Monday, October 8, 2012

What I learned from GUTGAA

I got to participate as a judge for the first time in an online contest, and it was an epic one. As the sun sets on GUTGAA (Gearing Up To Get An Agent) here in its final week of competition, I've been reflecting on what I've learned through it all:

1. I never ever EVER want to be an agent. Like, never.

2. There are a lot of great writers out there.

3. Queries are hard.

4. Deana Barnhart is one super-amazing kick*ss chica.

5. The writing community (for the most part) is extremely positive and supportive to other writers.

So, honestly, I already knew all these things. This experience just reaffirmed them. But here are two things that surprised me:

6. No matter how amazing a writer you are, you HAVE to have an original/intriguing concept to get an agent's attention. It shocked me how many entries felt like the same idea over and over again. Show the agent what makes YOUR story stand out, what makes it special.

7. I realized I'm a total chicken. Remember when I asked you all to guess my super secret undercover judge name from the list. Yeah, I decided not to reveal who I was after all. I tried to say something nice on every entry in addition to constructive criticism, but in the end (after some insight from other judges and a couple of twitter trolls) I decided to remain anonymous for fear of backlash. If any of you REALLY want to know who I was, I can email you, but I'm not going public with it. Neurotic? Maybe. But hey, I'm a writer. I'm supposed to get emotional and blow things out of proportion, right? :)

What about you? Did you participate in GUTGAA? How was your experience? How do you feel about online writing contests?


Cassie Mae said...

Lol, I learned I really WANT to be an agent. Isn't that weird?

Judging and hosting though allowed me to kinda reel in the positives and make sure all those drama mama trolls were spammed away! And I also got to meet some pretty supa awesome people.

And even though I could only toss ten votes, it was a big loopy looped happy feeling whenever I saw the excitement from those then people on Twitter or in the comment section. That to me, was well worth it.

ilima said...

Cassie-I know what you mean about seeing the excitement. There was on entry I voted for, and only ended up with my singular vote, but she was so thrilled it made me want to give everyone a vote. Happy times.

Unknown said...

Love this blog! I learned the same things from GUTGAA, in addition to finding some really cool friends and a kick-ass new critique partner who pointed out things no one else ever had. Overall, it was a life-changing experience & one I'll never forget :)

Kathryn Purdie said...

I also learned that I NEVER want to be an agent! Wow, it was so much pressure having all those high hopes and dreams on my shoulders. I spent three days from morning to night judging because I wanted to make sure I was giving valuable feedback. Exhausting, but I hope helpful to participants.

Emily said...

Glad you had the chance and so glad to get your thoughts. I get now, why ideas have to be so unique.

Suzi said...

It's too bad about the twitter trolls. I was really hoping to learn who the judges were too. (So if you're willing to tell me which you were, I'd love to know!) I didn't get any votes, but two judges offered up good suggestions.

But I can't blame anyone for not wanting to say either. I probably wouldn't. Either way, GUTGAA was a good thing and thanks to Deana and all the judges for all their time/effort.

Carrie Butler said...

I judged a round of GUTGAA, too! Like you, I think I'll keep my code name a secret... ;)

Molly Lee said...

I didn't participate in this awesome contest but wanted to stop by and say thanks for following my blog! Returned! I'm excited to read your posts :) Sounds like you had an amazing experience with this contest!

Emily R. King said...

I don't think I'd reveal my name either. I'm chicken too.

Boc, boc. :)

Crystal Collier said...

Man, I wanted to participate this year, but sanity is a necessity... Way to put yourself out there and be so positive. Next year I will totally be there, and I hope to see you there too, even if not in a "visible" fashion. *ahem* (Nothing wrong with being a chicken. They're tasty, you know?)

Nicole said...

It was fun to read through the query entries. All you judges and, of course, Deana, are so wonderful to take your time to host this!!

ilima said...

Amy-Yes to cool new friends too! So glad it was a great experience for you!

Katie-Your feedback is always thoughtful and kind. Big wow for all your work. :)

Emily-Those dang agents were right about that one. I suck at ideas. :P

Suzi-I'll shoot you an email if you have one on your google account. If not, you can email me at ilimatodd AT gmail DOT com and I'll tell you who I was.

Carrie-Are you watching the ones you voted for in this final round? I've already seen some requests!

Molly-Thanks and welcome!

Emily-Haha. Cluck. Cluck.

Crystal-Even as a judge I was refreshing pages over and over to see who would get through. If sanity is a priority, staying away this year was probably wise. :)

Nicole-It was fun! Thanks so much.

David P. King said...

I didn't participate because most of the participating agents I already queried and had rejected, but I kept a list of the couple I haven't tried for when the time is right. I have mad respect for agents after reading hundreds of queried during WriteOnCon, too. Man, what a job! :)

Robin said...

Love your first picture. You find great images for your blog. I always know I'm going to enjoy them, along with whatever brilliance you have to say.

While I think I'd enjoy reading the slush piles and finding gems to pass on to an agent, I don't think I'd want to be an agent either. The pressure of rejecting people on a day to day basis when I know how high their hopes are because mine are super high with each query I send out. Who knows, maybe I day I'll change my tune, but for now I'm happy just figuring out how to be a writer:)

What I learned: Even if all the judges vote for you-it doesn't mean the agents will be interested. I was so confident (overly so) that I've have requests. This was the 1st contest with my polished query that didn't do that. So the most important thing I learned: Everything in writing is subjective.

And the 2nd most important thing: Stop constantly checking my posts and work on craft. It's hard to not be distracted when my query is out there for the world to read. But in the end, how many times I check doesn't affect the outcome, but it does affect my productivity as a writer:)

So glad you did GUTGAA!!!

ilima said...

David-What a job indeed. I've queried agents from contests I didn't enter in the past as well. Good luck!

Robin-Ah, the joy of a Shutterstock account. So many shiny pictures. :) I mentioned this above, but even as a judge I was refreshing my pages over and over to see who got thru or how people responded to my comments/votes. *so distracting*

Morgan said...

I'm not a fan of online writing contests, lol... though I know they do a lot of good for some!

And being an agent sounds HARD... I'd much prefer to write! :D

Livia Peterson said...

Great lessons! I didn't participate in GUTGAA, just watched SOME, maybe A LITTLE of it happen around the blogosphere. I didn't have time to read over one-hundred blogs.

Yes, I completely agree, this writing community is supportive of each other. We lean on each other's back's for practically everything. It's insane but that's what I love being a part of this AMAZING online community.

And most definitely, there are many great writers out there. It's just finding writers that fall in your genre...that's the hard part.

Great post! :)

Angela Cothran said...

I don't think you are chicken. You are smart :)

ilima said...

Morgan-Me too!

Livia-Writers are the best!

Angie-Not bird-brained? :)

jaybird said...

I wouldn't want to be an agent either. I'm no good at letting people down. I want to be their champion. I'm sure you made a wonderful judge. But I understand your reluctance to annouce yourself.

i'm erin. said...

I didn't know you were a judge. That is so awesome. And yes, I agree with your observations! I'm so excited to hear what more you're up to. You know I'm a big fan:)

ilima said...

Jaybird-I want to be their champion. Oooh. I love that. :)

Erin-I'm a big fan of you too, girl. Glad you're back on your blog...can't wait to see what you're up to.

Kelley Lynn said...

Yes! Judging was so hard. And its so true. The hook has to be original. Or you've got to have a super kick*** first 250 words. But mostly, its gotta have a great hook.

I'd rather write then be an agent. ;)