The ACFW loop is buzzing with thoughts about the Genesis contest. Finalists were announced last week, and as score sheets are trickling back to the non-finaling entrants, writers are expressing their frustrations and disappointment in some of the comments they received from judges.
First, let me say, this post is not meant as a slam against the judges, but an encouragement to authors. Without going into too much detail, I want to relay my own situation, which is bittersweet in a way, as I am on both sides of the fence.
Yes, I am a finalist this year in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category. And I am SO thrilled and honored to be in my category's top five. I had about two days to revise my entry before sending it back for final-round judging, so I carefully explored the judges' comments and suggestions and made some changes that I think (and hope) made my entry even stronger. Although I didn't agree with everything the judges said, I took the ones I felt were right and implemented them. All in all, I was very happy with the comments I received.
But, I also entered two manuscripts in another category. My scores for ms #1 ranged from the high 80's to the 50's. While this stung a little, I was most disheartened by my scores ms #2. I received two scores in the 80's and then a 46. Ouch! This manuscript is the sequel to the one my agent is currently pitching, which made it even harder for me. I felt this particular judge did not quite understand my style of writing and probably doesn't generally read "chick/mom lit" type novels, in which genre mine definitely falls. Of course, I won't go into the comments this judge made, but they upset me - plain and simple. Especially since two of my strongest areas - voice and dialogue - were rated a 1 out of 5. Double ouch!
HOWEVER...and this is what I want to stress...we all have different likes and dislikes. We all have different opinions on what works and what doesn't. We all have our own way of judging what's right and wrong in the books we read. The point is, IT'S ALL SUBJECTIVE. That's the way it works and that's the way it will always work. Wanna know why? Because God didn't make us all the same. As I heard someone recently express, if we were all the same, there would only be one type of book published. And hello... that would get pretty boring.
I'll give you another example. Last year, I entered ms #1 in the Genesis and received two scores in the 90's and one lower score that put me out of the running for double-finalist. I entered that same ms in a different contest and finaled. This year, I probably didn't even come close to finaling with that ms in the Genesis. Disappointing? Yes. The end of the world? No. Does it mean I'll never get that ms published? Of course not.
We writers tend to take everything personally, and I'm no exception. I had my period of ranting and raving (just ask my husband and my crit partner!). I probably will never agree with that judge but if nothing else, it has prepared me for the comments and feedback I'm sure I'll get from editors one of these days. The simple truth is that some will love it and some will hate it.
So while it may be your first instinct to write that judge and rebut every one of those comments, please refrain. As so many have wisely advised, let the entry sit for a week or so, then go back to it when your emotions aren't quite so raw.
All that said, I recently read a comment from a fellow author that I totally agree with. She stated that we entrants shouldn't only write "politically correct" thank you's to the judges. That they were honest with us, so we should speak the truth of how we feel, too. She said judges need to develop tough skin, just as writers do, in order to become better judges. Of course, as Christians, we know we are to voice our thoughts in love, right? As a judge, myself, in the Genesis contest this year, I can say I welcome honest responses to the comments and scores I gave, if for no other reason than to possibly expand on why I scored a certain way. But I certainly wouldn't want to be lambasted or attacked.
One final note: A huge THANK YOU to those who took time out of their busy schedules to volunteer as a Genesis judge. I can say with almost 100% certainly that the judge's intent was not to criticize you or make you consider giving up writing altogether, but to help you the best way they know how. No matter what scores they handed out.
The main thing is to push through instead of wallowing in the disappointment. Spend some time whining, eat a few gallons of ice cream, take a few days "off" from writing, ask God why this happened (just be aware that you may not like his answer), then brush yourself off, open your laptop, and start typing.