I've been putting off writing contest thank-yous, but I have to do it today. I received my scores back (three sets) from a published book contest. One I didn't final in. Two sets of scores were pretty standard - easy to write a thank-you. The final set was a bit interesting. See, this is Broken Lullaby, career novel number 15, and actually it's doing pretty well in the contest circuit. But, judge number three didn't really like it. That's okay. I don't like every book I read either. However, judge number three told me why she didn't like it (I do respect that by the way). If she'd (or maybe he'd) stopped there, the thank you would be easy. But he/she didn't. Instead they told me what they'd have done instead and how they'd have done it. Finishing with a "Do you see what I mean?"
I confess, having someone tell me how they would have written certain parts of a published book flummoxed me. It made me think about contest judges. Here are some of the thoughts that meandered through my little brain after I read her suggestions:
1. If I knew these comments were made by Nora Roberts, I'd frame them and put them on the wall next to my computer and look at them every day. Nora knows what she's talking about.
2. If I knew these comments were made by a peer (someone on the same rung of the publishing ladder as me), I'd frame them, put them on the wall across the room and try to think about the suggestions every time I started a new book.
3. If I knew these comments were from a reader, I'd know you can't please every reader.
4. If I knew these comments were from a pre-published writer... Well, this is the scenario I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around. As an author, I don't know how to analyze these comments if they come from a pre-pub. What I do know is... the longer I write, the harder I am to please. I used to like 90% of the books I read. Now it's closer to 40%. Have books changed? No, if anything, they've gotten better - especially in the inspirational world. Have I changed? Yes.
Perhaps I got that prepubbed author who is going through the change! LOL
First, I like this contest, will enter it again, and I'm not bothered by her comments because WOW, she put time into her comments. I'm also impressed that a pubbed contest would send back comments. Most just send back numbers.
Second, I almost stopped judging contests two years ago because I felt bad when I marked somebody down (Hey, I'm an English professor by day - I'm paid to use my little red pen!).
By the way, my novel Fugitive Family hit the shelves just two days ago. Why don't you buy it, read it, and see what you think. I don't care if you're Nora, a peer, a reader, or a pre-pubbed. I just care that you care enough to read it.