I’m creating this so each judge can add their 2 cents for all entrants as part of the review process. I don’t intend on giving specific feedback on scripts or getting into it with people I rejected, just some general feedback.
I reviewed all the Huck entries. When you have so many entrants you start looking for standout ideas rather than repeated ideas. So if you took a common idea (like how Huck got his dog, or Huck stopping a suicide, or Huck finding a lost family treasure) you needed to really nail everything in order to stand out. The more original ideas (like the story told in rhyme or Huck saving space aliens or Bigfoot) stood out from the pack much more, so the main piece of advice I have is go for the unexpected. That’s what last years winners did, and I think it’s what potential publishers are looking for in general.
Other tips -
- Probably 1 in 20 entries didn’t have the signed contract attached. It doesn’t take that long to check people.
- Spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes stand out. As does not formatting your script. Some scripts are really well put together, some look like a wall of text. If you didn’t take the time to lay out your entry neatly it felt like you didn’t take the time to refine your script.
- Many scripts took too long to get going. A whole page or 2 before we got to the story, and then they had a rushed resolution. With 5 pages each one counts so you have to remove the fat. These scripts should be lean and mean.
- On the other hand many entries had 2-3 pages of no dialogue at all. You’re applying to write, not direct. There’s a place for no dialogue sequences, but with only 5 pages you want to tell more story.
- Too many panels on a page was still a thing. This is Huck, not Watchmen. Look at how Mark wrote the book - that’s the kind of style you want to replicate.
- Lots of entries didn’t seem to understand Huck the character. Huck doesn’t punch people out - you don’t see him throw a punch in the book. Huck saves little ducks and helps with shopping. Stopping drunken stepfathers or rapes really puts the character in situations where you make telling the story very difficult to get right. You’re written yourself into a corner before you even start the first page.
- If you started with Huck writing his list and not knowing what to do you were the same as about a third of other entrants. Sequences much like the Huck book don’t tell us something new. Again, look at what won last year and see that they did their own thing.
- Huck shouldn’t have swearing in it. He’s not Preacher.
- Huck is about hope and community. Putting him in situations where he can’t do a good deed is like writing a Batman story where he doesn’t stop the Joker from killing the bus full of schoolkids. That’s not who the characters are.
- Ultimately pay attention to who you’re writing. It’s not who you want it to be, it’s a character that already exists. Writing him outside of that is really really hard. You can’t do what you’d like with every character, some stories only fit some archetypes. Too many entries were about a character that just wasn’t the same Huck we had in the book.