Thursday, April 30, 2009

Get Ready For a "Practice Round"

For as much of an adrenalin rush as it might have been, this month's filled-up-in-two-minutes-flat Secret Agent submission process has left my head spinning.

It's not pretty. I'm scaring the neighbors.

So I want to do a little in-house crit before May's Secret Agent contest ("little" -- hah!). Yes, the critting is what it's all about, but to be honest, I feel the need to have a "dry run" for my new submission policy, which is going to work like this:

I will open the submissions at a set time (no early submissions will qualify). The window will remain open for 24 hours. Each submission will receive a number. The number is your LOTTERY NUMBER. After the 24-hour window has closed, I will RANDOMLY CHOOSE 50 ENTRIES.

And...if you made it into last month's Secret Agent round, PLEASE DO NOT ENTER THIS MONTH'S. No exceptions. So many people got turned away--they need a chance to throw their work out there, too.

I know you agree.

As for next week's crit: We're going to do a DROP THE NEEDLE (hooray!). Here are the guidelines:

  • Submissions will open at 9:00 AM EDT on Monday, May 4, and close at 9:00 AM EDT on Tuesday, May 5.
  • Each submission will receive a LOTTERY NUMBER via response email.
  • After submissions close, I will randomly choose 50 submissions for the crit session.
  • If your number is chosen, you will be notified as to which POST NUMBER yours will be.
  • IMPORTANT: If you don't hear from me, your number did not make the lottery.
  • Content for Monday's call: DROP THE NEEDLE into scene (anywhere in your novel) in which a character is displaying an emotion that is out of proportion; e.g., someone bursts into tears at an inappropriate moment, or someone's anger is way over the top, etc. (Why, you ask? Well, you know there's ALWAYS something behind a disproportionate emotion, right? So it's an excellent way to "show" what's behind a character's behavior/responses...and part of what motivates him.)
  • Format is the usual: 250 words, SCREEN NAME, TITLE, GENRE (in that order, please).
  • Send your submission to me at facelesswords(at) No attachments.
Post your questions below! I'm grateful for the way you all help me work out kinks. Growing pains are a good thing, so let's keep smoothing this baby out until it runs like a greased eel.


And starting combing through your novel for just the right scene! The winning submissions will be up on the blog on Wednesday.


  1. I like eels... eels are shiny and awesome. O:)

    Sounds like this plan could work at least in terms of giving everyone a more or less fair shot at getting entered. ;)

    Looking forward to seeing how it works!

  2. I LOVE it. Sounds like a wonderful way to get the contest rolling that will offer a beautiful balance.

  3. Clarifying: you want the screen name, title, etc AFTER the excerpt, not before?

  4. The lottery idea is a good one, better than having to sit at the computer with finger poised on the send button. :)

    Do you know yet what genres next month's Secret Agent is interested in seeing?

  5. Does this mean the Drop The Needle crits won't be open to everyone now? I really enjoyed those and got lots of help with my work, but I have an agent and therefore don't participate in the SAs. However, I love the regular crits we used to have because even though I have an agent, I'm still working to improve my writing.

  6. I'm so happy that I may have a chance to get in on SA. I missed it last time! I'm changing my whole attitude about this getting published stuff! Check out my blog and give me some advice! :)

  7. FEYWRITER: Nope, first, as always:



    KAREN: It's still open to everyone. I'm just using this particular round to practice the lottery system that I intend to implement for May's Secret Agent contest. I don't intend to use the lottery system for future in-house crits; never fear!

  8. I think a lottery system is a good idea. However I have one suggestion. That entrees be equally divided in genre.

    Last time at SA there were tons of YA and very few Woman's Fiction.

  9. jerzegirl-- There isn't any way I can do that. For one thing, each agent has genres that he reps, and that's what I go with; I don't choose them.

    And to go through submissions, check each genre, group them, count them, and THEN do a random number check? Girl, that's WAY too much work! LOL I don't get paid for this. ;P

    And, too, the genres that show up are indicative of my readership. I've got HUGE readership in kidlit and SF/F. That's just the way this particular demographic falls.

    Another thing is that there really are more folks writing MG and YA right now, as well as genre fiction. So of course any contest or critique group is going to be lopsided in favor of what's most "popular" at the time.

  10. Sounds like a great idea. Not that I have any previous experience to go on. I'm new here, but very excited to get a chance to be critted by this crowd. Thanks again for all you do, Authoress.

  11. Authoress,

    Please forgive my ignorance. I'm a bit confused. Does this mean that if we get picked for Drop the Needle, then we aren't eligible for May's Secret Agent contest? Could you please clarify?

    Thanks so much!

  12. Crystal,

    No, our in-house crits are completely separate from Secret Agent contests and don't carry the same restrictions. I'm just using this particular Drop the Needle contest to practice for the SA contest. I want to make sure the lottery system is "doable" before we use it for an actual contest!

    So yes, you are still eligible to enter the SA if you also enter this DtN.

  13. Sounds like a great plan! Best wishes with it.

    As a relative newbie, do you need to stress the requirement to crit as well if you are chosen and how many etc? Maybe a time estimate involved to do the crits?

    Just in case there are other newbies out there that don't understand that criteria as well.

    Crossing my fingers that this is slick and EASY for the goddess!

  14. In previous Drop the Needle crits, we included a brief blurb at the beginning so the reader understands the context of the exerpt. Is this still true?

    Good luck with the new lottery system.

  15. The whole "Drop the Needle" thing confused me. How can you know if the outburst is out of character? And, is it just any random scene from the novel?? And with the SA itself, are the entries opening chapters?

    Just wondering. I can't enter since my works are on submission. :-/