I volunteered to judge the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Contest for unpublished writers and the scoresheets were due back yesterday. When I first signed up to read the six romantic suspense manuscripts I was pumped. From 2002-2005I read 9th and 10th grade expository essays, people. Can you say monotonous?
I was hyped to actually read something with some meat to it. Something written by my peers.
But as I started reading I found myself doing the same things I did to the essays I graded years ago.
Writer X was overusing certain verbs and losing my interest. Writer Y had a problem formatting dialogue. Writer Z was making comments that didn't make sense at all. And I started to notice something else, too...it was VERY easy to see who was a beginning writer and who was more experienced. It was odd. I never thought that reading a single chapter, a single page, could show whether the writer was green or not. But it did.
I also got a little insight into what agents go through on a daily basis. I told my husband, "If I were an agent reading the first page on manuscript 1, I would have declined it right away because of xyz. Was it a good submission? Yes. It earned one of my higher scores. But I wouldn't be passionate enough about it to fight for it out of 500 others that came across my desk." When he asked me why I didn't really like it the only answer I could give was that it wasn't my cup of tea. (And I don't even drink tea!)
Judging these manuscripts taught me things I'm going to take with me as I continue my publishing journey.
If you want to be published, you have to continue to write and perfect your craft. It's painstakingly obvious who is a newbie to writing romance. Then once you have a solid piece of work, you have to get it on the right desk at the right time. Those personal rejections that read "I just didn't feel passionate enough about it," shouldn't be disheartening. They might actually like the writing, but just wouldn't fight for it like the work deserves to be fought for. (I guess I need to find someone who doesn't drink tea, either! Ha! Wouldn't that be a hoot!)
As a side note, I got some good news on my Work In Progress. I sent out 50 pages to my friend/early reader/critique partner and the email she sent back simply read:
I like that. Much better than a paragraph about what didn't fit and what needs to be taken out, revisited, remastered, who didn't connect with whom, etc, etc, etc.
And with that, I'm back to the keyboard.