Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some Advice from a Contest Judge

I've judged RWA contests for the last four years.  I see writers making the same mistakes over and over again.  And I often wince because I made the same ones.
So how can you increase your chances of getting a high score and subsequently the attention of an agent or editor?  Avoid these five common problems.

1)  Drop the tropes.  They're tropes for a reason; people are writing the same thing over and over.  Figure out a twist to the old trick.  Anne McCaffrey made her dragons the good guys.  Joss Whedon made his blonde cheerleader the one the monsters fear.  Stephenie Myer made her vampires sparkle.

2)  Infuse your story with your voice.  Voice is a reflection of your passion for the tale you're telling.  I can tell when you've committee'd your manuscript to death.  It's got to have a spark of life or it's boring as hell.

3)  Have someone proofread your manuscript before you send it in.  Otherwise, you may have your teen heroine pick up her boobs from the table and head for school.

4)  Watch out for point-of-view problems.  Your POV character cannot know anything that his/her normal five sense or special abilities haven't detected.  EXAMPLE:  The hero saw the bad guy on the other side of the door.  But the door is closed , there's no peephole, and the hero doesn't have x-ray vision.

5)  Read your dialogue aloud, have a friend read it, or download and use a text-to-speech program.  Do the words sound like a real person talking?

Anybody else have some tips they want to offer?

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