I recently got the results back to my contest entries, and I'm depressed. Hey, this is the same contest I finalled in last year. But this year, I crashed and burned.
I'm trying to be strong. One judge gave some very helpful feedback, and I already sent off my thank you note to her. It was easy because I was thankful, grateful even. But I can hardly bring myself to look at the rest. Some judges just didn't "get it." Or so I'd like to think. Ugh.
Here's the worst I got. I won't quote it because that's not allowed. Let me just say that out of a score of 1 to 5, 5 being the highest, I got a two for these opening lines because she didn't think it was a "good hook."
I'll include the whole scene after the opening lines so you can see what happens. The judge said she was "confused" because most women would have wanted to be there, but not Amelia. Why is that "confusing?" Isn't it clear why she doesn't want to be there in the context of the whole scene?
Gun smoke still hung on the air.
The preacher scowled. "Do you, Nathaniel Ward, take Amelia Taylor to be your lawfully wedded wife?"
Amelia's father cocked his rifle and aimed it at the reluctant groom.
"I do," Nathaniel said, his voice firm and unwavering. Despite her father's threats, Nathaniel's very presence exuded power, his raised chin, broad shoulders and wide chest unflinching against the barrel of the rifle.
Amelia didn't dare look up at him. What must he be thinking? How many women had hoped to get him this far, and now, here she stood where most women dreamed of standing—gunshot wedding, or not. If only she could melt into the wooden floor of the parlor like the candle burning in the nearby lantern. Or disappear like the smoke. Disappear into nothingness, with no remnant left of her existence.
The preacher's words rushed over Amelia like a gush of foul air as he asked her the same question.
She stood paralyzed, unable to speak. She'd vowed never to marry. How would she bear this cross? She'd seen enough loveless marriages in her life to know it wasn't worth the heartache, despite the shame of spinsterhood. And now, to be forced on a man? What miseries awaited her? Abuse? Neglect? Slavery? Any man in his right mind would despise her for the rest of his days. It would be impossible—unthinkable—to procure his affection . . . his love.
The minister, still in his nightclothes, cleared his throat. His wife, holding up the lantern, glowered from behind him.
Amelia swallowed, darting a glance at her terrifying father. With a snarl, he narrowed his eyes at Nathaniel and pressed closer with his rifle. Would he put another hole in the preacher's wall? Or Nathaniel's chest?
"Amelia, girl." Her father's voice sent a shudder down her spine as it echoed through the quiet house. "You know, I always keep my word." He'd threatened to kill Nathaniel if she refused to be his wife.
"I do," she said, her voice small and trembling, quite the opposite of the man next to her. The horror, the shame. How did her life come to this?
"I now pronounce you man and wife." The minister slammed his Bible shut and pointed it at her father. "Now get out."
Shadows clouded Amelia's vision and her legs wobbled like those of a newborn calf. Her knees buckled, but rather than landing on the hard floor, she found herself caught in Nathaniel's strong arms.
Now her husband.
It's been hard not to doubt myself. Am I just fooling myself into thinking I can actually WRITE a GOOD STORY?