Friday, 28 September 2012

Everyone Judges The Judge

Eek! The time has come.

Three months ago I agreed to adjudicate in the Nottingham Writers' Club summer prose competition. I have now received the manuscripts and I have a few weeks to come up with a winner, a second and a third. Not only that, I have to publicly justify my decision for choosing the top three places and write critiques for every single entry.

This will not be news to those of you who have done this sort of thing before but this is a first time for me and I'm a bit apprehensive. I'm only just starting to get accustomed to people asking my opinion on writing-related topics. “You what? You want me to read the first three chapters of your novel and tell you if I think it's any good? How would I know? I can't even get Woman's Weekly to accept any of my stuff.”

It occurred to me that, while sportingly applauding the winners and commiserating with the also-rans, anyone else reading my fellow club members' efforts will be at liberty to question my decisions. I now know what it must be like for a football referee. A player may make several mistakes during a game – miss a few passes, commit a few fouls. But if the ref makes an error of judgement it's the talk of the terraces. Likewise the X-Factor panel. If their choices don't line up with the general public's opinion then they are lambasted in the press.

Anyway. Can't sit here blogging all day. Somewhere there's a block waiting for my neck to be placed on it.


  1. eeek. It's like being a sound engineer too. Band plays well equals great band. One squeal of feedback equals bad engineer. Good luck with it all. Helen

  2. Hi-ya. It was great hearing from you again on my blog today.

    You sure have your work cut out for you. Reading the entries and forming an opinion as to 1-2-3 wouldn't be so bad, but you have to give your reasons for those choices, and critique ALL of the entries, too? OY! I sure hope there aren't too many of them. Good luck. You're right about judges being judged. And sometimes, teachers being taught. But alas, very few mother mothers.

  3. Sadly, not many entries, Susan. I was hoping for a few more. The standard is pretty good though.

  4. I have been in your shoes a few times, and will be again shortly. I tend to read through all the entries at least three times, and usually on the second read, one or two will jump out at me. If asked to take the list to three winners, I'll start eliminating stories on the second read, usually it'll come down to grammar, and presentation on the final few.

    As for offering a critique, trust me, keep it simple. One or two sentences maximum. In the end its the judges decision, and entrants have to understand how it is...

    I always think when I enter a competition, its very much the personal choice of the judge and things like subject matter do sway folk. I write a lot of urban fantasy, and a lot of people hate it! Therefore I rarely ever enter anything in the genre into a competition myself.

    Good luck with your adventure into judging a writing competition. I am sure you will learn much from it!

  5. Thanks for the advice, Maria. I really do appreciate the time you have taken in sending your comment. I had intended to write quite long critiques because I want to encourage the entrants to enter more competitions. However, I'll bow to your greater experience and try to condense my comments into fewer words. I am indeed learning a lot from the experience.

  6. Judging is never easy. I'm certain you'll find the experience interesting. I'm looking forward to hearing who won when the results are finally announced.

    There's a new blog award waiting for you, if you should decide to accept it- cake is involved...