Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Calling YA writers! Watch out for Freshly Squeezed Reads!

Lucky old me was recently invited to provide feedback to YA writers as part of a contest. The C1blitz, ran by Freshly Squeezed Reads, invited upcoming writers of YA fiction to submit the first chapter of their novels, not necessarily complete, to receive feedback from teen readers, peers and industry professionals. Over the course of a few weeks, this is exactly what happened. Each reviewer was assigned a certain number of random, and importantly at this stage, anonymous chapters that they read and commented on, rating them one to five stars, and offering their thoughts regarding both the negative and positive aspects of the work. And then, once the incredibly hardworking peeps behind the scenes worked through the comments to ensure all were suitable, they were revealed.

Although every writer who entered ‘won’ in some way, because we all know feedback is the most precious gift a writer can receive on their work, the chapters that received the highest number of top starred reviews were crowned winners. There were those rated highest amongst the industry pros, peers and teens. Each winner received line edits by a professional editor (me!) and will have their work sent to Lucas Alexander Whitley Ltd – a big literary agency in the UK!

Obviously, I wasn’t on the receiving end of the feedback, I had the pleasure of dishing it out, but I took so much away from the contest that I feel just as blessed as the authors who took part. Reading through the comments after the big reveal taught me just how wonderful the writing and reading community is. It was obvious that every comment was carefully considered before being posted; criticism was constructive and focused and always mixed in with something positive. But not in a patronising way, because every chapter did have something good about it that was worth mentioning. The support was evident, as was the passion and pain, not to mention the sheer love of a good story. And if these writers don’t come back to the next contest stronger with new tricks and techniques up their sleeves, then I can only imagine they weren’t destined to be writers in the first place.

Subjectivity played a huge part in the feedback and ratings, as expected. What one might have given five stars, the next gave only two. This is something no writer can fight or overcome; personal tastes vary, which in my opinion makes this one of the most exciting industries to be involved in. Every single book has a potential audience, however small. Genres were varied, characters unique, settings bold and exciting, but the one thing they all had in common proves that the next generation of YA writers are sure to impress. 

(On a side note, for anyone wondering, if you ask me what the most common problem was with the chapters, there can only be one answer: info dumping. More chapters than not contained way too much back story or world building, or big bulky paragraphs of detail that would have made so much more impact if blended in more naturally with the action of the scene.)

This is Freshly Squeezed’s second writing contest, the first being the P1Blitz (that’s right, first pages were critiqued), and I cannot wait for the next. This brand new YA writing community have brought something unique to the world of online writing contests. If you’re a YA writer with one or more novels and works-in-progress, keep a close eye on these guys to see what opportunities they might offer next. You can only gain if you take part, I promise you that. 

Kate. xx


1 comment:

  1. I second the awesomeness of Freshly Squeezed Reads and this initiative. I took part as an industry pro and had the privilege of reading some really great chapters. Like Kate, even though I was dishing out feedback, I learned so much from the experience and strongly recommend all aspiring writers get involved in FQR's next contest!