I have talked about some of the most frequent problems that I see when judging for the Writers of the Future Contest, and today I’m going to tackle one of the biggest: the problem with “told” stories.
A writer pointed out today that when you send a novel to an agent or publisher, they normally ask for the first five or ten pages, just so that they can gauge your writing skill. If those pages don’t grab the reader, it won’t sell. So, he wondered, what do I look for in those first five pages?
I earlier mentioned that when I used to write for competitions, I would make lists of ways that judges might look at my work in order to grade it. For example, some judges might look for an ending that brought them to tears, while another might be more interested in an intellectual feast. A couple of you asked what my list might look like. So here is a list of things that I might consider in creating a piece.
Very often when reading slush for the Writers of the Future contest, I come upon stories that at first glance seem to be perfectly acceptable. They presented a protagonist who had a problem to overcome. The setting was reasonably well defined. The story proceeded at a good pace, with the problem escalating nicely. Often there was a surprise twist at the ending, and the conclusion seemed appropriate. Yet when I got done reading the story, it just lacked … something.
I can admit that when I first heard about the Writers and Illustrators of the Future contest, I was skeptical. On the surface it seemed too good to be true.
A while ago I promised to tell you why I reject good stories when I’m reading for Writers of the Future. So let’s talk about those stories that get an Honorable Mention
This past week I’ve been judging Writers of the Future. Most of the stories come to us electronically, so much of my day is spent opening files, taking a look at them, and then putting in a review–usually one that says “Rejected.” I hate that “Reject” button . . .