Scribbler’s is pleased to welcome Melanie Rose Meadors, author of several short stories, which have appeared in CIRCLE MAGAZINE, PRICK OF THE SPINDLE and various other venues. She is a finalist in the 2012 GSRWA Emerald City Opener Contest and the 2012 SFA-RWA Heart to Heart Contest.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’ve been described as “a crazy rabbit lady who can’t watch movies with incredible twists because she’s a know-it-all who figures them out ahead of time” (Gauthier, 2012). I’m afraid that’s pretty much on target. I write science fiction, fantasy, and romance stories of various lengths, often combining at least two of those genres within one story. I homeschool my son, which means I’ve become–out of necessity–a pro at time management, and I am a sucker for long-eared animals who need homes. I also like to make sock monkeys, and in some circles am known as a “rock star monkey goddess
Where you have recently placed in a couple of major contests, I wanted to chat a bit about what you think the pro’s and con’s of writing contests are; What do you think is the greatest benefit from entering a contest?
There are a lot of possible answers to this question–so many people might say, “having a chance at winning,” or “prizes.” As to me, I like getting feedback on my stories from people I don’t know, and when that feedback is good, I have to admit, I really enjoy that boost my ego gets. If you can’t tell if your writing works, a contest can tell you pretty quickly.
What do you think is the downside?
I know people who have entered two contests, did poorly, and then never wrote again because they assumed it meant their writing was that bad. The thing about contests is that they are judged by people. People have their opinions, and opinions about one single piece can have a huge range. You need to take everything in stride. Look at the feedback; if you agree with it, fix it; if not, carry on. To me, if my story is a finalist, it’s as good as winning, because three different people could look at the three finalists and have three different opinions as to who won. It’s very subjective.
With so many contests out there to enter, how do you choose? Are there specific factors you look for?
I do a lot of research. I don’t want to spend money to enter a contest and then get a number back and that’s it. So I ask other people about what contests they have entered. I pay attention to author endorsements, the prizes, and what happens when I win. I try to enter Writers of the Future as often as I can with my speculative fiction, even though I don’t get feedback at all, because if I win, the prize money is awesome, the exposure even better, and the contest is free to enter. The judges are well-known writers in the field. With the regional RWA contests, I look at the final judges, I make sure I will be getting more than a number as feedback, and I also pay attention to if the judges are trained.
How seriously do you take the feedback?
This goes back to making sure the judges are trained. After entering a few contests, it doesn’t take long to recognize the difference between feedback you should take seriously (“I found your beginning slow, your character’s dialogue didn’t sparkle enough for me”) and that you should not (“your heroine is not a virgin–I don’t know if I can get past that; etc.”). I’ve gotten comments that are downright snarky, and also comments from people who obviously don’t read the genre they are judging. That is not professionalism, and not a sign of a trained judge. I take the less than perfect scores with more weight than the perfect ones–my work is not perfect, and while my ego loves those perfect scores, I want to look seriously at where people think my story might be lacking.
When you enter a piece of work into a contest, is it a finished manuscript?
I try hard to have it at a point where it will be finished by the time the final judging is done. Obviously with short fiction, it is a finished piece I submit to the contest (usually that is my speculative fiction), but with novels, it is a good idea to have it finished because that final judge might really want to have a look at it. You want to be able to give it to her or him when s/he is
From your experience what are the odds if you place in a contest your work will get seen by an editor or agent?
I always send out the best work I am capable of to the contests, and I very consistently reach finalist standings (I’ve entered my most recent novel into five contests, and it was a finalist in four of those). At that point, the final judge is very often (and in the contests I generally enter, almost always) an editor or agent. So I see the contests as another door through which I could reach publication. It’s a way for agents and editors to see the actual words of my story, rather than reading a query letter on which I might not have done my story justice.
Talk a about your writing process, do you write a set amount of time each day or try to meet a specific word count?
I always try to reach a certain word count; if I do time, that time might get swallowed up by research or “thinking.” I do shift the word count depending on what else I have to do. If I know I will have to research many things that day, I might lower the bar a little on the word count, and I don’t beat myself up if I miss my goal now and then. If I keep missing it, it just means I have to reevaluate things and figure out why.
Do you write the same time each day?
I try to. Because of other obligations in life (homeschooling, etc.) I really need to have a good schedule or at least rhythm to my day. Most of my writing happens at night, and during the day I have time blocked off for more business related things, networking, blogging, things like that. I also try to get my research and planning done during the day so I can have that time at night purely for getting words on the page.
Do you write in a more linear fashion, in scene sequence of the story or do you jump about?
I find that this changes with every piece I work on. When I first started writing, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, I jumped around all over the place, and that really worked for me. Now, I do tend to write more linearly, but if I get stuck, I let myself write whatever scene is clearest in my mind at that time, so that I’m still working. Then I go back and connect the dots.
Is your approach different for a short story vs a novel?
With a short story, I often jot down an outline and then just forge through the story until the end. Novels, on the other hand, I do try to go a bit more slowly with the writing. I reread from time to time and make sure everything is happening when it should, because I don’t want to end up with an 80,000 word mess. I don’t mind rewriting a short story; novels are much bigger enterprises.
What’s your go to snack when stating at the screen and the words aren’t flowing?
Oh, goodness… Coffee to me is like the elixir of life. Nothing is more comforting to me than a nice warm cup of coffee, preferably made by someone other than me (I make HORRENDOUS coffee). I’m not a bit muncher, but I definitely need that cup of joe.
Can you tell us what you are currently working on.
Right now I am finishing up a science fiction short story, and then I will begin work on a series of teen paranormal romance stories. They will be stand alone stories of various lengths tied together by the idea of the “Unseen,” folk we can’t see unless either they let us or we have a particular talent or ability for doing so. I’ve been working on the ideas for these stories since I started writing seriously, so I am pretty excited to see them come to fruition.
Thanks Melanie for stopping by Scribbler’s today.
Thanks so much for this opportunity to chat. I hope everyone has a wonderful and productive new year.
Check out Melanie’s work at:
Short fiction on Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/profile/view/melaniermeadors
Sock monkeys on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/MonkeysonaMission