Like many aspiring authors, I’ve regularly entered writing contests. I guess it’s a way to validate my writing skills. My novel, TRAPPED, was a finalist at the large Florida Writers RPLA contest in 2012, and after the judging was completed, I got print-outs the results…and the rating sheets from the 3 judges.
First, 2 judges read the synopsis and the first 30 pages, and they’re asked rate 10 areas, from 1 – 5 points…so a max total of 50. They judge things like character development; description; scenes; technical skills dealing with grammar, spelling & formatting; and of course, the flow of the story and continuity. An entry needs at least 80 pts. to become a finalist. TRAPPED received a combined 92 points during the preliminary judging, and the judge giving 48 pts. loved character development and the way I described the action, solely through my protagonists eyes.
Now, it’s interesting that I also entered TRAPPED in TAG Publishers “Next Great American Novel” contest, and I was “stoked” when Dee Burks called me to say I was a winner and they wanted to publish the novel. It was she who suggested I change to a single, 1st person point of view, seeing the whole novel through the eyes of the Jackee, the main character. I agreed. It wasn’t easy, but in the end, we both felt it was terrific.
However, the final judge at RPLA, who read the entire revised book, didn’t agree with us…or the earlier judges. He down-rated the novel because he wanted scenes from other characters’ viewpoints. As I always say, “That’s why they make chocolate, vanilla and 39 other flavors.” Readers, by the way, have been almost universally complimentary on how I handled the first person, feeling it added to the tension. So, while I didn’t with the RPLA, readers agreed with me, not the final judge!
The main thrust behind this post is, writers have to “keep their head up,” and shake off negativity. This isn’t the 1st time I’ve had one judge rave about something, like characters or scenes or settings, while another denigrated the exact same things. It’s the same reasons authors like Louis L’Amore (America’s top Western writer…for EVER) was rejected 350 time before finally getting published. And J.K. Rowling, probably the wealthy woman in the World right now, struggled for years before finding a small publisher to take a chance on Harry Potter. The stories of rejection are legion, because you can’t accommodate for taste.
On the other hand, we can’t be so proud (or obstinate) that we overlook solid advise when it comes our way, or fail to review that which was criticized, to see if any if it may be warranted.
Luckily, TRAPPED has already received many 5-Star reviews at Amazon, and I’ve fielded a plethora of calls and e-mail raves from the first readers. So I think I’ll cherish those good reviews. I suggest this attitude should work for all of you, no matter what your endeavors.
About the Author:
George Bernstein is a youthful seventy-six-year-old, with a B.A. from Northwestern University, now living in south Florida, and the retired president of a publicly-held Chicago company.
George’s main interest is as a serious novelist. He has attended numerous writers’ conferences and seminars, including that of famous fiction agent, Donald Maass, and he has worked with independent editor, Dave King, all with the goal of improving his craft.
George’s first novel, “Trapped,” is published by TAG Publishers, after being a finalist in their Next Great American Novel contest. Dee Burks and her staff really love the story, and her revision suggestions helped make “Trapped” the best it can be. “Trapped” was also a finalist at the 2012 Florida Writers Association RPLA fiction contest in 2012. It’s received virtually all 5-Star reviews on Amazon.
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