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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Volunteering to Judge a Contest

This is a last minute post today. Sort of. I had another I originally would share but I just finished reviewing the last of five story entries for a contest. Whew! Never done that before and I decided to scrap the first post and talk about my experience.Don’t know if anyone here today reading this has ever judgedanythinglet me see a show of hands. Don’t be shy, c’mon, raise them high. 

Well, let me tell you, there is a lot of responsibility, even if you do it anonymously. I was in their position once. New, and not sure if I'd make one sale or honestly, if someone liked my writing style and stories. I guess there will always be someone who doesn't, but if I'm being judged that can be nerve-wracking so I took on this task keeping that in mind even if the person wouldn't know I graded their "babies". You want to be fair, but if it isn't perfect, don't you have to judge it as such? Critical, but nice about it. I'm of the belief that you can't learn from your mistakes if no one tells you. I'd want someone to tell me and actually every time I get my first line edits back, I always cringe and wonder--Ohmigod how many plot mistakes did I make? Did I have my hero and heroine moving body parts defying the laws of physics. Or, how many typos did I miss? Since my first book, I've learned so, so much and took all the criticisms from reviewers, editors and readers a true learning experience. I approached the judging in the same fashion when I decided to accept the judging.

Keeping all the above in mind, when I was asked if I was interested, I enthusiastically jumped on the idea. I like to read and don’t always have the opportunity because I’m usually up to my eyeballs working on my own stories and promoting. I figured this would be a great opportunity to read new things, which by the way I did, and give me a break away from my own works. I write mainly, no really almost exclusively, paranormal and none of the five were so I was ecstatic. I dove head first into reading them and overall, I’m glad I did. Yes, it took time because each entry was over 200 pages and the last one just shy of 300 pages. I don’t know these authors, whether they are currently published, aspiring, or what, but I tackled each one with a respectful eye. Takes courage to put our “babies” out there for others to read and possibly pick apart, so I wanted to do this right and not be biased because I didn’t like the subject matter.

I didn’t Google the writers/authors to see if they were published and looked at each entry with a critical eye. I have to admit, the hardest part involved cutting my internal editor off. Yes, I made mental notes if the typos, misspelled words, persistent head-hopping, and weird sentences. I made note on those items on the grading at the end. The storyline was what I was interested in the most and I must say two out of the three were winners in my opinion, one of which was just a bit better. Two others were okay and with some tweaking/polishing had potential and the last one was just really not good even with fixing the multitude of problems.

For my first time judging, I found the experience a very good one. My comments and scoring on all were fair, I think. But, as I’m familiar with the reviews I’ve received on my books, some like, some don’t and I guess the same happens when judging. Certainly gives a different perspective when writing my own pieces now. Kind of gives you thought. It’s not easy to read something and grade it. If I had to read these entries to give a review, the one I didn’t like I probably would have politely declined to rate. Unfortunately, not all reviewers (not the drive-by reader types on the top retailers or social networks, and you guys know what I’m talking about) take that approach.
Would I do it again? Yes, if asked. I took the task on as a learning experience, plus reading different genres was fun. Don’t think I’d write in them because I like my vampires, but they were an adventure worth exploring.

Now, with this break over, I’m ready to get back to writing my next dark vampire story and do some more promo for my new release. Look for it coming soon to your nearest etailer. And if you read it, be honest I can take the criticism because I want to learn to be better.

Signing off for another month,
 Cynthia Arsuaga
Erotic Romance Author

P.S. Everyone in the States, have a nice Labor Day!!!

 Image credit: <a href=''>gnicolson / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


Tina Donahue said...

I've judged for the RITAs several times, making certain to choose genres I do NOT write in so I have a fresh and critical eye. I'm amazed at the talent out there. I can safely say 95% of the entries were fabulous. The other 5% might not have appealed to me, but I was still impressed by the stellar craft in what I read.

Sandy said...

Cynthia, I've judged in many contests. Sometimes the manuscript with the most problems holds my attention the best. This means the author has the most to learn, but has the most potential.

Cynthia Arsuaga said...

Thanks ladies. There is so much talent out there, I'm humbled sometimes that I even got published and wonder how others continue to struggle to get their first one.

jean hart stewart said...

I'm judging now, ten books this time. I've done four and none of them were fabulous. But all were passable. I'm hoping I'll hit a really superb one in the last six so I be really enthusiastic. And ten is too many. I'll never take that many again.

Sandy said...

Cynthia, I feel the same way about getting published. There are writers out there who deserve to be published, but aren't. Many of them give up. It's a shame.

Cynthia Arsuaga said...

Wow Jean! 10? I thought I was pushing it at taking on 5. Bless you for taking on the challenge. Like I said with mine, 2 out of 5 were really great, 2 okay, 1 no way. The no way one is what I'm concerned with. I hate to squash someone's dream, but the writer needs to majorly fix the story as well as the message which I was turned off by. I hope they don't give up if they see the score I gave. :(

Sandy said...

Cynthia,they won't mind the score you give them if you explain their problems. I do everything I can to help those just starting and are terrible. I use examples and anything else I can think of when I judge contestants.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that the author's name is sent to the judges. Is this normal for all contests?


Cara Marsi said...

I judge the RITA every year and enjoy it. I've found some new favorite authors that way. I judge my chapter's contest for unpublished manuscripts every year. I've judged some wonderful manuscripts and seen those authors go on to publish. But I've judged some that were so bad, they were torture to get through. It's a challenge to give good feedback that is useful on a manuscript that doesn't have many redeeming qualities. I want to be honest yet encouraging. Judges don't do the authors any favors if they don't give honest, constructive feedback.

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