June Rodriguez
DORI: I received the judge's scoring and a few comments from my Sisters in Crime Dead Bird short story contest. I won the Baby Bird.

JUNE: Congrats on your win. Tell us more about how the entries were judged. How many entrants were there? How many judges?

DORI: It was a small contest, only thirteen entrants. There were three judges who scored in ten different areas: hook, theme, setting, characters, dialogue, plot, format, mechanics, POV, and title. Found it interesting that two judges could score you high and the other very low. Makes you wonder if they're reading the same story. In other categories the judge's scoring was very similar, so these were the scores I took to heart. Helped me to see my strengths (mechanics, POV, characters, setting and theme) and weaknesses (title, hook, and dialogue). The comments were interesting. For instance one judge said that the plot had no twists or turns, and that my main character could have at least been killed, but he wasn't. I found this particularly fascinating, since in the story I wrote he DID die! What I learned was that judging, like reading, is highly subjective. What I will remember from the comments was one judge who said "I'm not a fan of 'ghost stories,' but this one is well told. Yes!

JACKIE: I am thrilled for you Dori, great job! With regard to the one judge who scratched your paper, she must have been reading it while getting her hair done in la la land, LOL. Well, I was gone while you finished writing that, but I am still sad by the killing, but I guess sometimes a character has to die for your craft. It was a great story even at the stage I read it.

SUNNY: What you have to keep in mind is judging is subjective. You have no idea the caliber of the judges or if they even read in the mystery genre. While awards and trophies are terrific, the important thing is to write a good story and stand by it. There are markets for everything you write.

SARAH: Great job, Dori! We all know how hard you worked on your submission. Feedback from judges can be a double-edged sword. The beauty of the situation is YOU are in control. You're the captain of your own career. Take what comments and advice work for you and circular file the rest. I know you'll find a home for Ephemeral Proposal and I don't have to be an English major to know that! LOL
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SARAH: This must have been the week for news. I found out I placed THIRD in the Historical category of the Golden Gateway contest. Thank you all for helping me "tune up" my writing!

JUNE: The long wait is over. I’m glad to hear all your hard work paid off. You deserved to win. Did you get any more feed back from the rewrite?

SARAH: I haven't received the final round judge's comment, but rest assured you gals will be the first to know what she says!

DORI: Even though I know you wanted to take first in your category, third is pretty amazing when you take into account that there were a lot of other writers vying for limited places. You should feel reassured that you're doing things right. Now to get that book done . . .

SARAH: I'm working on it! LOL I've already got my eye on another contest to enter. I think the early spring 2010 deadline is definitely feasible to have the MS polished and ready to go. I know I'll have lots of support and encouragement from you lovely ladies to make sure I stick to my goals.

SUNNY: Astrologically speaking, Sarah's Neptune is eager to reward her. But, she did it on her own steam. Planets DO NOT write books!
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JUNE: Last week we talked about using the right words and the power that they add to your writing. This week I did have a problem with using too many descriptive words in a single sentence. There is a fine line between doing too much or too little. Having a critique partner or group to work with helps to spot these small problems.

DORI: Tough indeed. You want to use power words rather than generic words, particularly in short stories.

SUNNY: I was glad you two pointed me in the right direction with my attempt at a Woman's World story. I don't do romance and, although I think my plot had merit, I focused too much on the dog and not enough on the man. At least I didn't kill anyone!
SARAH: Writing short stories is a challenge. I can understand the urge to over-compensate, June. There is a big difference between writing toward a goal of 80,000+ words versus only 800 words. Despite all my struggles, I have to keep telling myself, this only my first attempt at a short story. I'm learning to write a full length novel AND short stories. I must be crazy! So, I can't expect perfection, but on the flip-side, I have to remember I can't write to please everyone else either. It's like walking a tight rope, lean too far one way and you're gonna eat shitake mushrooms!

JACKIE: Well, lady, you are obviously doing something right! Congratulations, Sarah, you earned it. And you're right-every story belongs to the teller.

SUNNY: The important thing with short stories is to keep in mind the publication and their guidelines. Those are the people you need to please. With a book, you write from your heart. For a short story, you write from your brain. This is strategically sound.
Would I normally write a story about a seeing eye dog trainer? No. Yet, I'm attempting to write one for Woman's World. This is a test to myself and my own personal growth. I'm relying on my critique group and trust that they know the genre better than I do. I'm going to write the best romance story I can. That, to me, is a win in itself.
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