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Thursday, September 20, 2012

There Goes The Judge

Well, my part in judging the first round of GUTGAA entries is over. To say it was 'fun' seems to damn it with faint praise - though it was fun, it was also much more than that. It was illuminating. Here are three things I learned.

1) There may not be any new stories under the sun, but there are a million different ways of telling them.

First of all I was humbled by the sheer vastness of new, unique ideas. If you think it's all been done before, you need to read the entries in this contest (there were over 200, and I read at least 100 of them.) I can't tell you how many times I sat up and said 'whoa!' Even the entries that weren't what I usually read made me think that there is so much talent out there, so much creativity, it's staggering. I also discovered that I like Steampunk - who knew?

2) Your cup of tea is not my cup of tea, but we can respect our different blends.

When I first started voting I read all the entries and made a short list of what, off the bat, interested me. I had about 15 entries on it. I did this so I wouldn't be unduly influenced by other judges opinions and to give me time to develop my comments on the entries I eventually whittled down to 10. I shouldn't have worried. Although in the end we judges definitely came together on some of the entries, we still needed tie-breaker judges to come in and make final decisions. Why? Because it's SO SUBJECTIVE. There was one entry that I absolutely fell in love with. I mean, if I'd walked by it in a bookstore, I would have plunked down my wallet in a hot minute. And not one other judge agreed with me. I was like WHAT???

But it's not a popularity contest. If you entered and only received one vote or no votes, that does not mean your story isn't good. IT CATEGORICALLY DOES NOT MEAN THAT. I can't stress this enough because it only takes ONE agent to fall in love with your work, to believe in your story and your talent. It only takes one. Lots will go meh, not for me. But with one agent, your story will resonate like a bell.

A short story about what happened to me right before I got an agent. I entered a a contest on a blog where a published author would crit one lucky query. I got picked to be critiqued, that was the good news. The bad news was that the author did not like my query. Not A Little Bit. She thought the idea had promise but thought the query was pretty terrible. I was crushed because, though I'd gotten some full and partial requests, I also got a lot of rejections. I wanted to revise the query in case it was not doing the job. While I went to my crit friends and online community for help, while I worried about how to take apart the query I'd worked on for months and start again, (my soon-to-be-agent) Barbara emailed to say she wanted to talk. The rest is history. I'll say it again - SUBJECTIVE!

3) The Blogosphere is a place full of people who want to pay it forward.

Yes, there are trolls. Trolls are gonna troll. (Don't feed them.) 99% of the people involved in GUTGAA genuinely want to help each other make connections, succeed, and support one another. I can't imagine the amount of hours (and blood,sweat, tears)  GUTGAA mastermind Deana Barnhart put into this project, but I'm thinking it turned into a full time job for months. The judges donated time and the entrants generously put their work up for scrutiny. The agents are about to donate their time reading the finalists to find a winner. I'm not Polly Anna (those of you who know me, know I snark too much for that) and I realize everyone has a stake in the project, whether it's to grow their community, get help polishing their pitches or find new talent. But the generosity is there and it's wondrous.

So, what do you think of GUTGAA? AND it's not over yet! There's the Agent Round of the Pitches and the Small Press contest still to come.


17 comments:

  1. GUTGAA is astonishingly awesome. I can't even begin to imagine the time/effort Deanna and her massive team of volunteers have put into it.

    The query critiques I personally received were awesome, and the ones I read for others were professional and seemed to be likewise appreciated. I'm also really enjoying getting to meet other writers/bloggers. The sense of community Deanna is trying to foster is what really seems to be setting GUTGAA apart from other pitch/query contests! If you discount the crazy scope, of course.

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    1. So glad you got crits that were useful to you - that's the fundamental 'mission' of GUTGAA, I think, apart from the contests - the opportunity to get feedback to polish your query and first 150 - that's kinda priceless.

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  2. Agreed! It was great fun, and an incredible honor, to be included as a judge in this MASSIVE event.

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    1. It was so fun, wasn't it? And nerve-wracking too! You just want everyone to get a shot because there's good in EVERYONE'S entry. Sigh.

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  3. I had a blast being a host and loved all the entries on my blog. My favorite got no votes. But what it highlights is both your query and your 150 need to sparkle. I bow to you for doing the judging.

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    1. Jaye you did the yeoman's job of hosting - YOU made a comfortable, accessible 'home' for the entrants to feel good about. CHEERS TO YOU! And I definitely had a few that got no votes, or not enough votes - which proves that a) I'd make a lousy agent and b) I have pretty specific tastes!

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  4. I am so incredibly grateful to all judges, hosts and volunteers. The entire experience has been inspiring!

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  5. GUTGAA has been an amazing ride so far and I'm so excited for round two. I can't imagine what it was like to be a judge and thank you for giving your time.

    I'm so glad you found a new genre to like! I only read female focused romance novels growing up that when I first read James Dashner, let's just say, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself liking a "boy book". It's all about the writing. :)

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    1. I'm with you, Lyndsey - it's all about the writing. I'm an omnivore when it comes to reading - while there are some genres I definitely gravitate towards, there's nothing I won't read based on genre -and I loved the Maze Runner!

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  6. Thanks for the great post! GUTGAA has been a wonderful experience for me. Made lots of new friends and was able to see my first 150 in a whole new, fresh light. Would do it again next year in a heartbeat (though I'm praying I won't have to!!!! LOL).

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    1. ABsolutely - hope all the entrants 'graduate' to agent-hood this time next year - wouldn't that be amazing? Good luck!

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  7. I was a judge this year, and this is the first time I've judged anything on this scale. I had no idea how long it would take (three WHOLE days for me), but it was so rewarding to be able to offer constructive criticism and vote for entrants to move along to the next round (some of which are getting the attention of agents now). I've been on the other end of these contests too, and I know how brave these writers are and how hard this can be. Anyway, I was nodding through your whole blog post. I totally agree with everything you said--especially the subjectivity factor.

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  8. I salute everyone taking part in this mammoth project...and thank the heavens I have an agent and so didn't have to!

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    1. I know, right! Deana is some kind of wunderkind to even be able to organize it! Last year's GUTGAA, I did participate. I didn't get an agent that way, but it did as promised, and got me ready for one!

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  9. I found your blog via GUTGAA and loved what you had to say above. So insightful, so true and so generous. Thanks for putting yourself and your post out into the writing world. Cheers!

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  10. Hi Deirdre, nice to meet you. I've made so many GUTGAA pals, I'm so sorry it's coming to an end!

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  11. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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