Inconsistencies, impossibilities and inaccuracies!

16 Mar

Contests, anyone?  Sharpened pens at twenty paces?

If you’re just getting started at writing, especially genre fiction, you should take advantage of a fabulous tool for folks just like you! It’s called ‘Contests!’ A word to the wise, however. You really need to be in the right frame of mind for this – be able to accept the resultant criticism. It can really, really be helpful. On the other hand it can prove to be a real kick in the pants. Not a happy kick, either. (Note: If you’re writing in a rather esoteric genre, it might be worth asking beforehand if there are judges familiar with that genre, otherwise, you might receive really low scores because of the unfamiliar judging.) Better not to enter than to risk such a happening.

I think nearly every writer’s group going these days has a contest of some sort or other. Depending on the scope (and the size of the group) and the judging panel, contests can be a terrific learning experience.  Of course, should the judge(s) assigned to you be incompetent or just having a bad day, you might not benefit all that much. A discreet word to the contest coordinator might at least get your entry fee refunded to you.

Whatever you do, DO NOT (repeat NOT) write snarky, sarcastic, belittling notes to the judges. They’re a lot like elephants – they’ll never forget you or your entry or that note. And I do mean NEVER!!! Not good. Unfortunately, some judges really are incompetent, and have no business judging, which is why you should take your complaint to the coordinator.

When I was first starting some 22 years ago, my first contest provided me with some excellent feedback, constructive criticism, and marvelous suggestions for improvement. It remained my story – no one impinged on it, but the helpful tips were of great use in what became Bertie’s Golden Treasure. It seems  I knew NOTHING about the Regency era. Oh, of course, I thought I did! Hadn’t I been reading Georgette Heyer for 50 years? And Barbara Cartland for nearly that long?

What I didn’t know then would fill several sets of encyclopedias. Now, of course, I think I know everything. Just kidding. But at least now I know what I don’t know, and generally speaking, I know where to find the correct answers!

A really neat side effect – some of my judges were published Regency authors,  who willingly signed their names to the entries they judged. Oh, joy! To know that someone whose books I’d read and loved thought my story showed promise! Wow. It doesn’t get much better than that! Well, maybe when the judge falls in love with your hero – just like you did.

But, right away, I also learned that I knew nothing whatever about viewpoint. I didn’t even know what it was. Boy, did I ever not know! Eeegads. One comment that has remained with me all these years (I came across it again the other day) was: If he’s staring at her back, how does she fall against his chest so she can feel his heart beating?

Well, um. She has an ear on her shoulder blade?  How would I know such things?

Still – I’ll bet you’ve read books like that. Full of inconsistencies and impossibilities and other inaccuracies! Sometimes the writer is having a bad day, and when the editor gets it, he or she is experiencing the same sort of distraction. If there aren’t enough pairs of eyes proof-reading it, glitches like this slip through the cracks, and you end up with a book you’d like to bounce off the nearest wall.

These books are actually responsible for a good many published authors today. Credit goes to the old ‘I can do better than this!’ motivation. Some of those writers could, and some could not. It isn’t easy writing a book. Believe me. It can be very satisfying to hold your own book in your hand, but regardless, it’s never easy to have finally and successfully shepherded your baby to that point.

Good luck to all!

Are you a writer who’s nearing the end of the writing portion of a book, and who might also be wondering how to find an editor/proof-reader? If so, please send me an e-mail, and I’ll be happy to tell you about my editing services.

Note 1: because of the strong  response to last week’s post about the passing of my dear friend Ev Dodrill, I decided to leave it on the front page for another day. It will stay on the site, however.

Note 2:  In an earlier post I wrote about how much I love reviewing books and how much pleasure I usually derive from that activity. Well, here’s another benefit! Today, an opinion piece I wrote about being an author and reviewing books was published by both sites. It’s the same at both, but I’ll include both links here, just in case.

http://www.sanfranciscobookreview.com/viewpoints-weekly-columns/3-16-11-my-bookworld-view/

If you have any questions about anything on this blog, please write to me at: bookmechanic@gmail.com

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