Thursday, May 10, 2007

The contest begins! And for me, likely ends soon ;)

As writing related surprises go, I've had worse.

Had much better, mind, but had so much worse.

The short prose competition over at Rusty Axe has officially started, and the big surprise is Bad Blood is among the first to be judged this week.

Sadly, the judge (going off the first page only for now, which is more than fair) is not that impressed – the first page has scraped an 11/20, based on the components of plot, creativity, writing, grammar, mechanics, and style. The other piece alongside it scored 13/20, so I'm already languishing behind.

The remaining entrants over the next few weeks will go under a similar process, with the top four from nine going into the next round. You can leave your comments and rating here (they've thankfully made it a painless process): - although they won't contribute towards the piece's success or failure, so don’t go spamming the site or anything ;)

Reflecting on the judges comments, they're fine – a couple miss the point of what I was trying to do, but on a whole I think they hit the mark with more than valid criticisms and have given me plenty to go on for a re-write. Most of the issues seem to boil down to a lack of judicious editing, a flaw which I'm painfully aware of. It seems the problems with the analysed page are mainly due to syntax, which is frustrating on my part (at myself) given the judge declares that the page is a "near miss" and just in need of some polishing, as everything else intrigues her. In short, Bad Blood is in need of a tidy-up and reshuffle. Fair enough; I do tend to go on a little...*

All valuable stuff to take away, then. I don’t see the entry going any further in the contest (I doubt the other entrants are going to score less than 11), but I've got a good idea of where to take the piece next before I go any further with it, as well as giving me something to be aware of in general with my prose…

*Which is what makes my comic writing so comparatively economical - I have so little space to write flowery prose in comics!


Jac said...

It must be difficult to give a mark for 'plot' based on the first page alone, but I think the judges seemed to like where you were going with the story!

I thought the judges comments were very constructive and had an overall positive tone. I imagine when you have been working on a piece for so long you can often end up adding more words in an effort to make things clearer, when actually it just needs a trimming and reshuffle! That's what editors are for ;-)

I would be really encouraged that all the piece needs is some polishing, and even if the story does not make it further in the competition, I think you have received some sound advice so you can take this forward.

Jac xx

Unknown said...

Yeah, it was actually quite good to read what they had to say. Obviously it would have been nicer to get a better mark, lol, but it confirms a couple things I need to change with my prose on a whole, which is invaluable advice.

You're right that it's easy to start adding more when brevity is really what should be strived for - it was actually one of the first things I was taught on my journalism MA! Many of my editors these days leave me to my own devices, so maybe I just need a firm hand ;) xx

Jac said...

Yes, I know what you mean about the marks. The plot mark was probably as high a mark as she would give out...but I did think she was VERY harsh with the writing mark. Not wanting to belittle the other writer, but in my opinion your writing was far superior, certainly grammatically correct and had a better overall flow. (not that I'm biased or anything!). I was a little concerned to read that the judge only reads "fantasy not written in fantasy-speak" and I wonder how much this influenced her marking. If she doesn't like "overblown imagery" I wonder how she rates Lord of the Rings, where it takes 3 pages of description to cross a field ;-)

Stay positive..
Jac xx

Unknown said...

Lol, cheers ;)

Yeah, I did raise an eyebrow over that declaration at the start... I guess I should be thankful that I avoided that trap then! I even take the piss out of "fantasy speak" in the second chapter, because I thought it may be a sticking point for many editors/agents ;)

The overblown imagery remark was one of the very few points where I thought she missed the mark - mainly because while I wanted it to appeal to typical fantasy readers, it's really aimed at young adults who may be just exploring the genre further. So using these "hallmarks" as she says, is to ease them into the book comfortably, then go by fact that eventually I'm NOT going to travel down more typical fantasy genre roots.

I love inverting genre conventions and expectations, but I think the only true way of doing so is to establish those expectations first, then break them - because if the reader is not familiar with them in the first place then the impact is wasted. I always assume each one of my stories is the first a person may have read in the genre (no matter how unlikely that may be), so at the very least it can be accessible.

But still - lesson learned all the same. It's been a very valuable experience! xx