The judges have made their decision and I honestly can say I'm not surprised by their choice. Months ago, when I first announced the 32 contestants that were going to battle it out for this crown, I mentioned that there was only one of them that had received a vote from all ten of the admission judges. I had a notion then, and it has played out before us all during the contest. The 2013 WRiTE CLUB Champion, by a UNANIMOUS vote, is.......
I want to thank our celebrity judges for a job well done, and here is a sampling of the comments they offered for our two finalist. First Philangelus:
This entry doesn't really fail anywhere in the writing. I really liked the subtlety of the situation that creates the tension here. (A lot of writers seem to think an overload of drama will make get them the vote.) That said, I feel it perhaps wasn't the strongest scene to put up for the finals. I think this entry could have used a little more choice original descriptions and unique gestures or habits on the part of the characters to make them feel more real. Unfortunately, these details and gestures and thoughts characters have--the ones that seem too unique to be thought up--these are what impress me most in a book and they just seemed to be missing a bit here, leaving the scene a feeling a bit thin. There is no question that Philangelus has real writing chops...Philangelus is a very confident writer indeed - Mark Hough (WRiTE CLUB winner 2012).
An interesting conundrum, with clever turns of phrase. Barley salad. Excellent writing, perhaps 500 words was just a bit too short to see into this story. - Kendare Blake (Author Anna Dressed in Blood)
Philangelus also took a risk writing in first person present tense. Though it’s ever gaining in popularity among YA and NA writers, it’s a difficult style to pull off. In this case I think it was the wrong choice. First person narratives are driven by the personality of the narrator. With no personality to flavor them, statements like ‘I fight nausea’ and ‘Max stalks over’ become choppy and bland. The narrator’s personality failed to shine through, so the present tense felt more like stage direction than a story. If your first person narrator doesn’t explode off the page like Gayle Forman’s Mia (If I Stay, Where She Went) or Suzanne Collins’s Katniss (Hunger Games trilogy), then you’re better off writing in third person. The story is a good one and the writing is technically solid, but the narrator just wasn’t interesting enough to draw me in. While the author has an excellent grasp of the technical aspect, s/he needs to work on characterization. - Diane Dalton (former editor Rhemalda Publishing)
These first 500 words do give a us a quick window into the type of person the main character is, but it’s not the most evocative opener in terms of physical action or character interaction. The scene ends with presumably the narrator’s firing, but her dismissal doesn’t create a real urgency to keep reading since she doesn’t seem to care about her job – what would raise the stakes? The narrator’s voice also didn’t grab me yet, and I had a harder time placing it in the marketplace as a result – women’s fiction is a vast genre, and you want to give your reader a quick preview of what type of women’s fiction story we’re in for through voice and story questions. Perhaps drawing the details and suspense out further would be more successful. - Katie Grimm - (Agent w/Don Congdon Associates, Inc.)
With Philangelus's piece, I got confused at the repeated "It's not my job" bit, since I wasn't following that train of thought. On the whole though, both of them were great and I'd read more of either of them. - Tiana Smith (WRiTE CLUB 2011 winner)
Has a solid idea for a story and a moral dilemma. However, there wasn’t a lot of personality in the main character. As part of a larger piece, the straightforward style would work, but on its own, it lacked zing.- Alex J. Cavanaugh - (Author of the Cassa Series)
Philangelus' entry is also funny, but I don't have such a strong sense of who the narrator is. - Alice Speilburg (Speilburg Literary Agency).
And here some of the remarks regarding our winner's - Muleshoe's piece:
Originality in voice is probably the most important quality I look for in writing and humor that's original, surprising, and well-timed is very hard to get right, so this entry definitely felt like Muleshoe was aiming high...and overall I think it worked. I always love it when an author can describe a situation or scene from an angle that isn't the most obvious and Muleshoe does that very well here. The details Muleshoe chose as well were wonderfully unique and made the scene feel quite real. Definitely a confident writer who has a gift for the Storyteller's voice. The only critique I'd give is that this heavy level of character in the voice might be hard to sustain throughout a novel and sometimes it keeps the narrative plot line from progressing in a timely manner. The fact that Muleshoe can write a voice this thick is terribly impressive... and if it were toned down just a tick or two I'd have a hard time picturing an agent not jumping on it.
Mark Hough (WRiTE CLUB winner 2012).
Muleshoe took quite a risk in choosing rural fantasy for a piece so short. Fantasy thrives on world-building, and 500 words doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for that. Though details are sparse, the clever use of language gives the story a distinctly Western flavor. The reader is given no description of the narrator or Pete, but it doesn’t matter. As soon as I got into the rhythm of the narrative, which was almost immediately, my imagination supplied a stock image of a weathered cowboy on an equally weathered horse (once I understood that Pete was a mode of transportation and not bipedal) framed by a backdrop straight out of a dozen cowboy movies—even though I had no real reason to assume Pete is, in fact, equine or that the narrator is even human. The narrator positively oozes personality, and I could see him sitting on his bedroll by the fire telling the story. The writing, however, was a little problematic. Phrasing was sometimes awkward, giving the impression the author was trying a little too hard to sound conversational. Flow and clarity suffered as a consequence. While the author has characterization down pat, s/he would benefit from sharpening his/her technical skills. - Diane Dalton (former editor Rhemalda Publishing)
The first 500 words do a great job of establishing voice, tone, and character – while giving us a hint to what (and what isn’t) normal in this world. These first pages also had a strong opening image and left the reader with a clear story question and reason to keep reading. I did stumble over the first few sentences though (it wasn’t the “brightest thing” it wasn’t “anyplace special”) and had a to re-read the a few times – it could be due to the narrator’s style, but be sure to hold the reader’s hand just a bit more than usual in the few pages. Remember that many readers (from the query pile to the bookstores) often skim the first lines (pages?) of a book to decide if they’re going to pick it up. - Katie Grimm - (Agent w/Don Congdon Associates, Inc.)
The voice was strong and unique, the setting was vivid and I was really looking forward to seeing where it was going. I really think both pieces were written well, and these were both strong. With Philangelus's piece directly contrasted to Muleshoe's, the latter just seemed more attention-grabbing and fun. - Tiana Smith (WRiTE CLUB 2011 winner)
Had a lot of personality. I got a clear sense of the narrator and his sense of humor. His accent/slang was almost too much at times, but he stayed in character. This one was the strongest, with a solid voice, good storyline, and humor. - Alex J. Cavanaugh - (Author of the Cassa Series)
The voice here is so clear, and I love how the protagonist seems somewhat reluctant and forced into doing the right thing -- shooting the giant -- which then turns out to be the wrong thing to do. Very clever - Alice Speilburg (Speilburg Literary Agency).
I want to congratulate both writers for providing us all for hard fought contest.
Now for the real moment of truth. Who are these talented writers? Well Philangelus is none other than Jane Lebak! And our champion, Muleshoe, is the talented "Tex" Thompson! I encourage any of our 32 contestants who feel up to it to announce their true identities in the comments below. Each and every one of you should hold your heads up high!
Tex now joins Tiana Smith and Mark Hough as former WRiTE CLUB champs, as well as becoming a judge for next years finals (if there is one).
Thank you once again to everyone who made WRiTE CLUB such a success again this year! I'll be back later in the week for a final wrap up and to announce the winner of the $75 gift certificate.