Friday, July 18, 2008
Lessons from Snark Camp: Skin Thickening 101
The contest in the post below has not ended yet, however, I think it's safe to assume that I ain't gonna win. Though I didn't expect to win the contest, I did expect my opening to fare much better. Instead, the majority ruled "No, didn't hook me."
Why did I expect better? this opening has been through the wringer. In the past year my prologue and chapter 1 have been critiqued by 2 editors (Caitlyn Dloughy S&S & Krista Marino, Delecorte) as well as my critique group (all who are very honest). Both editors invited me to submit the story once it's finished.
The editors were both encouraging and though they had plenty of constructive advice. The opening wasn't a concern for them. The same goes for my critique group and the others who have read my MS thus far.
So, I had to ask myself "What's the difference? Why has my opening made it this far unscathed only now to be rejected by the majority?
At first I wanted to just make excuses. But what good would that do? the people have spoken and these people represent the readers: the ones who buy the books or pick them up at the library. These are the voices inside the head of our editors and agents.
So. NO EXCUSES.
What can I learn from this experience?
Here's what I've learned so far . . . .
This contest was like a simulated slush pile. If we want to get a small taste of what an editor thinks when they have a stack of manuscripts on their desk, then just go over to the contest submissions and read each one. There's 114 by the way.
By time you get to submission #10, or sooner, you stop reading the whole thing. UNLESS . . . you really like it. There's a ton of stuff to weed through and you're not going to want to read it all. If it doesn't hook you right away, chances are, you're going to give up on it pretty quick. Editors and Agents don't have all day. If we don't hook them right away, lets face it. We aren't going to hook them at all because they aren't going to read any further.
I figure that I received positive feedback in the past because my MS was critiqued at a conference and a writing retreat. The editors were expected and paid to read all of what I submitted. But the reality is . . . had that MS landed on their desk with the stack of other manilla envelopes, had I just been another stack of paper in the pile, they may have very well passed it over because the opening didnt' hook them. My opening is fine when read in the context of the entire chapter, but the first 250 words by themselves . . . needs to be better.
You may have something that they very well could like. But if it doesn't grab'em right away, it may still be passed over.
For me, this is very eye opening. Why share my defeat? Why not delete the post below, pretend I didn't enter and try to hide my shame? Because this is apart of my journey as a writer. I want to improve and a writer needs to learn how to write for their audience. not just ourselves, not just the editors and agents.
Although the negative feed back stings a bit, it is also necessary for improvement. So I thank all who offered their opinions. I'm also thankful for those who had kind words to say, those words were balm to my wounded pride. ;0)
I do suggest that all who aspire for publication to submit to this type of contest. It's good for thickening the skin and it's also another good form of honest feedback. Things we all need if we're going to be published. I'm glad I entered and I learned a lot.
back to work on draft 4 (then 5, 6, 7 . . . heck! who knows how many it will be!) But I'm diving in!!!!! :0)