Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Three sides to every coin

Have you ever heard two people describe a scene of an accident. It can sometimes seem like they are talking about two different events.

I experienced that exact feeling this week.  I'd followed some advice to take the next step and I sent my writing out into the world to see what other people think.  This was an incredibly difficult thing to do. There were opposing emotions of fear and excitement.  But mostly fear!

I've entered three contests this year so far.  All of them are different than the ones I have entered before.  These three contests return the judges' score sheets and feedback.  As a writer this is extremely valuable to hear what people thought of the story as they read it.

However, I had been warned in other blog posting's about how you can receive opposing advice from the same manuscript.  This is simply because reading is subjective.  The books I like aren't necessarily the books you like.  And vice versa.

Well, they weren't wrong.  I received my first round of feedback notes yesterday.

I received 3 score sheets.  Two were complete opposites and the third sat right in the middle.  What am I supposed to do with that?

This contest requested the first chapter of a manuscript.  I chose Unwritten.  I chose this story because I love the transformation of the characters by the end of the story.  This contest was not specifically for inspirational writings and my hero (the point of view character) is not a believer ... at the beginning.  Therefore it will not read with a Christian undertone ... in the beginning.

The first judge wrote all throughout my manuscript how he/she did not like my characters.  The judge disliked their personalities, their dialogue and their interactions.  They also commented on how the setting was vague and the description was weak.  He/she stated that everything about it was confusing, slow moving and they would have put the book down several times if they could.  As well, the judge did not like that I wrote it in first person.  The score I received was 7.5 out of 10.

The second judge gave only positive comments throughout the manuscript - pointing out the areas he/she liked.  The comments at the end were good - "once I figured out the conflict, the story was very engaging. Dialogue sounds very natural. Well thought out."  This judge really liked my characters and found them to be a great match, hinting towards wonderful tension and excitement. However this judge scored me lower at 6.5 out of 10.

The final judge wrote zero comments in the manuscript and only two comments on the score sheet.  "Intrigue at the beginning" and "fast paced, characters developed quickly and smoothly".  This judge gave me a perfect score in one category and almost prefect in the rest, resulting in a total score of 9.5 out of 10.

What exactly do I do with these now?  

Two judges agreed with the slow start - okay, so I will work on that.  

Two judges liked my characters - and I know my hero sounds like a spoiled brat who has issues with women.  (I wrote him that way.)  So I won't change it even though one judge really HATED my characters.

Only one judge commented on the first person point of view; however in other contests this has come up several times.  Yet, this is me - this is how I write.  So I am choosing to ignore that comment - committing to learn to write it better.  That way, when someone who doesn't normally like first person can read mine someday and say, "even though I do not like that POV, I think she did it well".  That is my hope at least.

I am open to any other thoughts, you, my reading friends might have.  Thanks for listening!

In closing I want to share a prayer someone sent me this week.  If you are a writer I hope it can bring you a piece of peace.  If you aren't a writer, may it touch your heart as well as God's Spirit transforms its words to apply to your situation.

Psalm 45:1  "My Tongue is the pen of a skillful writer." 

Father, pour out your grace and wisdom as 
I strive to honor you with the gift you've given me.  
Let my tongue, my heart, and my mind be the pen of a skillful writer, 
and let my words always be worthy of you.


  1. Jodi, I think it's for you to decide what you should do with the critques, but I agree that they are confusing and would cause frustration. take what you feel will improve your manuscript and leave the rest. Love the prayer!

  2. Wow, that would be confusing & frustrating! I think you analized it well. THere are some things that other people will critique that is just...like you said...the way you write & I think that's OK:).