I think the biggest pet peeve when I submit to a contest is the fact that I wonder just how qualified these judges are? How long have they been writing and what not? Most of them as you know are pro status. But all that truly means is they’ve been rejected a time or two, and survived. So with that said, I hesitated to become a contest judge because I thought to myself just how qualified am I? I mean my grammar isn’t the best but I know my strengths and weakness in my own writing. I know I’m pretty good with action scenes but I fall apart on love scenes. I know what show versus tell means, I know active writing versus passive writing and I know how to build a plot from the ground up. So what does that really mean?
As I’ve contemplated this for the last week or so, more and more contests are requesting judges. And I just simply haven’t held my hand up quite yet, not because I don’t want to volunteer to help my fellow writers but because I wonder what if I tell someone the wrong advice.
It would devastate me to know that I’ve done something or said something to hurt someone’s career in some way. The beauty of my crit group made up of these wonderful ladies here is that we’re all about building confidence — it was the very reason I joined. I’ve known all too often the devastating effects of the wrong word or phrase or even the tone of a critique. Listen, I know you need a tough skin to play this game and after fifteen years of playing, my skin is pretty thick. Trust me. But at the same time, I also believe you don’t have to be snide or rude to be helpful.
When it comes down to a critique that has shown me what I’ve done wrong and at the same time says you know it’s okay to make mistakes — we all do. Or a critique that tells me I’m a f***ing idiot for ever thinking this would work. Do I need to tell you what choice I’ll make. I’ve only gotten one crit like the second and to be honest the lady who gave it had better be glad we had several hundred miles between us and that is all I’ll say to that.
So now that I am considering giving feedback on another’s work, other than our little group, I have worried will I make the right decisions. Will I say the right thing? Will I be encouraging as well as be able to tell the truth?
Perhaps most of you didn’t go through this and think I’m crazy for worrying so. So be it. I’m not one to mince words by any means but I’m not really a confrontational person either. I’ve been on the other side of the fence and I really don’t want to be “that” judge. You know the one I’m talking about. That crazy — do—it—by—the—book — judge because there is no other way to do it. Yeah...you know who you are. So while I am contemplating making this decision I’d like to ask what are some tips or tricks you can give to a writer about to embark on the judge train? How do you balance your criticism with your praise? And any other advice on contest judging you can give would be much appreciated.