Monday, August 14, 2006

Judge not, lest you be judged

This year I entered my first chapter contest. There are thousands of aspiring romance writers. Like many of those women (and an occasional man) dreaming of seeing their words in print I'm a member of RWA, so I know many chapters hold contests.

The contest prizes are mainly symbolic. The real prize of getting your story in front of editor or agent, seemed like an unnecessary step. Why not just submit your story directly? Stories of the tottering slush piles and a few form rejections have convinced me I need all the help I can get.

Contests offer a whole cafeteria of writing advice. Most of them offer specific feedback.

Then I got an email requesting help judging. I thought about that for all of five minutes. Giving a thoughtful opinion on another writer's work is a great learning opportunity. Judging allows for this classroom experience with a short term commitment. I said yes.

Second thoughts, trickled in almost immediately. Who am I to judge another's work? Yes, I've been writing for a few years, and reading for many more, but does that make me expert enough to judge? All I can do is try to be constructive and objective. I take comfort in the training materials and the safety of numbers. Every entry in this contest is judged by three judges. The entrant has three sets of score sheets to study. If I'm the only judge who was bothered by an element or enthusiastic about a bit of prose, then I hope the brave contestants give that less weight and lean heavily on the areas that drew a consensus from the judges.

I'll keep you posted on this adventure.


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