- I sympathize with agents and editors who say the majority of submissions they see are not up to publishable standards. About one in six that I review gets a finalist’s score. About one in twelve really gets me excited. Sorry. I wish it wasn’t so. But the number of entries that aren’t even proofread, or where the author isn’t even clear on what story they’re telling, still staggers me.
- I consider making macros of frequently repeated comments, the ‘ad infinitum’ macros.–Show, don’t tell.–Who’s your story about?–What’s your story, now?–What’s at stake in this scene?–This is all backstory; make me care.
- Even though I say the same things to other contestants as the judges who dissed my entry said to me, I still think those judges were haters and stupid and wrong. Knowing how petty and hypocritical these thoughts make me does nothing to mitigate their power.
- When a contestant that I gave a good score to makes it to the finals, I feel proud. When someone whose work I gave a low score to makes it, I feel like the other judges are stupid and wrong.
- I talk to the unknown contestants as I’m reading their work. Out loud. Oh yeah. I ask questions. I instruct. I scold. Sometimes, I thank them for getting so many things right. What? Talking to your computer isn’t crazy. Quit looking at me.
- I worry that I’m part of a process that reinforces an othodoxy, one that’s arbitrary, confined and harmful to the free expression of unbridled creativity. Fortunately, I’m too busy to dwell on these pangs. Don’t want to get acid indigestion or anything.
- The hardest entries are the ones where the writer didn’t do anything wrong, but something about their story doesn’t ignite for me. They’ve obviously worked hard, turned in a flawless manuscript, hit what they’re aiming for. Their heart is all over this thing. And yet … it just doesn’t launch. I imagine, if they’ve queried agents or editors, they’ve heard the dreaded “I just didn’t fall in love with this.” And I suspect this phenomenon is one of the reasons for the gap in what a writer expects will happen to their fine book and the cold shoulder from the publishing industry. And I’m genuinely sorry.
- Every time I open a new entry, every single time, I feel the rush of potential, the excitement that this will be a find, that I’ll be reading an early draft of something truly amazing. And no matter how many times that dream is deferred, I still celebrate the courage and the imagination that every writer shows in putting their work out there for judgment by anonymous–and sometimes stupid and wrong– judges.
- Next up on Devlin’s blog:
Good and Bad Movie Taglines