Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My contest experience

At a workshop I attended last month, it was suggested that all writers should judge contests because seeing other writer's mistakes can help you avoid them.

"Oh," I thought, "that's not a bad idea."

The very next day a call for judges came across one of the loops I'm on, so I signed up and shortly received a handful of entries and a two paragraph instruction guide on how to judge them. No problem, right?

I started reading through the pages, some of the stories were great (and one I expect to see in print soon) some, not so great. I added my comments in yellow, trying to be nice but helpful, but then I finished and I had to assign a score.

Oh no. Now this was a problem.

I have no trouble being blunt and telling someone that their list of emotions is telling, not showing, but giving them a number on it--that's beyond me.

I've been struggling with the whole number thing all month. When 5 means ready to publish and 1 means major revisions suggested, what should I award this head-hopping entry for the 'POV handled appropriately' section? *sigh*

The entries are due back soon, and I'm happy to say, I think I judged very fairly and thoughtfully. But, as helpful as seeing other's mistakes and successes may be, I doubt I'll volunteer to judge again anytime soon. I think judging touches the same defunct part of my psyche that made me drop out of the fencing club.
(Some longtime readers may recall the story about when I joined the fencing club in college. I'd always thought fencing was really cool, and I enjoyed the first few weeks of practice. Then they decided we were ready to pair up and begin sparring, and I quickly learned that not only did I NOT want to hit my opponent, but it hurt my feelings when they hit me. So, that was the end of my fencing experience.)

Do you have a contest experience, either as a judge or an entrant? Does anyone else have difficulties relating numbers to writing?

Computer Update: My laptop is still in the far off land of 'fix-it' (at least I hope it's there and not the closet of 'get-to-it-later') but despite it's absence, I'm getting things done.

1 comment:

Rachel Vincent said...

I actually HAVE had this experience. I hate having to tell someone his or her writing isn't quite "there" yet. That's why I hope never to need another CP. The process of finding one gives me that same sick-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach feeling that contest judging does.