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Friday, September 14, 2012

Here Comes the Judge

I'm judging the first round of the GUTGAA pitchfest next week and I'm nervous. I'm not the only judge, there are lots of other talented writers judging with me, and it's only the first round, so the next round is judged by actual licensed literary agents* but still, I'm nervous.

I think it's because I am painfully aware of how subjective this writing thing is. Who hasn't rushed out to the bookstore to buy a hot new book, a pocket full of friend and family recommendations and a glowing review in a big paper, only to get the wretched thing home and say, "REALLY?" I've got a short stack of these books at home that I need to gift to my library. Popular, handsome books that I should have loved, all the indications were there. But I just didn't.

Judging a contest (hell, judging your sister's boyfriends for that matter) is a fraught business. I keep thinking 'who am I to judge?' Of course, that never stopped me from judging my sister's boyfriends, or her haircuts or her choice in nail polish, and that is the point I'm slowly creeping up to. We do judge, every second of every day. We have discernment, whether consciously or not. We decide in favor of some things and not others. We judge. The key to judging fairly, I think, is to keep the personal (as much as possible) out of things.

So here's my game plan for next week's judging.
1) Read everything with an open mind, even if it's not my cup of tea. ESPECIALLY if it's not my cup of tea. I bet I'd like lots of different cups of tea if I let myself. Rooibos. Oolong. I digress.

2)Take note of dings. Dings are stops along the reading - when something sounds either off, or confusing, or just takes me out of the reading. When I read anything I want there to be as few dings as possible. Flow and Clarity be your watchwords.

3)What speaks to me? What pitch is something that makes me curious to hear more? What pitch is unexpected, not something I've read before? What pitch has legs? And by that I mean that you want to hear more, you can't imagine how it's going to turn out, but you can't wait to find out. What pitch makes me go AH!

4)The HOOK. Is it there, in the first 150? It should be. I've been there, in the bookstore, a fish swimming in the water waiting to be caught and no hook has found me as I scan the first two pages.

5) Finally, I think I'd look at the quality of writing in the first 150. Is there a consistent, compelling VOICE? Is the writing polished and clear? I'm a big fan of clarity because it's something I struggle with in my own writing (I always want to get fancypants when I don't have to.)

That's the plan. What do you think? Anything else I should be looking at? Whether with crit partners, your own writing or other arts - How do YOU judge?

*WHAT? THEY DON'T HAVE LICENSES? OUTRAGEOUS!

13 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good plan! Don't worry, you'll do great :)

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    1. thanks shiela - it's lots of fun, I just feel like everyone's dream deserves a chance, you know? I want to be as fair as possible!

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  2. Sounds like a good philosophy, I don't think you could come up with a better one. :) Good luck!

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  3. Have fun with the judging. I critiqued some pitches/first 150 words, and there's a lot of good stuff out there. (I didn't pitch anything this year.)

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    1. So far I've read some things that I thought were so well written and such good premises that they could have come right off a shelf at Barnes & Noble. That's really thrilling!

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  4. You sure are going to have your work cut out for you. And even if your critiques are subjective, so are the agent we submit to. That's just the way the business goes unfortunately.

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    Replies
    1. So true. I guess we just have to do the best we can and hope that the ones we love find a good agent home!

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  5. I wasn't nervous until I read your post. Ha! What's helping me is the fact that I'm not the only judge. I wish it worked this way in the real world. Give my work to 20 people and let the majority decide. I'm looking forward to this. ^_^

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    Replies
    1. Angelina, you are a total pro - YOU have nothing to worry about!

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  6. Good luck to you! ;) At least we're all in the same boat!

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  7. It sounds like you've nailed it pretty well.

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  8. As one of the vic- ... writers who submitted, you're not stomping anyone's hopes and dreams. Every vote you give is a chance to make someone rejoice.

    Because I am a little OCD, I spent an hour or so tallying up the votes in my category, curious as to how the votes spread.

    Out of 43 entries, only TWO received votes from all 4 judges. Two more got three, and then there were nine that received 2, and five that received one. That meant all the criteria were subjective, and you had more good choices than votes.

    All told, almost half of the writers who submitted received some validation for their work,encouragement and those who didn't receive votes all received advice or critiques.

    There is no downside here!

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  9. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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