One of the reasons I love talking to Nancy (current friend, former critique partner) is the myriad topics we can cover in a long lunch.
One of the things we did discuss was constructive criticism. We've both had experiences with folks who . . . Well, let's just say they didn't follow the Golden Rule.
Since I'm entering judging season (there are two contests I volunteer for every year around this time), I'm going to list my Golden Rules of Judging Writing Contests.
1) Treat the contest entrant with respect at all times.
2) Don't judge a genre you are unfamiliar with or your refuse to read recreationally. You're not doing the entrant any favors.
3) Find something the writer has done really well and praise it.
4) If the manuscript is not close to professional readiness, limit criticisms to the three major things that need improvement.
5) If the entrant seems to have used a word or concept improperly, LOOK IT UP before making a comment. You may be wrong.
6) Don't count off for the one typo found in the manuscript.
7) Flag that one typo and suggest the entrant fixes it before she starts submitting to agents or editors.
8) Never, EVER, make personal comments about the entrant. Only focus on the writing.
9) Suggest, don't command.
10) Give the entrant feedback on what affected you as a reader. That's part of why the entrant shelled out her hard-earned cash to enter the contest.
To all writers I'm about to judge, I salute you.
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