#pg70pit – What are the judges looking for?

Hi there, contest fans!

So you’re thinking about entering the amazing #pg70pit contest run by theCaKwTtfWAAQDkjm incomparable Lara Willard.  Awesome.

You’ve got your manuscript ready to roll – you read the contest rules (like twice already) – you’ve been stalking following Lara on twitter – you’ve got a sparkly Page 70 ready to submit….and then it hits you: what are the contest judges looking for anyway?

Well good news. I’ll be co-hosting the MG category along with Lara. She’ll make a number of selections and so will I. Now I don’t want to speak for Lara, but I will tell you what I’m looking for in a Page 70 submission.

In a word: Voice.

Oh great! I can see you throwing your keyboard in the air now. Voice. Really? That’s only like the hardest, most impossible thing to even define, much less figure out how to work into my book. And now JD comes along and tells me IParachute pants have to somehow get Voice across in one stinking page. Impossible. You can’t stuff something super-sophisticated like voice into a single page. I’ve got a better chance of squeezing back into that pair of parachute pants I owned in the 80’s. Not the baggy kind either –  I’m talking one of those skin-tight deals.

Ok, so let’s just take a deep breath. Voice is difficult to define and sometimes difficult to develop. But the truth is we should be weaving voice into every single page of our books – including page 70.  That’s true for all age categories, but in particular for MG.

Kids are looking for stories that grab ahold of them and keep them entertained. They aren’t looking to be talked down to and they certainly aren’t looking for something that comes across like a textbook from a Social Studies class. They want good stories, told by colorful characters.

If you’re going to write MG, then you’ve got to nail the voice.

Now if you’re panicking because you don’t know what voice is, or you think your voice is off, then there’s good news. You can work at developing your voice and it will improve. As writers, it’s one of those things we can put effort into and get better at.  Unfortunately, there is no “best way” to develop your voice. There isn’t even a standard definition as far as I know. I’ve got my take on voice and you’re welcome to read it here: Voice – how to develop your own!

writing-style-voice

Now, getting back to the #pg70pit contest. When I say I’m looking for voice in the submissions, I mean just that. I want to hear your writing and your characters speaking to me from that page. Does that mean it should be a page full of dialogue? Or a page that has an action scene? Or a page that has deep emotional impact?

Yes to all of those…and No to all of those. (Yeah, I know real helpful right). What I mean is your page 70 doesn’t have to be about any specific thing or event. I don’t even particularly care what the context of the page is. But whatever it’s about, it needs to deliver voice. I need to feel like I’m reading something about your story and your character – not someone else’s generic characters and story.

Don’t submit dry writing. If your page 70 happens to lay out the list of groceries the main character is supposed to buy…I would suggest changing it. Cheat, lie, steal – whatever it takes, but don’t submit a grocery list. I can’t tell what your writing is like from a grocery list.

Now to be clear, I’m not suggesting you manipulate your story so page 70 is that perfect page, just dripping with your finely honed voice. Be honest and submit your real page 70 (Lara will check if she needs to). Just make sure the page isn’t a grocery list or a baking recipe.

Give me something that shows me what you can do as a writer.

Curious about pages that were selected last year? Here’s a link to a twitter post that has all the 2015 winners (MG, YA and Adult).

Ok, that’s it for this post. I’m looking forward to seeing all your wonderful MG entries. July 1st is approaching fast!!

All the best,
JD.

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