Competition Feedback

My chapter book ranked No. 8
My chapter book ranked No. 8

 

As some of you know, I like to enter writing competitions to develop my ability at the craft of writing. I have talked about what I feel you can get out of entering competitions before here.

Over the weekend many aspiring and published writers received the results and feedback from the CYA Conference  – Children’s and Young Adult Writers And Illustrators Conference. This is the third year I have entered and over the 3 years I have submitted 8 manuscripts. 7 of which were picture books and 1 a junior chapter book. With your chapter book you only enter the first 1000 words so you have to grab the readers attention and get the point of the story in early. Something which I need to work on. You get feedback from two judges which is just invaluable, so a big ‘Thank You,’ whoever you are!

The image above shows the order in which the chapters books were ranked according to the marks they were given. I was quite pleased to come 8th, as writing chapter books is a relatively new experience to me.

I love the editing, revising, rewriting process, so now I can mull over the feedback and adapt it to my chapter book in the hope of making it an even stronger story and better read.

Here are some things I need to consider:

  • what age is my main character/protagonist?
  • end chapters on a point of high tension eg: discovery, mystery, etc
  • does each scene promote or advance the plot?
  • is the reader drawn in right away/ is my first chapter so interesting, intriguing that the reader can’t put the book down and wants to read on?
  • Bring the action in sooner

The encouraging feedback was that:

  • the chapter book was the appropriate size for the audience, with short chapters
  • the concept was different to most Christmas books which was a good point
  • it would be a lovely book for Christmas time

Feedback is constructive and can be hard to take or interpret sometimes. It is also very subjective, so both judges can give different feedback. This is so important to experience as a writer and can only make you stronger!

2 Other sources of information I use to help steer me in the right direction and that gives great tips on writing are the following podcasts:

KATIE DAVIS  – I listen to Katie and her guests talk about writing for children every Friday morning when I go for a long walk. This is also one of the times I get my ‘eureka’ moment when I have been stuck on a particular part of a manuscript.

And more recently I have been listening to:

CHERYL KLEIN – Cheryl talks with her guests about all types of writing but some of the advice is still relevant to writers of children’s books. EG: Consider when does your next scene start? How long after the last? In your first chapters include protagonist, conflict and adventure.

 

Speak to you soon, I have to go off now and polish my work!

 

KBR Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award 2013

My very first certificate!

Although I am self-published with my little book ‘The Jersey 12 Days Of Christmas,’ I still aspire to be what is known as ‘traditionally published’ through a well known publishing house. Here is a defintion by Gene Mirabelli at Critical Pages:

“The names of The Big Six may be familiar to you as distinguished old publishing houses. They are Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, Random House, Macmillan, The Penguin Group, and Hachette. Only two of The Big Six are US companies: Simon and Schuster, and HarperCollins. The others are foreign: two are German, one is British and the other is French.”

Until I get a manuscript accepted by a big publisher I have to motivate myself to keep going. There are no deadlines to work to by eager editors or animated agents. I have to keep going by myself through days of wordy drought and barren ideas.

To keep me going I enter writing competitions for the following reasons:

  • I am a big believer that you ‘have to be in it, to win it!’
  • some competitions give comprehensive and incredibly useful feedback sheets
  • competitions are good practice for following submission guidelines, eg: target age range, genre, word count, font size/type, etc.
  • and finally competitions give you a deadline to work to.

Above is a certificate I recently received for the KBR Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award 2013. I didn’t win but I did receive something just as important – a reason to carry on with writing – a sign that I am on the right track! I had earned a certificate of Highly Commended! The feedback was that my story had humour, a lovely character and scope for wonderful images.

The feedback also had some hints at how I can make it even stronger and this has given me some direction.

 

Here are some of the writing competitions that I have entered throughout the year:

KBR’S Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award 2013

CYA Conference Unpublished Competition 2013

Sutherland Shire’s Writers Festival Picture Book manuscript Competition 2013

 

Why don’t you give it a go, you have nothing to lose and so much to gain!

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