Rants of a Writing Contest Judge
At writers conferences and chapter meetings I often hear novice writers express the same reasons for self-publishing:
1. I’m afraid someone will steal my ideas if I submit my manuscript.
2. I don’t want the hassle of submitting to editors and agents.
3. Why share my profits with an agent and publishing house?
4. I want full control over my work.
Some of these points reflect common misconceptions. The theft of a manuscript idea (as opposed to a screenplay) is far less of a threat these days than the unauthorized sale of published works on rogue websites. “Hassle of submitting ” may reflect fear of rejection, lack of understanding of where and how to submit, or an unwillingness to accept criticism. Sharing of profits and creative control raise valid points, but should be considered along with how a publishing house or agent can contribute to your success.
I frequently judge writing contests for published and unpublished authors. The latter give me an opportunity to offer constructive feedback. My goal is to help new writers hone their craft. Before I became a multi-published author of Young Adult romance novels (the Teen Wytche Saga) I entered several writing contests. As I applied the invaluable tips the judges offered, my entries advanced from Honorable Mention to First Place, and caught the attention of editors and agents.
Unfortunately, there are no comment forms for published author contests. It is assumed published authors are working at top form, and their books have benefitted from professional editing. With the emergence of debut self-published books, that isn’t always the case.
3 Edits to Make Before You Self-Publish
While judging contests for published authors, I have been dismayed to see solid story ideas undermined by poor writing and the lack of expert editing. Before you rush to self-publish, have a qualified critique partner or professional editor, check for the following:
1. Remove all clichés. Clichés represent lazy, unoriginal writing and fail to reveal character or further the plot. Use them if you wish in your first draft, but flag them so can return when you know your characters better and can dig more deeply. (Bolted like a flash of lightning vs. dashed down the street, my hand pressed to my side to stem the I-need-to-work-out-more pain, as I pumped my stubby legs in a doomed effort to outrun old lady Mattie’s commando poodle.)
2. Ferret out all adverbs. Are they needed, or are you using these -ly ending words to pump up weak verbs? (He asked impatiently vs. he snapped).
3. Consider eliminating wordiness by replacing passive verbs and gerunds. (She was walking quickly vs. she strode.)
A top editor will scour your manuscript for these problem areas and more. Plotting. Head hopping. Passive voice. Continuity issues. So don’t rush. Solicit expert advice. Then craft the best product you can before you hit the publish button.
Copyright 2015 Ariella Moon