My idea of the ideal scoresheet is more general in the questions, kindalike the one the Heart of the Rockies use merged with the ACFW Genesis one.
In addition to title and category, the entrant should provide targetpublisher and manuscript word count.
In RWA-chapter contests, the inspy category isn't broken up into genres. If the judge is viewing themanuscript as a single-title and the manuscript is a short contemporary, that could put the entry at a disadvantage.
A novel targeted to Heartsong isn't going to be like something targeted to Zondervan. Pick up Cheryl Wyatt's A SOLDIER'S FAMILY and Julie Lessman's A PASSIONMOST PURE. Read the first 30 pages of each. Force yourself to stopreading. Now, if you were judging them and assumed both were targeted toSteeple Hill, do you feel you'd give a fair evaluation of the long historical family saga with strong romantic elements? (Or is it a long historical romance with strong family elements?)
When you enter ACFW's Genesis contest or FHL's Touched by Love, you havethe opportunity to match your entry with similiar genre (or word count)entries. Not so in other RWA-chapter contests. Of course, you could stick your historical or romantic suspense in those categories, but you risk judges marking your entry as "wrong genre" because it's not in the inspy category.
What to do, what to do?
Simple solution: Include word count and target publisher on each entry. Until all contests adopt this policy, then consider including this information in your entry's header.
What other characteristic does the ideal scoresheet have?
It keeps point definitions very basic. Something that's done excellent maynot mean it's publishable. It may merely mean "ready for an editor" or just "great job." Scoring:
Or go to opposite extreme and make definitions very specific. I'm goodwith this.
1=you absolutely suck at writing; consider raising genetically enhanced
hamsters, turtles, and chicks and calling them "The Wonder Pets"
2=serious revisions needed
3=good but didn't impress me; get a critique group or dump yours and finda new one...or at least start listening to your crit group more
4=just a few tweaks or another layer needed
5=you are one ginormous fan-freakin-tastic writer; I want to read more
And every scoresheet should EMPHASIZE that a 0 and a N/A are not
acceptable scores. One of the worst things about entering a contest (besides getting a
stinkin' ONE) is getting scores with no comments. The HOW scoresheet asks
judges to... "Please circle the items that need improvement in each of the following
categories. These items are provided as a REMINDER of what to considerwhen judging and are NOT intended that the manuscript be judged solely byevery desciption after the story element."
_____ OPENING SCENE :: Starts in correct place, interesting hook thatdraws you into the story , good introduction of character(s) and plot
_____ HEROINE –Identifiable by speech patterns, mannerisms, thoughts; hasflaws and strengths; interesting/compelling; good physical description; sympathetic; likeable; not cliched; worthy of hero; has believable emotions and motivations; proactive with external story goal, not merely reacting to events. If not yet introduced, do you feel the exclusion detracted from the beginning of the story? (If not introduced and exclusion isn't distracting, do not deduct points.) _____ HERO - Identifiable by speech patterns, mannerisms, thoughts; hasflaws and strengths; interesting/compelling; good physical description; sympathetic; likeable or at least redeemable; not cliched; worthy of heroine; has believable emotions and motivations; proactive with external story goal, not merely reacting to events. If not yet introduced, do you feel the exclusion detracted from the beginning of the story? (If not introduced and exclusion isn’t distracting, do not deduct points.)
_____ SECONDARY CHARACTERS :: Contribute to the story without distracting from it; good physical description; likeable or understandably dislikeable; not cliched; have believable emotions and motivations. If not yet introduced, do you feel the exclusion detracted from the beginning ofthe story? (If none are introduced and exclusion isn’t distracting, do not deduct point.)
_____ SETTING :: When and where the story takes place is known; description enhances story and sets mood; does not stop the forward pace to convey information; reader can see and feel setting; characters react to their surroundings.
_____ DIALOGUE :: Natural, believable; well balanced with narrative, reveals character, provides necessary information, shows action, moves the plot forward, foreshadows coming events or allows a character to reflecton past events; natural for setting; well balanced with narrative. Character voices are consistent with their personalities and appropriate to their gender. Tags enhance the dialogue and are relatively invisible.
_____ NARRATIVE :: Well balanced with dialogue; introspection not overly heavy or overly light; interesting; necessary; progresses the story without stopping the pace to convey information; flashbacks, if any, areappropriate; backstory woven in naturally; pace appropriate for genre ortargeted line; scene transitions, if any, are smooth, appropriate,necessary.
_____ CONFLICT :: External conflict exists to prevent h/h from reaching story goal; reasonable amount of inner conflict hinted at without raisingtoo many unanswered questions; scenes build on existing conflict; conflict--physical and emotional--creates tension between characters; conflict appropriate for genre or targeted line. Sexual tensionappropriate for genre and/or target line.
_____ VIEWPOINT :: Point of view doesn’t bounce between characters excessively or inappropriately; changes are well-done and relevant; narrative sounds appropriate to POV character; POV is immediately identifiable with POV or scene change; appropriate for genre and/or targetline.
_____ STYLE :: Keeps reader in fictional dream; story presentation was smooth and interesting; actions and emotions “shown, not told,” senses were well used; research accurate, non-intrusive, interesting; strongaction verbs and concrete nouns used; sentence structure and rhythmenhances story, not distracting; avoids cliches.
_____ MECHANICS :: Generally accepted spelling, grammar, punctuation usage; fragments, if used, enhance narrative. (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.)
_____ INSPIRATIONAL ELEMENT :: Grows naturally out of character or plot; spiritual struggles hinted at in hero/heroine and are appropriate amount for entry pages; not preachy or distracting; characters behave appropriateto their spiritual state.
_____ SUBTOTAL POINTS (highest possible 120 points) *
____ OVERALL APPEAL –Would you want to finish this book if it werepublished, and would yourecommend it to a friend? (Score 0 through 5)
_______ TOTAL SCORE (highest possible 125 points) Finally, the scoresheet 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 or Unpubbed Contest Finalist
_____ Published Fiction, Novel Length
_____ RWA PRO
_____ Published, Articles
_____ Golden Heart Finalist
_____ RITA Finalist
_____ Published, Other
_____ Freelance Editor