No doubt it's the Crapometer, currently chewing through entries over at Miss Snark's blog. Lordy, lordy, what makes some writers not only willing to throw their work out there, but to do so more than once? Some of the entries have the distinct smell of deja vu. Some commenters have mentioned that a few entries have appeared on Evil Editor's blog as well. At least one entry has been through the Crapometer once before.

I understand how you could make a spelling mistake, or dangle some modifiers, or even write a rambling query. These things are hard to do well (queries, I mean), and sometimes when you think you got it, you're disappointed to find out you don't. But why, oh why, have some of these people sent in their entries with “Dear Agent” on them? And then they claim to be faithful readers of Miss Snark? Um, no, I don't think so. I think you're lying your sorry ass off and taking an opportunity away from more deserving readers of Miss Snark (since there was a lottery system this time, and no I did not send anything in and probably would not ever do so).

Another offender is the phrase “fiction novel.” How many times has MS said that's redundant and not to do it? About a million, which you'd know if you really were a faithful reader.

Another thing that amazes me is how downright mean anonymous commenters can be. Some folks seem to take a lot of joy in kicking a fellow writer when he's down (or yanking the rug out when he's flying high on praise). Just when you think people might have evolved a bit, you see this. The pack closing in for the kill. OTOH, some commenters try to give helpful and constructive criticism. Some do it under their own names, others go Anon; I understand why after watching the pack devour some poor sod.

But, hallelujah, one lucky writer was invited to submit a partial to a real live agent (other than MS) who read his/her entry and loved the concept. Lucky indeed. And you know what? It doesn't make me jealous in the least. I think it's cool. I'm happy for this person. Maybe if they wrote military romantic suspense, I might feel different (I'm only human, though I try to do unto others and all that) but I really think it's neat.

I'm not done reading the Crapometer yet. I think I'm in the sixties, so instead of doing something constructive, like work on my own WIP, I will no doubt head back for another dose of educational reading. Some of the writing is terrible, some is good, a few really good. But reading through slush really shows you what goes through an agent or editor's mind. Judging contests does the same. If you want to improve your own work, you'll read a lot of published books (goes without saying, really) and you'll judge contests. Contests are amazing for what they teach, whether you're an entrant or a judge.

If you're reading the Crapometer, what's the most valuable lesson you've learned? (I think sample pages for me, because some queries really suck and then the writing is great.) What's the most valuable thing you've learned from contests? (Opening hooks are no good if you then launch into backstory for 10 pages.)