Monday, June 2, 2008

Why oh why is there always ONE???

I got my results back from the Rita Contest for Petticoat Ranch.
In case no one noticed…I’m not a finalist.
I noticed.
The Rita results aren’t too bad. Not good enough to finish in the top 25%, but still, on a scale of one to ten, mostly sevens through nines and … of course it never fails does it in any contest?

One five.

Since the Rita is a nice contest, the five was dropped and the final score was an average of the other scores so I’ve got no room to whine.

So this post is NOT about whining. And don't you dare say it is or I'm gonna tell my MOMMY on you!!!

But I guess what I wonder about it why does that always happen? I can see, if I don’t think a manuscript I’m judging is finalist material, give it low enough scores to keep it out of the race, but what’s with those occasional scores that really lower the boom on you?

My beloved ONE in the Golden Heart for Petticoat Ranch, a year or so before I sold it.

The creepy TWOs some of us get.

What is the judge thinking? What honestly, are they trying to say?

Hey, not only to you stink, but you REEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now what’s the point of that, huh?

I can remember one entry I read once (Ruthy knows which one I mean) which was, based on the partial I read and the synopsis, from beginning to end, a string of really icky, pseudo-rape, semipublic, sexual encounters. That's the closest I could come to discerning a plot. Ummm I don't believe a Seeker wrote it but if they did, no one is admitting it.

It wasn’t even well done, none of the basics were there. Head hopping, long, unbroken string of telling, sub-characters apparently brought in simply to…ummmm… “BE together” if you know what I mean.

Now, possible, this author might have needed a really bad score, the kind of score that says, “Seriously, have you looked into flipping burgers? Because they’re always hiring.”

But for the most part I try to be kind. I try to remember it could be a beginner. I'm dealing with a human being, with dreams and perhaps a leading from God, and more over, maybe a stay-at-home mom who is trying to make some money so she can KEEP being a stay-at-home mom.

They don’t really need a low score, just low enough not to final.

And sure, maybe five isn’t that low. But why is there always one? One that drags you down?
Reading is personal taste. I know. I read widely but I probably shouldn’t be judging sci-fi, it’s not my genre and I may not be a good judge of what is well done.
Still, I think I know good writing in any form.
I’m personally a Romantic suspense fan, which makes me a great match for Debby Guisti’s books. I write and love historical romance so Julie Lessman's books are pure fun for me and I cant' wait for Janet Dean's Courting Miss Adelaide. I’ve loved some Chick Lit, Camy’s are terrific. I read a lot of sweet romances. Missy Tippen’s and Cheryl Wyatt’s books are wonderful and I have a subscription to Heartsong Presents and read most of them. I love the cozy mysteries I now get in the mail from Heartsong Presents Mysteries.

I have loved some well-done YA books, like the Cedar River Daydreams Books by Judy Baer, even fantasy holds my attention when it’s excellent like Donita K. Paul's DragonSpell.

So I believe I know good writing, which means it’s no excuse to read my historical western, romantic comedy with suspense elements and drop a bomb on it just because it’s not your genre.

So what makes a judge do that?
I suspect gremlins.
Which would make a good topic for a sci-fi YA, sweet romantic suspense told in a chick lit style. Which is possible what I’ll write next.
So what do you think? I mean, I’ve had days I was very tired of judging. I’ve said a few things in judging comments I later regret and which I now see were more laziness on my part that of any use to an aspiring author. Still, I try to keep my scores in a 'you're not a finalist but I'm not a sadist' zone.
When I used to review books…well, let’s just say, not everyone writes a book that sings exactly. My first experience with a self-published Christian novel containing pre-marital sex and an occasional F-Bomb come to mind. I may had come down pretty hard on that book.

How about you? Have you ever judged harshly. We’ve all BEEN judged harshly, but have you ever doled it out. Maybe regretted it later?
What ARE those low scores about?
Hard truth? Not my genre? Exhaustion?


  1. not being a judge or been judged for writing i cant comment on that side but i enjoyed the post.

    Just one comment. I have found when i use the Im gonna tell my mother on you. She normally sides with the other one anyway!

  2. Well I can say that I have made the mistake of reading several contest entries back to back and that made me very very cranky.

    Let's just say it is not good to judge when you are cranky and resentful. Then one must feel regret or use the eraser. The eraser is better.

    Because I know I have tried the patience of many a poor contest judge. And the best judges know how to tell me to take up long shore fishing without uttering the words.

    (Pass the coffee please, yawn)

  3. Hi, Mary! I wholeheartedly agree with you about contest scoring! There's no point in causing tears. It's hard enough for someone to face the fact that their entry isn't good enough to final, so why be cruel?

  4. I'm not absolutely sure but I may have worn one of my husband's T-Shirts to work today.
    Under a blazer.


    I overslept and got dressed fast. I can't read the label without getting undressed so I suppose it's no big deal.
    If I can't tell, who can?

  5. Hi, Jenny.

    Hey, folks...JENNY has read Calico Canyon.
    She told me she got an ARC of it.
    I think she's officially first. :)

  6. I think you're right about reading too many in a row.

    Judging contests is something that I feel like I'm getting worse at.
    I just agonize over those scores.

    I don't know exactly why. But for lack of a better reason.....

    .......I'm going to blame Myra.

  7. Hi, Debby. Hey your post was great. It was a really successful day. Thanks for visiting Seekerville.

    I just know I keep advising aspiring readers to enter contests and I feel this awful weight of putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

    If I said contests are a good way to learn then I'd better be teaching something in my critique.

    But maybe I don't know what I'm doing so how dare I try to teach anyone.

    I actually have a better time of it with a beginner because I can see the weaknesses there.
    unbroken backstory, internal musing, POV errors...lots of ways I can be helpful there.

    But once someone is fairly skillful I have a serious..."How Dare I Criticize This Work" reflex.
    Plus the comments are harder to focus.
    My comments trend toward:
    I'm feeling really angry at this character. Is that what you want?

  8. When I read contest entries, I like to ask questions, too. It doesn't come across so harsh, but it still alerts the writer that there might be a problem.

    Back when I was entering my unpublished work in contests, I noticed that some were better than others. I think it helps to have trained judges who understand how their comments come across and what to focus on.

  9. Good morning, everybody.

    Jenny, that's funny about your mum sidign with the other one!

    Now I don't feel like I'm a nut case for reading contest results and thinking the judge had a bad day.

    I hate to admit it but usually most critical comments probably exposed major weakness.

    And, Mary, I'm sorry to hear about wearing the wrong top. Obviously it's Monday all over the world!

  10. Hi Mary,
    Boy do I appreciate your post today. Guess what I just got from the mail? Contest scores. Two judges and I mostly got ones. Right now I literally feel like sobbing. And usually I have a thick skin.
    The judges were nice, don't get me wrong. But the scores were not. And I didn't pay for them to be nice anyway. I wanted truthful.
    But boy does it hurt. General consensus? My hero is a villain.
    My writing is fine but my plot is cliche and the hero stinks and the heroine is wimpy.
    It's worse because the judges were nice, so I can't blame it on grumpiness. Now I don't even know how to begin to fix this story.
    So if you're not whining today, kudos to you.
    I'm whining Big Time.

  11. Hey Mary!
    Did you get my review of Calico Canyon? I loved it!! I sent my review to the publicist along with some interview questions.

    Now, about the judging...I've not had that experience, but I can only imagine it would be tough if you were judging while also having your work judged. Writing is not for the faint of heart it seems! Still soaking up the wonderful teaching here on Seekerville!


  12. Wow, Mary...I hate that you got a five. I got a 3 in the GH on the book the sold months later to Steeple Hill. So sometimes you just get an off judge who doesn't like or get your story. Unfortunately there are no comments with the GH. But I once was knocked down because the judge "didn't like military romance."

    I was irked she/he knocked two points off for that. On a 1-5 scale..two points is significant. I still finaled...but I still wished someone would have scolded the judge. LOL!

    So..any potential judges out there...don't knock off for genre! LOL! If you don't like it...don't judge in those contests. Please. LOL!


  13. Okay, I'm currently in the midst of critiquing twelve 3000-word submissions for a course I'm about to take in a week and a bit, so this is quite timely, Mary. Thank You!

    Even though I'm not giving a score, just critiquing, this seems pertinent to me. Because I'm wondering what the balance is that I should give in comments to people I don't even know. It's different for your crit group, they know you, so you can just point out the problem areas that you see and give one general hooray to say you liked it. Time is precious, right. They know you and they've sent it to you to spot the problem areas not to praise them. At least that's what my group is all about.

    But for these strangers, how many positives do give in ratio to 'needs improvement' type comments?

    To me, it's never been the scores that have bothered me, it's the lack of commenting to back up the score that ticks me off. I gain nothing in improving when comments aren't given. Please, just give me something to work with, is all I'm hoping for in submitting to contests.

  14. Oh, and on scoring. Well, I judged one entry that my comments haunted me days later. Luckily I had sent it in early and was able to resend a revised judge sheet to the coordinator.
    It happens, I think. You just write your opinion and then later realize how hurtful or unnecessary it may be.

  15. Fun post, Mary!

    And, Jenny, my mom always sided with the other one too. :)

    Have I ever been judged harshly?
    Mmmm ... a one-star review on comes to mind, opening with the line "This is simply a horrible book." I mean, come on, are you kidding me??? Horrible?? About the only book I could possibly write a review like that about would be The Satanic Bible or hardcore porn because I simply cannot trash someone else's talent or dreams. Period.

    So have I ever given a score so low that I regretted it? Never. And never will. After all, sometimes silence really is "golden."

  16. Kim, I hope you check back here today.
    Email me. (well, any of you can, but I need to ask Kim a specific question)
    maryconnealy @

  17. I'm sorry about the ONEs, Jessica.
    I've gotten ONEs before...they STING!
    But being a writer is all about masochism so you're doing fine. Stay in there, use the comments and picture your heart building up a nice thick callus.

  18. When I judge a contest without comments, I know the author's goal is to be a finalist and win. However, if comments are requested, I try to pick the 2 or 3 things that can make the most difference and improve the writing. More than that can be overwhelming and destroy the spirit of the writer. For new writers, I generally see too many passive verbs, point of view problems, and starting in the wrong place. Simply fixing those 3 issues will kick the writing up to a whole new level and give them a forehead-slapping "Aha!" moment.

  19. Great subject to discuss, Mary! I often wonder about the judges' qualifications. How long have they been writing? Do they understand the basics? Can they appreciate a writer who may be working outside the box?

    The Mystery and Suspense Writers' Chapter of RWA puts their judges through an online "class" with good info about how to judge. I'm sure there are still some who are overly critical, but setting general guidelines for scoring the contest has to help.

  20. Eileen said: To me, it's never been the scores that have bothered me, it's the lack of commenting to back up the score that ticks me off.

    Or...comments that are so vague that they aren't any earthly good to the writer. Or you read them wondering what kind of underlying meaning is there! lol

    Uh...I've probably given about as many of those as I've received. As Tina suggested, I don't judge well when I'm tired, grumpy and pressed for time.

    Some judges can score and comment in such a way that they are a real help to the author. IMO, that is a true gift.

  21. I've been fighting with Blogger today. Let's see if this comment comes through.
    On the topic of 'likeability' I am in revisions on a book and the editor said, the hero isn't very likeable.
    Well, while live been trying to fix the guy it occurred to me Lightning-bolt-like that I didn't like the hero.
    And I was being deliberate in my unflattering portrail of him and setting things up so only a nearly miraculous change of heart would make it a good guy.
    He was just a difficult man and would always be difficult and it really has a ring of truth about it. But I'm not writing TRUTH. I'm writing ROMANCE.


    So now that I've got my head on straight I know really well how I'm going to fix this guy.

  22. I have some comments in my past... comments I've GIVEN not gotten, that haunt me.
    So, Eileen I know what you mean about worrying and second guessing yourself.

    And yes, Jessica, I'd really like to have a few of them back. Rats. I hate that. I hate being a jerk to someone who's laid bare their soul, bled out onto the page.

    Okay, now I'm feeling guiltier than ever.

  23. I just got the results back from some contest...I seriously can't remember which one. I through it away. Petticoat Ranch.

    I didn't win it either. Very lukewarm scores. Six out of Ten I think both judges gave me.

    It was a score sheet with little or no comments. The only one I remember was, "I couldn't recommend this book."

    Then, just when I'd come to terms with how mediocre and 'six-ish' my book was, here comes the finalist in IRCC for Petticoat Ranch and the 4 1/2 stars for Calico Canyon in Romantic Times.

    Sometimes I wonder if, in the Exorcist, when poor little Demon Possessed Linda Blair's head spins around, if she'd REALLY demon possessed or has she just got the results back from some contest where she gets two 9s, two 7s and one TWO.

    That's make your head spin around.

  24. Every married woman innately understands the difference between truth and romance writing...

    Which is EXACTLY why we read it, LOL!

    And yeah, I've got some contest scores and/or comments in my past that I shouldn't have indulged myself in. Sometimes I'm a jerk.

    But mostly I'm not, and I think the worst one was the one Mary cited, the rape/seduction/no plot thingamabobby that started off like an inspy (really, truly) and ended up being erotica...

    Only with no plot, no point, no mindfulness of pov or story arc or...

    Crap. She's probably multi-published now!!!!

    And if Julie, Mary or Cheryl get on her and tell awful tales about me, they're big, fat, nerdy liars who should go to time out forEVER.

    I wasn't mean to any one of them.

    It's all in the author's perspective, and theirs might be slightly skewed.

    I'm sending a jug of sweet tea into the foray, with a plate of cream cheese brownies.

    Amazing combination.

    Oh, wait, I've got peanut butter frosted brownies as well.

    Tea and brownies. Could life possibly get any better than this? I submit that it can not.



  25. Contests...*sigh.*

    I firmly believe contests are a viable tool on the path to publication because of...

    ~the feedback from people who don't know you and are more likely to give you an honest reaction

    ~the chance to by pass the slush pile and get your work in front of a target editor or agent

    ~the writing credits for finaling or winning

    ~the thick skin you develop from reading criticism

    But contests aren't perfect because of...

    ~JUDGES who can't judge reasonably. They can't tell conflict from Constantinople unless you S-P-E-L-L it out, yet you can't get too explanish or you're accused of exposition. Some judges won't realize the heroine's goal unless the author repeats it three times with the third time in ALL CAPS.

    Despite the best training, some judges are dorks who deduct points because you had 24 lines on your page instead of 25 or because you began your chapters 1/3 the way down instead of 1/2. Or they deduct a point or more because you spelled a word wrong or had a missing comma on page 13.

    What's worse is the judge who tells you the inspirational elements are strong and unpreachy, yet she has no idea what your hero and heroine's spiritual struggles are.

    And some judges think they need to know every answer to every question they have. They expect you to lay out who the hero/heroine are, why s/he is [fill in flaw here], where s/he is in her/his relationship with Christ, and what her/his deepest secret is...all in the first 15-30 pages. If you give all that in the opening, then what's the point of reading the entire flippin' story?

    Some great writers make sucky judges.

    Some great judgs can't write worth a salt lick.

    But just like writers have to learn their craft, to be a great judge, you have to learn the craft.

    ~SCORESHEETS that are more dated than Donald Trump's hair.

    Considering all RWA contests are very specific on formatting, having a question on formatting is an opportunity for judges to prove their anality. If the entry is in the judge's hands, then the coordinators okay it to be in standard manuscript format. Just because YOUR editor likes TNR and 1.5 inch margins, doesn't mean that's the only acceptable format. Deducting a point for 1/3 chapter heading instead of 1/2 is ANAL.

    And judges who do that wonder why they don't get thank you notes...or if they do, the TY note is generic...or even hostile.

    MS format question should be a yes/no with a spot for comments so the judge can say, "Hey, my editor on 25 lines per page. To change from 22 and 23, go to your task bar and...."

    Pick up a 2007-2008 published book. Now read the first 50 pages and tell many how many characters have distinctive voices. Without tags or action beats, can you tell exactly who is speaking?

    Yet scoresheet after scoresheet asks about distinctive voices. Is it as important that every character has a distinctive voice as it is that at least one of your leads and a secondary here and there has a distinctive voice?

    As a contest judge, entrant, and coordinator, I say keep contest scores and comments in perspective. Extract the helpful stuff and trash the stupid.

    And remember, many published novels NEVER finaled or won a contest, while many finaling and winning contest entries are never published.

    I'd go on, but I have to pick up my oldest chitlin from his after-school day care.

  26. Gina's comments got me thinking. Maybe we should come up with a Seeker approved contest score sheet. How about a place where entrants note how many years they've been writing or how many published manuscripts they have under their belt or maybe just whether this is their first time putting a book together?

    So what would you like to see?
    A question about conflict? Are the h/h likeable characters? Do you want to read more? Strengths? Weaknesses? Quick fix suggestions?

  27. Debbie is right, ladies. We ought to make up our own Seeker approved score sheet.

    I nominate Gina to do it. :)

    And Julie, face it, your mom sided against you because you were always, always in the wrong.

    I don't know this, but I sense it.

  28. I've found that if I'm reading an entry to judge, and I'm getting frustrated with it, then I have to set it aside and try when I'm in a better frame of mind (rested, not rushed). Most of the time, the second try goes much better! And often, an entry I had thought was awful is actually okay.

    You can't let your mood affect the scoring!

    I have to admit I've given a couple of 2's in the GH if that's what the entry really deserved. Most of the time I've never had to give lower than a 5. But I think the 2's I've given included that same entry you and Ruthy had, Mary! It wasn't only inappropriate, it didn't have complete sentences or quotation marks on dialogue. There weren't capital letters beginning those incomplete sentences, either. Oh, and the romance "heroine" was high on druges and in the middle of robbing someone while she cussed like a sailor.

    Let me tell you, I hated to give someone a 2, but I could not in good conscience give it any higher. No matter the subject matter or even characer of the heroine, it was not good, standard writing. I could hardly read it--literally. I really thought maybe it had been put there as a plant to test me as a judge!

    So, yes, I'm one of the guilty ones, I guess.

    Normally, though, I tend to score higher. I probably drive somee coordinators crazy because of it. But I get excited when I read something good. :)

    As for how to comment while judging, I usually try to list the things that need improvement first, then try to end on something positive. I always, always try to find something positive.

    I've been there, having totally negative feedback on a score sheets. It's not fun.

    Jessica, so sorry about your contest scores. Cyber hugs and chocolate to you! But don't let it get you down. I've been in the position of sobbing. I've even been at the point of giving up after getting contest scores back. But I was too stubborn to give up. So hang in there!


  29. Let me add that the GH 2 I gave was years ago.

    And Mary, about that 5. Granted, I don't think your book deserved a 5 at all! But I think some judges think a 5 is a decent score. If the Rita is the same as the GH, then a 9 is the highest score. So that judge may have been thinking of the story as above average.

    In the GH, I reserve 9's for those that read just like a book--and I'm DYING to read the rest. I'm so excited when I get those! And I've gotten at least one or two every year. They usually final and often have sold by the time the winners are announced.

    So leaving out the 9's, that leaves 1-8 for everything else. For me, a very good story gets in the 8 range. A good one gets around a 7. Petty good gets 5 or 6 depending on how many problems I see. But that's just me.

    Okay, I'll quit rambling.


  30. MARY SAID:
    And Julie, face it, your mom sided against you because you were always, always in the wrong. I don't know this, but I sense it.

    Mmmm ... I thought Petticoat Ranch was a really great book. Guess I was wrong ... AGAIN!

  31. Hey Mary,
    You're so right about the exorcist thing. This entry that got ones finaled in an earlier contest. Go figure . . . lol.
    And Ruth! Are you the one who called my hero slimy?

    Lol, I'm just kidding and I promise you don't know me. :-)

  32. Good one Julie!

    My mum was well what did you do first!
    or fight your own battles.

    And Mary I would give Calico Canyon an 11 our of 10!
    would have been 12 but you picked on my friend Julie!

  33. Kim, I got the review.
    Thank you so MUCH!!!!!!

    I'm kind of wired now.

    I'm actually typing this while hanging from the light fixture in my computer room.

    The fixture is one bare bulb so if my comment should suddenly cease call an ambulence right ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh------

  34. I like Debby's idea about a Seeker-approved scoresheet.

    So what would you like to see?
    A question about conflict? Are the h/h likeable characters? Do you want to read more? Strengths? Weaknesses? Quick fix suggestions?

    My idea of the ideal scoresheet is more general in the questions, kinda like the Heart of the Rockies' scoresheet.

    First, it asks for targeted publisher and approximate word count. Say we're writing an inspirational, a novel targeted to Heartsong isn't going to be like something targeted to Revell. In general RWA contests, the inspy category isn't broken up into genres. If the judge is viewing the ms as a single-title and the ms is a short contemporary, then that could put the ms at a disadvantage.

    Second, I'd keep point definitions very basic because for some a 5 means publishable, yet for others means "great job."


    Third, often entrants complain of scores with no comments. The HOW allows for this...

    Judge: Please circle the items that need improvement in each of the following categories. These items are provided as a reminder of what to consider when judging and are not intended that the manuscript be judged solely by these traits.

    _____ CHAPTER 1 -Starts in correct place, interesting hook, good introduction of character(s)
    and plot

    _____ HEROINE -Skillfully developed, multi-dimensional, believable, interesting, good
    physical description, sympathetic, likeable. If not yet introduced, do you feel the exclusion detracted from the beginning of the story? (I'd add...If not introduced and exclusion isn't distracting, then do not deduct points. Same with hero.)

    _____ HERO -Skillfully developed, multidimensional, believable, interesting, good physical description, sympathetic, likeable. If not yet introduced, do you feel the exclusion detracted from the beginning of the story?

    _____ RELATIONSHIP -Believable & exciting from the initial attraction, emotional as well as
    physical, logically develops to a satisfying conclusion. If hero and heroine have not yet met, do you feel the exclusion detracted from the beginning of the story? (Again, if not, then do not deduct points. If that note isn't included some judges will give the lowest scores because they may feel the meeting is necessary.)

    _____ SECONDARY CHARACTERS -Necessary, non-intrusive. If not yet introduced, do you feel the exclusion detracted from the beginning of the story? (See heroine note.)

    _____ SETTING -Reader can see and feel it; sets the mood

    _____ DIALOGUE -Natural, believable, well balanced with narrative, progresses the story,
    characters’ voices are consistent and individual to their personalities

    _____ NARRATIVE -Well balanced with dialogue, interesting, necessary, progresses the story,
    does not overwhelm the reader with information

    _____ PACING -Moves smoothly, flows through the highs and lows of conflicts

    _____ TRANSITIONS -Smooth, appropriate, necessary, non-intrusive

    _____ CONFLICT -Sustains a story of projected manuscript length, good use of internal and
    external conflict. Conflict is large enough to support single title designation

    _____ VIEWPOINT -Proper use of point of view, changes are well-done and relevant, POV
    didn’t bounce between characters excessively or inappropriately

    _____ MOTIVATION -Characters were well-motivated, actions are consistent with individual

    _____ DEVELOPMENT -Actions and emotions “shown, not told,” senses were well used

    _____ PLOT LINE -Unique, skillfully developed, plausible, avoided cliché, enough conflict,
    interesting, satisfactory, [(breadth and/or subject matter warrants single title designation) THIS WOULD CHANGE PER GENRE]

    _____ SYNOPSIS -Complete, well thought out, informative, avoided cliché, all loose ends and
    subplots tied up, all conflicts satisfactorily resolved or explained, free of unimportant details

    _____ RESEARCH -Accurate, non-intrusive, interesting, important

    _____ STYLE -Appealing, story presentation was smooth and interesting

    _____ MARKET -Seems appropriate for targeted publisher, sensual tension is correct, plot is
    appropriate [The problem I see with this question is it assumes the judge is knowledgable enough with publishers to know if the ms is fitting. Personally, I don't think this is something most judges can answer unless they write for that particular line. And a good portion of RWA judges aren't published.

    _____ MECHANICS -good spelling, grammar, punctuation (If ms is not in what you consider to be proper ms format, explain to author but do not deduct points because ms has been checked to meet contest format guidelines.)

    _____ SUBTOTAL POINTS (highest possible 100 points)

    *____ OVERALL APPEAL –Would you want to finish this book if it were published, and would you
    recommend it to a friend? (Score 0 through 5)

    _______ TOTAL SCORE (highest possible 105 points

    Finally, the scorsheet should have more than unpublished/published criteria.

    Judge’s Writing Experience (check 1 or more):
    _____ Unpublished Author
    _____ RWA-trained contest judge
    _____ Published Romance Author
    _____ Pubbed/Unpubbed Contest Finalist
    _____Published Fiction, Novel Length
    _____ RWA PRO
    _____Published, Articles
    _____ Golden Heart Finalist
    _____ RITA Finalist
    _____Published, Other

    Of course, since we're talking about my ideal scoresheet, I'd require the judges to give a specific reason for any score other than a 5. Suggestions for improvements are great. In fact on my recent contest scoresheet, my judges gave a couple suggestions for improvement. They all sucked. But I came up with a solution that worked better for the story.

  35. Oh, the reason I like one score per story element is that too too too many times when judging, I felt like I was double-deducting points.

    When judging for the Genesis, I felt like that with a couple of my entries. And I told the entrants so. Or if I didn't feel a question was relevant (say on secondaries and the entry didn't have any secondaries), then I gave a 5 and explained why.

    Yet I've coordinated contests and even received a scoresheet of mine where the judge put NA or a 0 because the question was not applicable. Hello. Sometimes I feel as if judges feel they treat an entry as if it has to EARN points.

    My idea is every entry begins with a perfect score.

    And considering I've judge almost ten times more contests than I've entered, I'm surprised I'm saying this, but...

    Another problem I have with judges is they don't consider that fixing a weakness might be as simple as cutting out all the backstory in chapter one or adding two or three lines explaining backstory or plot.

    Yet instead of giving a 4 and saying, "I felt I needed a little more explanation of plot, maybe a line or two," they give a 3 or a 2. In my opinion, a 3 means you need to do some work adding another layer to this scene not just cutting a page or adding a few lines. A 2 means you need to do some serious work adding two or three layers to this scene.

    I think the more I judge, the more I'm willing to give the entrant the benefit of the doubt. And I think more judges ought to do that.

    Of course, I say for every two or three contests you enter, you should judge one. Judging not only helps you see comments and scores from a judge's perspective, but it makes you more critical of your own writing. It's one of the cheapest ways to invest in learning the craft of writing.

    And if you're judging and not entering contest, then find a contest to enter.

    Okay, I told oldest chitlin that I'd watch THE MOLE with him. No rodents allowed.

    And in case anyone was wondering, I've watched/listened to ENCHANTED three times today.

  36. Oops, who would have dreamed Julie would check back in tonight.


  37. I'll take the 11, Jenny, and God bless you.

  38. Gina, Gina, Gina we have missed you girl. Did you have all that boiling inside you?
    Send it into the Suggestion box for ACFW.

  39. Gina, missed your novellas dude.

    Jessica we can weep together. I was told my heroine was mean and unlikeable last week. She's Italian, we are all blunt..does that mean unlikeable I think not.

    And to prove it I will put away the cement overshoes.

  40. Gina, I liked your score sheet.

    You said judging makes us more critical of our own writing. Very, very true.

    The following rang true as well:
    "I think the more I judge, the more I'm willing to give the entrant the benefit of the doubt. And I think more judges ought to do that."

    Ah, aren't you sending me some manuscripts soon? :) Hope I'm up to the judging!

  41. As much as I like contests, they also frustrate me because I view them from judge's, an entrant's, and a coordinator's perspective.

    With the latter, I have the opportunity to read my category's entrants' scoreseheets. I also get to hear back from the entrants when I tell them I hope the contest was beneficial.

    When one says it wasn't beneficial and has specific reasons why, then I feel compelled to fix the problem for future entrants.

    I wish all my TBL judges judged as helpfully as my Seeker-judges did. Entering contests helps you judge better. RWA chapters, on a whole, have good judge training.

    Oddly, my frustration with contest has the least to do with my own scoresheets.

    Debby, the packet is in the mail. And I've read over the finaling entries. You should enjoy them. I tried to match the ones that would be best suited to you as a reader. Funny thing is you are the only judge I made a point to do that for. The rest I just assigned randomly.

  42. Great thread! I wonder how many of us who hate getting fives or less have pretty much stopped judging contests because it causes us grief to give a 5 or less.