13. Kym says:

    Way to hang in there Angi. I'm glad your book findly found the right home. Kym

  14. Gina says:

    Thanks for sharing, Angi. Some of these comments put a smile on my face this morning, and sound way too familiar. Congrats on persevering and selling!

  15. Great post Angie. Thanks for sharing and congrats on selling. I believe you have to use an objective eye when reading the judges comments, and wear a tough skin. Your determination is admirable!

  16. Cindy says:

    Hey there, Angi!

    Wow, you really hit the nail on the head about contests. Entering can be an ego boost or a downer–sometimes in the same contest. I like your statement that eventually you have to trust yourself, which in a very subjective industry can be a tough thing to do.

    You asked about “aha” moments. Well, I'm still waiting for mine? 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your contest experience.

  17. robinperini says:

    Hi Angi–

    Really fascinating looking at the comments back to back. Great post. My favorite lesson you gave is the 'gut check'. Isn't it true in life as well? Don't we often go back and think, 'why didn't I listen to my gut?'.

    I've found it true in writing, too. A contest queen, I finalled and won a ton of contests — you know that better than most. It goes in levels you know. You final…you win…you start getting requests…but I didn't start getting requests for completes until I really started listening to my gut.

    For what it's worth, I look at judging the following way…”Accept what they say as true, and then prove them wrong.” This helped me early on not just dismiss things because I didn't 'like what they said' (i.e. was too defensive). That being said, a perfectly valid response is that 'That isn't the story I want to tell.'

    It's tough. I still have trouble trusting myself sometimes. Crazy business! Hugs, Angi. I'm SO excited for your journey. Just awesome! It makes me smile just thinking about your successes!

  18. Thanks so much for sharing this. I have yet to enter a contest because I haven't trusted the responses others have gotten. Bet you can't blame me. Anyway, I suppose as long as you trust yourself enough, entering a contest to get yourself in front of an agent or editor is a great idea. However, you'd really need to have thick skin to be able to ignore the negative comments and stick to your vision for the story. I'm learning this the hard way. I've had my story shredded by different crit groups and changed it every time. Finally, it got to the point where the story seemed too forced. Once I allowed myself to write it the way I wanted, it flowed naturally.

    Thanks again for this post.

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

  19. darynda says:

    This is a great post, Angi! My chapter is about to start its contest and this information is invaluable.

    Thank you so much and congrats on the sale!
    ~D~

  20. Angela says:

    What a great guideline, Robin! “Accept what they say as true, and then prove them wrong.” I love this and may steal it. 🙂

    I'm enjoying everyone's responses. It's helping me to keep writing this second darn book.
    ~~Angi

  21. Shea Berkley says:

    Angie! What a wonderful lesson you've given us. It's so true that we have to listen to our 'gut' and the story we have to tell. I take all comments seriously, but that doesn't mean I follow everyone who's giving me advice. It takes experience to know who to listen to, and the way to gain experience is to read and write and submit. After a while, you'll see your strengths and weaknesses.

    I'm so happy for your success. — Shea

  22. Tamra Baumann says:

    Angi,
    Great post! While judging your entry, I was disappointed when I came to the end. I’m so glad I’ll be able to buy the book soon and see how it all turns out! And when I read my judging comment on this blog, I was grateful I’d used the spell checker. :0)
    Congratulations on your much deserved success.
    Tammy Baumann

  23. Anonymous says:

    Great Post! I've had very similar feedback and the one I especially love is “find a critique group.” At the time I got that comment, I was actually pretty active in 2 and both had multi-pubbed writers in it!! It's crazy exactly how subjective it is which is why at the end of the day you must must must listed to your own inner voice- but that's not to say you should discount constructive criticism either. YOu've just gotta use your own gut to figure out when to keep the crit and when to toss it.

    Tracy Ward

  24. Gail Zerrade says:

    Great post, Angi! This has been my contest experience too. 100/100 and 32/100 on the exact same contest entry. It really is a subjective business.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Well said! I think most of us have had similar experiences, and it's nice to see the humour in it. Can you believe what some of the judges say?!

    I have judged three different contests so far, and I wouldn't dream of saying some of the things I read on your blog! Even if a particular entry isn't my cup of tea, I try to offer constructive advice — and always remind them it's only my opinion.

  26. Angela says:

    One other thing that we need to remember…

    Editors have their subjectivity, too. Just because one thing you write doesn't grab their attention and make them fall in love with your book, doesn't mean you should stop trying to submit to them. It's very important to just keep submitting.

    Congratulations to all of you who are still hanging in there. You can't sell if you don't submit.
    ~~Angi

  27. Hi Angie,
    I saw your note about the blog on the Clues N News loop and clicked over to read your post. I very much enjoyed your topic and the range of comments you posted. My experience with regard to contests has been the same. The reactions are all across the board. I'm glad you found your inner voice and stuck to your guns.

  28. Congrats on your sale to Harlequin. I well remember what I went through when I did contests. Very similar, of course.
    Probably the best congratulations you can get is sticking to your own vision of the story. That's what I've done, too.

  29. Angela says:

    Thanks again everyone for having me and making this (I think) a very successful blog. I think it hit home with anyone who's entered or judged a contest. And I hope it helped.

    I really appreciate everyone stopping by and leaving a comment.
    ~~Angi

  30. This is a great post, Angi – lots of great insights about the importance of following your instincts. Thank you for sharing!

  31. Elisa says:

    Great post, Angi–thanks for this!

    I've had wackily divergent responses from contests as well. (Including one judge who said my heroine didn't have enough at stake just because her life was on the line…that didn't count, said the judge, “because she doesn't have a family.” (Huh?????)

    I know I can't please everybody–no one can. If you get a fair number of comments of the “I love this book, I can't wait til it comes out” variety, take it to heart…

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