Here’s the skinny. For those of you who visit here regularly you know I’m a contest whore. Really. As soon as my first manuscript was finished, I entered contests. Everyone says … decide why you’re entering. Pshaw I wanted to WIN and get the coveted contract. Yeeeeeah, so didn’t happen, but I did learn a lot about writing from judges who were willing to lay it on the line and say WTH?. They didn’t sugarcoat what was on the page. Because my writing at the time was ba-a-a-a-ad! It wasn’t even salvagable.
(Now, I must also admit at this point, I have the self-confidence of 10 people. Seriously. If I could bottle it and sell it, I’d retire a rich woman. I’m not saying it’s deserved, it’s just a cocky arrogance that makes me believe I can do or be anything I want. That being said … obviously I wasn’t deterred from my plan to write and publish. Anywho…)
Now I want to return the favor. I’m judging contests of unpublished writers. I know where they’re at. I know what they’re hoping for. But here’s the thing, I refuse to pretend their writing is wonderful if indeed … it isn’t. Nope, I won’t do it. I honestly believe not everyone who wants to write books has the talent to do it. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn if they are driven to do it. Because I also believe if you want it bad enough then keep pushing and you can make it happen.
I don’t fall in the camp of giving nothing less than a three when judging. No. Nope. Won’t do it! Because there are 2’s and 1’s in the scale because it is possible for a new writer not to have developed a skill and warrent the low score. Of course when I give that score I explain in detail why that skill didn’t come through in the writer’s piece. The true writer, the one whose characters scream at them in the night and whose stories have to be told, aren’t going to be deterred. They’re going to cry and scream and hate that nasty judge for a couple of days and then they’re going to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, look at the comments objectively and learn their craft.
I’m not mean by any stretch of the imagination, but I state my honest opinion as tactfully as possible. It’s what I want. If my book isn’t up to snuff I want my critique partners to tell me.
If I send something to an agent or editor it’s their job to tell the truth. If the story sucks … it sucks. There’s no nice way to say “really Nina, this isn’t ready to be published. I think you need to step back and hone your craft.” Their job is not to coddle my tender ego. They don’t have to be nice, they have to be honest.
Publishing is a tough business. It hurts and it exhilirates. Every high comes with some really crappy lows. It’s a wild roller coaster ride. It’s not meant for the faint of heart or people not willing to learn their craft. Get over it. Honesty may hurt, but sugarcoating the truth doesn’t get a person anywhere.
There you have it. Don’t ask me if you don’t want the truth.