Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Fricassee

Another Friday, another request for your feedback on our latest contest.  (I think I'm finished coming up with new things for a while.  Yes, I think I am.)

Many of you proved it was difficult--nay, impossible--to limit your comments to one sentence! Some of you remedied this by coming up with gravity-defying run-ons the likes of which I've never seen.

Joking aside, you all did a WONDERFUL job, and I'm hopeful that our participants have a take-away that will bear good things as they continue to revise their queries.

So...shall we do it again?  What did you like/dislike?  Please share!

For my part, I'd like to share a little snippet I discovered on a message board, in regard to this contest and my ongoing mission to quell cheerleading and encourage honest, strong feedback. Disclaimer: This is not with an intent to embarrass, and it's being kept anonymous.  To understand the context:  PERSON #1 is asking PERSON #2 about her entry.

PERSON #1: Which title/name should we look for to vote YES?

PERSON #2: You should look for queries that hook you and vote YES for them.

I applaud you, Person #2!  Clearly you understand the value of honest feedback, and you didn't want to settle for anything less.  I suspect that Person #1 meant to encourage and support, which is something writers tend to be very good at.  But I'll say it again--critique is not for encouragement.  It's for GROWTH.

If I run another Public Slushpile, it will be with the understanding that it's not for going out there and canvassing for YES votes.  And really, I don't get the sense that that's what went on here at all.  The vast majority of you are here because you DO get it.

Have I told you lately that I love you?

So there you have it.  Thank you all for making my job here so easy!

May your weekend be filled with THE HUNGER GAMES, as mine will be.  (I mean, how could it not be?)  See you Monday!


  1. I really do want to thank you for this contest! Reading all the entries was not only interesting in itself, but reading all the feedback statements made me go back and tighten up my own query. It was great to see what "worked" for people, and what didn't. It was a productive exercise for me, and I'm sure for everyone else who participated. Thanks again!

  2. Personally, I like the one sentence requirement. I think it encourages more people to comment (I know it encouraged me to comment more :-).

    And I think it gives the authors a sort of shotgun blast of the major things that are working or not (with a sprinkling of other useful critiques, from folks who made copious use of the semicolon (like me)).

  3. Well, you know me. I thought this was great but would have preferred to give more feedback with the hope of helping the writer improve their query. There were WAY too many of these that summarized the plot of the novel rather than the main character's journey. Maybe we need to go back to loglines? Oh wait... :-P

    P.S. Have I told you there's no one above you?

  4. Please do it again! It was very enlightening. I wasn't even in it, and I read through most of them and their comments. Next time I think I'll have the confidence to comment :)

  5. I thought this was wonderful. Even if an author has an amazing book, if they can't get past the query stage, they'll never get published. (Although I agree with Holly- more feedback- if the person wanted to help would be good :).

    Please do this again- VERY helpful!

    Thanks so much for all you do-

  6. Yes, DO IT AGAIN. The real value is that many of these queries would have received a form rejection from agents -- and authors would not know WHY. Although we're not agents, I'm hopeful our comments gave authors a hint of what to fix/improve...even with one sentence reasons like "reads like a synopsis" or "never write query in voice of MC."

  7. I prefer the first twenty-five entrants approach rather than random drawing. Either way you do it, I definitely want to do this contest again.

  8. The query and the first line are really important. I like both contests.

  9. Again I thought this was a great contest, and I must have missed the one sentence rule because I'm pretty sure I added more on a few. I agree with Holly and Marie. The one sentence rule should be nixed. It was so hard not to write more. Most of the queries were on the verge of great, if only for a few changes. We want to help all authors improve, and the only way we can do that is with feedback.

  10. I'm assuming we're now free to go back and offer additional advice or commentary on the entries, now that you've selected the winners?

    I also wanted to add a few comments that I withheld because it would have turned my two sentence response into a paragraph and a half! :) I couldn't always hold myself back to one sentence, even with copious semicolons.

  11. Perhaps the rules could be changed to 'One sentence only, unless you feel inspired to give more.' That would allow people to quickly give input on as many as possible, while not restricting those who wish to give more help.

    I disagree with the commenter above that would prefer the first 25 as opposed to a random drawing. Finding a fair time to put the initial contest invite up would be a nightmare, and it would reward people for something as arbitrary as being chained to their technological devices for more hours of the day.

  12. Lanette, because people from all over the world participate here, it's almost impossible to find a window of time that would accommodate everyone. That's the whole reason Michael created the lottery system -- to give everyone a fair chance! :)

  13. Although I didn't enter, I loved this contest and I hope you'll do it again. (You mentioned in the introductory post that you don't like query critiques. Why is that? I think this group of intelligent, honest yet kind critters would give useful advice on a query!)

    Are you sure about not trying any new things for a while? Because I had an idea. I keep trying different approaches to the opening scene of my novel. And as I've read through the MSFV archives -- concentrating on the Secret Agent contests -- I noticed that people take the great feedback they receive and apply it to their first 250 for the next time they enter. But because the entries are months apart, people don't usually recognize the page, and they can't comment on the changes. So my idea was for a "Which works better?" critique. Let us post two different versions of our first 250 words and get feedback on which approach is better. We could try out different tenses, different P.O.V.'s, even different starting points in the story.

    What do you think?

  14. Authoress, I think this is a fantastic contest, and would love it if you did it again. Just reading through these queries and really thinking about what I liked and disliked about each of them to leave my comments (and reading the comments from everyone else) was very helpful. I need to go back to my own query with this new knowledge. I would definitely love to comment on these again. Or read comments about my query if I'm picked next time!

  15. My entry didn't make it past the bot, but I have to say this contest was freaking awesome. The amount of usefull feedback in one shot like this is incredible. The writers got notes on what worked, what didn't, and what would push it over the edge into a full yes. I hope you do these more regularly because it's been the most beneficial query critique I've seen.

  16. I really enjoyed this contest! What worked especially for me is that we had to pick Yes or No, really putting ourselves in an agents' shoes. I would like if we could write more than one sentence of explanation -- on most of mine, I had caveats for my answers (ie: it would have been a 'yes' but for this one thing, etc.) and would have loved to give the authors my full, hopefully constructive criticism.

  17. the contest was great. I tried to stick to the one sentence rule, but a couple of times I felt the need to explain to better help the writer :(

    Public flogging will begin in 5 minutes :D

    Thanks for all of the opportunities to grow!

  18. Great contest, please do it again. I thought it was really interesting to read through the other queries.

    Also, I am pro bot (even if the bot didn't pick me). I think it's best that everyone have a chance to land in the blog for critique.

    Keep up the good work

  19. Do it again? Yes. Yes. 100% YES!

    Lottery system? Yay.

    Yes/no with 1-2 sentence comment? Loved it. It requires the feedback to be distilled down to what's most striking to the commenter - "shot gun blast' of info is a gerat way to put it.

    I like the idea mentioned earlier of opening up the feedback to longer commets after the contest is over. That could be another level of helpful.

  20. I enjoy your contests and learn a lot, but I am personally terrified to ever submit anything. Some of the comments are brutal. But I do believe that honest feedback is best, and not everyone knows how to be constructive with their honesty. I just need to grow thicker skin. In the meantime, I appreciate the people willing to pose as sacrificial lambs for a critiquing slaughter.

  21. ^To be fair, I think most people are constructive and helpful. I'm talking more about the comments that say "I'm totally confused, this makes no sense." and no specific feedback is given as to what doesn't make sense or how it could make sense.

  22. I missed the one sentence rule, too. Or rather, I thought you meant that you couldn't just vote YES or NO without giving a sentence of explanation. Sorry if I went over the sentence rule.

    This was a good contest. I will be interested to see if the first 500 words of these winners will match the expectation set out in the query.

    As one of the winners of fist line grabber contest, I felt some of the expectations and feedback of the excerpt would have been better if readers had know the pitch. Knowing the pitch is a good framework for how to judge those first pages.

    But I wish the winners the best of luck! I know it is nerve wracking to put yourself out there ;)

  23. What I liked most about what you did here was you kept the entry open after 5pm.

    I submitted (YaaY!), and I did not get chosen by the BOT, but the fact that the contest was open to me absolutely Thrilled Me.

    That dastardly, but all-important "Day Job" has kept me out of so many of your contests. Imagine the excitement when I found I could actually compete this round!

    Bravo Authoress for all your hard work and toil.


  24. Yes! Great contest. And as a person with a very tight schedule (as many of us are) and being in a later time zone, I really, really appreciate the lottery system. Really. A lot. Thank you, Authoress!

  25. Oops, as a person who completely forgot about the one sentence rule as soon as I started to write my reasoning, I would like to offer my heartiest apologies.
    Shall try harder next time.

  26. I applaud Person 2 as well. And I applaud you, Authoress, for always reminding us about honest, constructive criticism. Yes, we all need our cheerleaders, but we need guidance as well. Thanks for running these contests!

  27. What a heartening exchange! Was happy to participate in the Yes/No voting, and happy for the winners. Apologies for what I think was at least one time when I wrote two sentences.

  28. HAH! Yay i was part if the message board convo! I was tickled to see that exchange as well.
    And yes! I would love it if you'd do it again. I really enjoyed just going through and saying yes or no on each one. It was refreshing and a lot easier than offering up a lot of constructive criticism

  29. Yes. This was a great contest. My only suggestion would be to do it for select genres. I chose to comment on the adult fictions, which were few, but which I am predisposed to like. If I were an agent, I would not look at YA or middle grade so I didn't comment on those. I wonder how many of your readers would look at my query if they were agents because so many of them seem to be writing YA.

  30. To be honest, I don't think this contest really worked for me. I know you hate query critiques but, really, that's all this was. When we're reading through the queries and commenting on whether or not we (as pretend agents) would be interested, it IS a critique of the query. As synopses, some of these may have made it past critical eyes but when something is labeled as a query, we have to read it and judge it as such.

    I don't mind query critiques, so I still enjoyed the contest. However, I don't think it worked out the way you may have intended.