Friday, September 14, 2012

Diva Judges

One of the ways a new writer gets anonymous feedback is through writing contests. Some contests are better than others, some judges better than others. For the most part, everyone running and judging these contests want to give the writers a productive experience and helpful feedback.

Unfortunately, every once in a while, the writer gets a diva judge. If you've been in a contest, you know the type. I'm-the-queen-of-the-universe-and-I-know-all-the-writing-rules-and-wrath-to-the-plebe-that-questions-me!

I've talked about some of the judges I had in the past. The lady who lectured me that constables do not exist in the U.S. The three judges in the same contest who told me I needed to do my legal research while I was still a practicing attorney in the field I referred to in the manuscript.

And those are mild compared to a friend who was told by a judge that she sucked and that she needed to give up writing and find another hobby. (And believe me, I wish I was paraphrasing.) Ironically that very same manuscript finaled in several other contests and had a zillion partial and full requests from agents and editors.

In the most recent contest I judged, I gave an entrant a very low score on one section of the judging criteria. The writer was accomplished on all the other criteria,  and I'd given her high scores. But this one thing was not working for the story she seemed to be telling.

Then later that night, I lay in bed, wide awake, thinking about that score. Had I become a diva judge? Was I letting my ego get in the way?

The next morning I looked over the entry again. Nope, I still felt the same way about that one criteria. I sent the score sheet back to the contest coordinator with a note about my concerns and asking whether another judge needs to look at this particular manuscript. The coordinator e-mailed back saying I was nicer about the problem than she would have been and that she was letting the score stand as it was.

I found out some time later that I'd given this poor writer her highest overall score.

When I told DH the tale later that night, he said the time I need to worry about being a diva judge was when I didn't question myself about giving someone a low score.

How about y'all? Any judging experiences or contest experience you've learned from? Hated? Loved?


  1. Oh no, you were her highest score?

    Poor writer. Well, here's hoping she gets better at it.

    Cheers and boogie boogie.

  2. I have no doubt she will, Ivy. In my opinion, it was just one little thing she really needed to work on.

  3. No comment. :P

    Or, one comment -- I wish the one competition I've judged a couple of times, and also entered a couple of times, allowed judges to include comments for the entrant. I'd have loved to have gotten comments, and I'd have KILLED to be able to give comments when I was judging, especially a few times when someone seemed to me to be like your entrant above, where they had it together in most areas but had one or two issues that IMO should've been easily fixable and would've resulted in a much better book. We weren't allowed, though.