For the last month, I have been judging contest entries for my local RWA chapter. Three times a year, I judge in contests. Soon, I'll be judging the Golden Heart contest, which will be coming up soon. It's the most prestigious contest for unpublished writers along with the Rita's contest for published authors. Both are contests offered by RWA, Romance Writer's of America, an organization with over ten thousand members world wide.
Judging is a job that takes time and patience if you are going to do it right. I'm only going to tell you about my local chapter contest (MARA), although, I'm also a member of the Wisconsin chapter. Contest entries send in a manuscript with a synopsis of no more than thirty-five pages. The contest coordinator sends the entries along with a score sheet to our members. I received nine this year because we had 97 entries and all of mine were sent through email to the contest coordinator, so I read mine on the computer.
While reading the manuscript, I make comments directly in the content of the manuscript using blue font, and I also mark words in yellow if they are overused. Another thing I start marking my score sheet for the different things, I'm looking for, such as beginning hook, pacing, characterization, emotion, dialogue, narrative, action, and how they pertain to the characters and story.
Every item on the score sheet may receive a score of one to five (1-5) with a possible total point score of 250, which I didn't give this year. There were a couple who came close, and they may very well be finalists in our contest. I hope so anyway. When I judge entries I'm routing for them all the way, and I am so sad when they can't make it.
After reading, commenting and scoring our entries, we write a one to two page critique for the author. In this instance, I pick the biggest problems (two or three at most) to write about. I like to give examples how to correct these trouble areas if I feel this will help the entrant understand what I'm telling them. The reason I do this is because reading the terminology is not always enough for beginning writers.
Most of all, we encourage these budding authors to continue writing and learning their craft. It takes time to learn even the basics. Even published authors continue learning more of their craft.
To all those authors out there who aren't published yet I have three words to say to you: Don't Give Up.
Until next Sunday, have a great week.
http://www.eirelander-publishing.com; http://www.skaymarshall.com; http://www.myspace.com/s_zinn_marshall