This past week I have been judging a writing contest. So for those of you who are curious, this is how it works, I receive entries and then I score the entries based on the criteria established (categories and questions that I use as I read the excerpt) and then provide comments and notes within the pages as well. I take it very seriously and make a point of providing specific examples of items I comment on.
Why do I do this?
Because I want to ‘pay it forward’. I have entered all kinds of contests and have received advice that has helped me grow as a writer. So it is my turn to help.
Because I also know what it is like to receive ‘bad judging’. Now I don’t mean low scores. I have no problem with low scores as long as the judge explains WHY something does not work for them. For me, bad judging is giving scores with NO supporting comments. Or for example just stating ‘you have issues with POV’. That’s it? Well you probably don’t know what POV is do you? Neither does a new writer! POV stands for point of view and talks about the issue when writers jump around in their characters’ heads and the reader gets lost. But you don’t just stop with the definition either. Dive into those manuscript pages and make comments to show them WHAT YOU MEAN. Simple right?
In theory yes, but judging can also be difficult. You want to help without deflating someone. Remember, a writer’s work is our baby and you are telling me you don’t like my baby. That is hard to swallow.
So tonight as I wrap up my judging, I always try to imagine myself in their place. Constructive feedback…specific feedback. It is hard to show your baby to the world. I keep that in mind when I sit on the other side of the judge’s bench.