Judging Writing Contests (and the Crit Winners!)


*Drum roll*  And the winners of the critiques are...at the bottom of this post.  :)

First, I wanted to talk about judging writing contests.  This year I decided to not only enter RWA's Golden Heart, but to volunteer as a preliminary judge.  The way it works is you are able to judge in any category except the one you entered in.  They send you six fifty-page partials and the accompanying synopses, which you are responsible for reading and judging.  

When I first started reading them, I realized how quickly I could tell if something was going to be good or not.   I know we've talked about agents making decisions quickly and how important that first line, page, chapter is, but this drove it home for me.


That first line and paragraph are like a little snapshot of what to expect in the book.  If it was overwritten and tell-y, the rest of the pages tended to be the same way.   If it was confusing, the story was often convoluted.  On the entries that had first pages that hooked me, the rest of the story was really good too.  So had I been an agent reading these, there are a few I would have put aside pretty darn fast.  (However, for the contest, you're required to read all of the pages, so I went ahead and did that.)

The other thing I discovered in this judging experience is that it's hard to give a score when you're not allowed to give feedback.  For most of the chapter level contests, you get detailed feedback from judges and a score sheet.  However, for the GH, you just assign one score (from 1-9) and give no feedback.  This is so difficult.
I know how much love has been poured into each of these manuscripts (not to mention the fifty bucks paid to enter the contest), so it pains me to assign a low score and not be able to help the writer out by telling them what I see that could be worked on.  However, I'm also not going to assign a higher than deserved score simply to be nice because that's not fair either.  I have to be honest in my opinion.  I just have to hope that if someone gets theirs back and all the judges assigned them less than stellar scores, they'll seek out beta reader feedback to try and figure out what went wrong.  Or, they have the option of going the these judges were idiots and failed to recognize my awesomneness route.  That can work, too.
Of course, I could be saying all this and then get back my own back with low scores, lol.  Hopefully not.
Alright, so now for the winners of the crit contest.  Congrats to....
List Randomizer
There were 43 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
  1. Julie Dao - WINNER!
  2. Aubrie - WINNER!
Woo-hoo for Julie and Aubrie!  Ladies, please email me your ten pages or query letter (your choice) for critique (click the little @ button under my picture on the right).  I look forward to reading your work!
So has anyone else out there judged a writing contest?  Have you participated in submitting to any?  Did you get feedback or just a score?  


**Today's Theme Song**
"In My Opinion" - The Kooks
(player in sidebar, take a listen)