Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I was just reading up on Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest which seemed so far in the future that I shouldn't even worry on it, but February isn't quite so far away.

So, they have reviews on this year's winners up now. Over five thousand people entered. OVER FIVE THOUSAND. This was cut down to one thousand based on "pitches." Then it was cut again down to five hundred based on the first few chapters. Finally, it was down to one hundred before people started reading manuscripts... I think.

Anyway, so they have the three finalists up there and they have well-known judges (Sue Grafton and three others) posting their reviews. While all four loved the winner, the two others were harshly criticized. Sue Grafton doesn't mince words. Seriously... ouch. I found myself hoping I never wandered into a dark alley with her. She is a total knee-capper. This was her review on Brandi Lynn Ryder's "In Malice, Quite Close" :

"Most problematic was the writer’s dependence on stock moves. Characters, both male and female, sighed at least thirty-five times, often twice on a page. Female characters bit their lips on twenty-four separate occasions (unless I missed an errant bite somewhere). In one scene, a character bit her lip, and two lines down, she bit it “resolutely.” How’s that for determination? The writer, apparently distrustful of the reader’s intelligence or imagination, micromanages every action and every line of dialogue, which is not only tiresome, but weakens the effect.

I was stumped by certain lines: 'She plundered on'; 'His words cloyed to her'; 'His stomach was a washing machine cycle on high.'

I appreciate what Ms. Ryder was aiming for but she misses the mark. If she would jettison the overwrought prose and master the fundamentals of construction, she might deliver a novel that would serve her talent better than this one. I know she has it in her, but this ain't it."

Holy cow! It almost makes winning seem like less of a win when the first thing they publish by way of reviews is a bunch of well-known people saying how much your book sucks. One of the other books was equally panned. Of Ian Gibson's "Stuff of Legends," Sue Grafton said:

"Not helping was the fact that the prose was less than riveting. I'm sorry to be such a bean counter, but I tallied thirty sighs, seventeen lines "growled" or "grunted,”twenty-two lines “muttered," and thirty-one speeches employing "er" and "um." This is lazy writing, folks. By the time I found myself listing the eighty-two-plus adverbs thrown in, I realized that when it came to the comic-fantasy choo-choo, my car had been uncoupled and left behind on the track."

Whoa! Seriously... "K is for Killing the hopes and dreams of writers." I never would have guessed Sue Grafton could be... well... mean. Her reviews read like a kicking puppy campaign. It's a little horrifying. Her picture looks so cheery too.

Link to Sue Grafton's knee-capping.

Anyway, I also was looking up information on another contest that ends in mid-October for short stories that I might enter. Contests are fun. I'd forgotten how fun it is to be in a contest. It's significantly less fun if you win and then they let the wolves loose, though... in my opinion. Seriously, out of over five thousand entries... these were the winners and they got cujo-ed in the reviews.

I also found myself baffled that she was counting adverbs.... Are adverbs that bad?

I need to go eat some chocolate on behalf of those people and think about butterflies and ponies for a bit.

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