This blog is especially for those who enter these contests, but it's also for anyone sending out submissions.
These partials are supposed to be representative of your best work. With the batch I'm now going through, I can understand why agents and editors get so frustrated. If these are examples of the writer's best works, I can only cringe at what first drafts must have looked like. I can also understand why an agent or editor needs only the first couple of pages to say "Not for me." Unfortunately, as a judge, I have to read the entire piece - and I do, making comments as necessary.
So here are some guidelines for those who want to enter contests or submit their baby to an agent or editor.
1. Check your spelling. Seems obvious, doesn't it? But I'm amazed at the number of spelling errors, missed words, mis-used words, etc. DO NOT RELY ON A SPELL CHECKER!!!!!
2. Check for word usage. This is related to the above. Pique seems to be a popular word, but unfortunately, it's most often spelled "peek" or "peak" - neither of which mean the same thing as "pique". I've also seen "mute" used for "moot", "choose" instead of "chose" (or the other way around), and don't get me started on "there/they're/their". As stated above, DO NOT RELY ON A SPELL CHECKER! None of these words are misspelled. But they are misused. Often. Too often. You need to have someone else look at your manuscript - preferably someone who knows the meaning of words.
3. Check for missing words. The easiest way to do this is to read your manuscript out loud. Word for word. Don't read what you think is there, read what's actually there. Or, if your computer has the capability, let it read it to you and listen. Closely. You'd be amazed at how much this catches.
4. Check for repeated words. I'm not talking about the little things like "the", "and", etc. But words that have impact. Yes, you can repeat some words for emphasis. It's an advanced writing technique, but should be used sparingly.
5. Make sure you vary the way your sentences and paragraphs start. This is related to #4 in that if you start two many sentences with the same word (usually She or He), it becomes monotonous. This can be found by, again, reading the manuscript out loud. It's amazing how bad this will sound.
Okay, that's enough for now. Those five things will help you get started. I can't fix a bad story here, but these will at least make the writing technique a little better.
And good luck!
Tips and Teasers: It's the end of the year and time to look at your goals that you wrote back in January and revised in July. Did you achieve them? Why or why not? What could you have done differently? Did you set the bar too high? Or too low? Did obligations get in the way? What can you do to rearrange things to get more writing time? This is time to reflect on the past year and think about the one to come.
Thought for the day: "It is best to just remember that sometimes the magic really lasts." – Terry Brooks