So I've been judging some contest entries lately. Whew! It's hard. Does anyone have any advice? Tips? Links to good ideas? Things you wish you could have heard from a judge? Wish you hadn't heard?
My worst problem is focus. You know, I just can't focus long enough. Something either has to grab me by my throat and keep me focused, or I lose it. If it's something interesting, no problem. But sometimes people's language just gets in the way of what they want to say.
I like things simple and clear cut.
Last June, Agent Kristin gave a query workshop. It was fantastic. I hadn't finished my novel (and that was okay; it was a workshopish, although she did request some partials). We each got to submit one paragraph on our novel, and she critiqued the query-like summary.
I'll be damned if she didn't zero in on every single problem I was having with my novel. I remember looking at her critique in total shock and admiration. From only three sentences, she could somehow sense and extrapolate every problem I was having with that novel. Absolutely amazing!!
We have to judge 25 pages, and I know I used to think that 25 pages wasn't enough. Oh yeah it is. Five or ten would be plenty. Two would even work.
In the "real" world, we only have about a sentence or maybe a paragraph to hook a reader.
I'm seeing some great writing, though. Much better than mine. I need to be more vivid. I tend to write too sparse. I'm easily bored, so if it bores me, I don't bother writing it. I don't like to delete.
Oh! One important question. I have a little personal rule. It's my own rule and I never heard it from anyone else. I tell myself that I'm not allowed to write a single sentence if there's no conflict. Internal or external or both.
So if I'm not finding conflict in the first five or ten pages, is it MY problem or is it a story problem?