Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Let Me Be The Judge Of That

As many of you know, we are in the middle of judging the entries for the Linda Howard Award of Excellence Contest. Like the marines, we are still looking for a few good men--oops, I should say, men or women--to judge the remaining entries.

For me, the experience of judging entries, has been both educational and illuminating.

When judging an entry I can easily look at the manuscript and see the strengths and weakness of the author's work. Why can't I see the same deficiencies in my own creations? I suspect that I am too close to the material. Errors in plot, change of point of view and providing too much telling instead of showing, might just as well be highlighted in neon in another author's manuscript. I am blind to similar mistakes of my own.

Recently, I came close to placing in the finals in a writing contest. I attribute that to more experience, patient critique partners and my experience as a judge of the Linda Howard Award of Excellence Contest. Following a checklist and dissecting a manuscript written by someone else has helped me to be able to look at my own writing more objectively.

If you are a Pro or Pan writer, and you haven't already volunteered to be a judge this year, give some thought to doing so now. Trust me, you will get more out of it than you give. Contact Carla Swafford at for more details.

For those of you who have judged a contest, what was the best or most surprising thing you got out of doing it?


Gwen Hernandez said...

Diane: I'm working through the entries now, and I agree that looking critically at others' work can give you a better eye for your own.

The hardest part for me when looking at my own work is that I know the back story, I know the emotions in their head, so if it's not in the MS, I don't always notice.

Christine said...

I am waiting for two more entries to get zipped to me so I can judge them. Meanwhile, I agree. It's so much easier to see other people's writing pimples than our own. Judging and critiquing other writers' work is essential to our own growth in the craft.

Now, back to my lowly WIP--onward ho!

Callie James said...

I've judged for several years and can tell you my judging style has improved tenfold. I'm much better at spotting what specifically is right or wrong with a manuscript. For instance, I can love an entry but get frustrated by the time I finish reading. Why? The writing is beautiful, the dialogue lively, but dang it if the heroine doesn't have a complete lack of motivation. In my early judging years, I might have scored down considerably because that one aspect made the entire entry feel wrong. Now though, I can spot that and mark down accordingly (in reality, that's only 1 or 2 points). So even though it's a huge problem, the entrant can still do very well.

I don't think I'm objective with my own work unless I step away from it for a month or two. It's amazing what you catch after a few months on another project.

M.V.Freeman said...

I actually, don't have experience in this area..I am hoping next year.

I move slower than pondwater...

Carla Swafford said...

Thanks for the plug, Diane. We're almost there!!!