Saturday, February 16, 2008

Gig 'em and Hook 'em

January and February have been filled with judging contest--published and unpublished categories. I think judges learn a lot by delving into the first thirty to fifty pages of an unpubbed manuscript, and just as much by reading published books.

I'm a pretty lenient judge. I tend to offer a lot of suggestions and smiley faces. I also ask a lot of questions or note what I'm thinking when I read a passage--especially if I think it might not be what the author wants me to be thinking. I don't give extremely low scores because I can't stand the thought of discouraging anyone. Truth be known, I come away more discouraged from judging than I do from entering contests.

First chapters are supposed to yank the agent, editor, reader into the story and keep them there. During these two months, I haven't read any published books that have yanked me in and kept me there. I wonder why? Is it me? I called a writer friend who has some fourteen books on the stands. She's judging too. It's not just me. She's wondering where the hooks are? Why aren't those first few pages keeping her attention.

So... if I had one wish today, I'd wish to meet the agents and editors of those published books. I'd like to sit across from them, sip a white-chocolate mocha and have them explain why they bought such-in-such book, what it was that jerked them into the story and kept them there? Why they kept reading.

Anyone want to grant my wish?


Erica Vetsch said...

I wish I could grant your wish, if only to get to sit alongside and listen to what was said.

I'm going to be judging my first contest next month. Do you have any advice?

Jess said...

Yeah... be kind. :-)
Read over your instructions. Think about all you've learned. Put yourself in the place of the writer whose ms. your judging, think about all the published books you've read--then give fair scores, advice and encouragement. And don't forget to pray. If there's one thing I learned after entering contests... I have more respect for the judge if they sign their name. Unfortunately, I don't have the courage to sign mine. :( I'm disappointed in myself. Maybe... if I sell another book or two or three, I'll have more confidence in my comments.

Jessica Burkhart said...

I'm going through something of the same. I picked up a dozen books and put half of them down. I need a good hook right away!