Contest update: more help, please!

[Update, March 2013: I’m dropping all connection to WEbook, after it went down and apparently bankrupt, and I read several cautionary warnings about it from others who read the Terms of Service more closely than I did. But I leave this post essentially as-is for posterity. I’m still interested in this sort of feedback, however, in my preparations for a collection of my poetry.]

(If you’re tagged in this on Facebook, you’re one of my friends whose advice I particularly desire and trust; please read on.)

WEbook, a social networking site for writers (and readers), is running an ongoing writing contest called PageToFame. It now has two parts: one for longer works, and one for shorter pieces. For longer works, for each entry the contestant submits the first page of the piece and a paragraph plot summary; if enough readers judge it highly enough they’ll ask for the first chapter, and so on for four stages. For works under 1,000 words the contestant submits the entire piece. At present the entry fee is the same for short and long works: just under $5. The fee for long works will double at the end of March, and the fee for short works will do the same sometime later.

I think that my poetry has a better chance of passing muster in this contest than my fiction, but there is comparatively little reward offered for the poetry: they plan to come up with some way of distributing and selling short works electronically and would give me royalties whenever one of my poems sold. The reward for a novel’s passing all four stages of the other half of the contest, in contrast, is a book contract.

Therefore, I plan to enter both halves of the contest with at least a few pieces. But I am a notoriously bad critic of my own work, and so I solicited your advice on what to select and how to revise or polish the pieces before entering them. I would like to sincerely thank Nate, Hannah, Libby, and Amanda for the excellent criticism and advice I received; it’s been very helpful. But I still haven’t succeeded in narrowing my choices down quite enough.

I have eliminated one of my six novels-in-progress (Castle Commander), and twenty-five of the forty-three poems I’ve posted so far, from my consideration. But that’s about as far as I can get, so I’m again turning to you, my readers, in hope of good advice.

Which novels-in-progress (first pages) should I submit? Which poems? Which should I cut? How can I improve my novel plot summaries? What can I title those poems still identified by their first lines? And what bits of a novel first page or a poem are weak and could be improved? (Conversely, what bits are particularly good, so I can try to use a similar technique elsewhere?)

The (now five) first pages of novels-in-progress, and corresponding plot summaries, are in word processor files linked from here. The eighteen poems I’m still considering are linked below. (See this page for a list of all the poetry I’ve posted, with my attempts at one-sentence blurbs. If there’s a poem there that you particularly like that I’ve already cut from this list, or if you think I should include one of my essays, speak up!) I’ll try to keep this post up-to-date with any changes I’m persuaded to make, and I’ll also mention any changes in the comments on Facebook.

To reduce my expense, I would like to enter my prose before the March 31 price increase, so other things being equal please consider the novel first pages first. But I’ll take what feedback I can get.

The remaining poems:

Please review! And thank you.

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