Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Contest Judging

Man, talk about heavy-duty responsibility. I mean, people pay hard-earned bucks to enter contests, and they (rightly) expect insightful, constructive feedback…not to mention scores high enough to push them to the next round where their labor of love gets an audience with royalty, er, an editor or agent.

That’s why I strongly encourage anyone ENTERING contests to spend some time JUDGING them. Number one, you gain a sense of how good (or bad, but mostly good) the competition is, and how hard it is to stand out from the pack. Number two, you see how subjective the ratings game is. That’s why I AGONIZE over giving someone’s voice a 4 or a 5 because one measly point may stand in the way of her reaching the next rung. And when a writer’s “fate” hangs in the balance, dammit, you’d better think long and hard before making that decision!

Personally, I prefer judging contests that require the inclusion of a synopsis (although I hate entering them, ‘cuz mine always suck). I wanna know the author hasn’t blown her creative wad (so to speak) on the opening three chapters. Sadly, lots of writers enter contests without having finished the book, and guess what? Writing the first three chapters is probably the easiest writing any of us do. (Does?) I need to know there’s some THERE there…that the contest entry supports a fully fleshed out plot, theme and HEA (happily-ever-after). Trust me. Sometimes they don’t.

One caution: don’t go overboard. Too many fingers in the judging pot rob you of your own writing time. The contest I’m involved with right now has already cost me about six hours, and I’ve got another waiting in the wings and a third on its way.

It’s one thing to be a contest slut (definition: a writer who enters way too many contests); it’s another to be a judging slut. Let’s just say the rate of return diminishes more quickly with the latter.

Besides, being any kind of slut probably isn’t a good thing. Unless you’re Paris Hilton, of course. Then you can make a career out of it.



(Trap was sprung, but empty. Currently revising estimated size, and updating species (species?) from mouse to rat)

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