Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Contest Judging - Even Bad Critiques Can Be Put To Good Use!

Not long ago I received word that my entry was a finalist in a contest that will remain anonymous for the purpose of this post. The entry rules were to submit only 25 pages with no pitch or synopsis. My piece made it to the final round. They gave the finalists a week to incorporate the judge's suggestions, which will be judged by an impressive list of editors and agents.

Anyway, I received two critiques - the first judge said s/he wouldn't change a thing - s/he absolutely loved my submission...I got 156 points out of a total of 165 - Wow, I thought...until I looked at the second judge's remarks. First, s/he said that she would not read beyond the first page, then s/he made a comment that s/he couldn't tell the story was a romance, and proceeded to say that s/he would take out the sub-plot which is the reason the protagonist and hero meet. I just stared at her comments for about ten minutes.

Then, taking a deep breath, I reread the critique. I realized that my pages were not understood by that judge, nor would that person ever find enjoyment in my writing. Actually, some of his/her comments seemed just plain stupid to me, and the only high marks I received were on my mechanics.

So, I forced myself to look at every comment seriously and pulled out anything that I thought had merit, and I actually was able to make some improvements.

The moral of the story? Firstly, not everyone is going to like your work - EVER. Secondly, even if you get a critique where the judge clearly has no idea what you're trying to do with the story, it's still worth reviewing the comments. Even bad critiques will have something that you can pull out to make your story better.

Happy writing!

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