How To Be a Good Judge
~ By Mary E. Thompson
The 2018 Stiletto Contest is winding down, but we need your help now more than ever! We have a huge task of assigning all the entries to judges for the contest. With five judges per entry, we need lots and lots of judges. Will you help us?
It’s not easy to tell someone you don’t like their work. As an author yourself, you pour yourself into every word that goes on the page. It’s hard to look at someone else’s work and say it’s just not good enough. But if you sugar coat it, it’ll hurt that much more when a reader leaves a bad review. Be honest so they can fix it.
No, we’re not in school anymore, but being kind doesn’t change no matter how old we are. Just like you should be honest, be kind in your criticism. Be objective and constructive instead of subjective and cruel. Maybe you don’t like the heroine. You find her whiny and obnoxious and completely unlikable. Take a step back and examine what it is about her that you don’t like. Is it that you have no tolerance for people like her, or is it that she reminds you a little of someone that you never liked? Find a way to tell the author that the heroine lacks certain qualities without saying she’s the worst character you’ve ever read. Let’s be honest, no one wants to read that about their character.
One of the big draws to the Stiletto Contest is getting feedback from judges. That’s you! When you’re offering up a comment, either good or bad, point out specifics where possible to help the author understand where you’re coming from. The book isfresh in your mind, but for the author, it could be something that was written over a year ago. Every little detail of the character isn’t fresh in her mind, so give her some specifics.
If the heroine is that unlikable woman I mentioned earlier, instead of saying you hated her, try saying the heroine lacked compassion when she was saw a little girl who was lost. Or maybe the heroine lashed out at the hero for an offhanded comment he made. Or she ignored a coworker who needed her help. There was something about her that made you not like her. Tell the author what that was.
If you’re really feeling generous, and we encourage you to do so, you can offer suggestions. She can stop and help the girl. She can explain why she was so mad at the hero. She can say the coworker made her cry the week before and she wasn’t over it. Try to give the author an option to improve upon the point you made.
The Stiletto Contest is a small contest. There’s only six categories, which means we don’t allow judges to opt out of categories. If you’re assigned something you’re not used to reading, don’t dismiss it immediately. There are so many great stories out there, and you never know if you’ll find a new favorite when you give something else a chance.
Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She reenergizes every year with a trip to Nationals, and every month at her local chapter meeting. When Mary isn’t writing, she cheers on her daughter at gymnastics and her son at every other sport. Mary is lucky to have her own romance novel worthy husband to tag-team if things get too crazy. Visit her website to learn more.