The other day I was talking to a friend who received the results from a contest she had entered. Much to her surprise, the manuscript that had been named a finalist in one contest, scored near the bottom in another. How could this be?
I've thought about this a lot in the last few days and I think I have come up with a couple of reasons. Sometimes it is a matter of where you enter the contest. Several of the comments she received reflected the judge's unfamiliarity with occurences that were routine in the area where the story was written but a rarity in other locations. Finally, all judges bring their personal tastes to the table.
As the first phase of the Linda Howard Award of Excellence comes to a close, I would caution each entrant to review their comments with these two things in mind but also look further than your initial gut reaction. I now have two reads on the comments from the first contest that I entered. Immediately after reading the comments from my disappointing results I vowed to never return to a Southern Magic meeting--let alone enter another contest. Now, a year later, I've gone back to my critiques. I still take exception to the personal bias comments but I find that I must grudgingly admit that the comments about too much back story, and not enough dialogue in the opening were dead on accurate.
Don't let one contest's results stop you from entering another. Read the comments you receive, then put the critique away for a couple of weeks. When you read them later, look past the things that make your blood pressure raise and honestly look at your writing. I have, and now I think that it's time for me to enter another contest.