I just received the score sheets from my contest entry, and boy were they critical. Out of a score of 100, it received an average of 50.
What’s interesting is the average scoring for the previous contest was 84 for the first round and 88 for the final round.
For the same book.
What’s even more interesting about the results is how consistent the judges comments are in each contest.
Perhaps the difference lies in that the first contest (where my novel received the highest scores) the judges judged the first five pages, and for the second contest, the judges judged the first fifteen pages.
A few consistent comments:
1. A Christian worldview not evident (which I was aware of; I wondered if it may be more appropriate for a more mainstream audience. Now I know).
2. Who’s the main character? This I thought might be iffy, because there isn’t one main character. There’s three.
3. It starts out slow with too much narration, not enough action, while at the same time not enough world-building details. Sigh. As one who has little confidence in writing intriguing, and story-moving detail as it is, I feel like someone just told me to climb Mount Everest with my stubby legs and arthritic knees.
4. First line (hook) needs work. Ugh.
I just had a thought. While I like entering these kinds of contests, I wonder if the questions asked of the judges are a bit too constraining.
For instance, the questions emphasize the importance of the first line. A lot of readers (at least the one’s I’ve asked about it) don’t seem to care as long as the first few pages are intriguing. Then there are the questions about whether or not the main character (singular) is obvious at the start. At least in my novel, I have three, and I’ll state with some confidence that most books have at least two, especially those with romantic plots and subplots. Add to the mix the questions about an obvious “Christian worldview”. Some novels will always be more subtle in that area than others.
Those questions almost guarantee a lower score for books that don’t necessarily fit into that mold — such as lacking an attention-grabbing first line (but the subsequent writing is), has more than one main character, and the “message” is subtle (or becomes more evident later in the book).
I can’t help but wonder if my novel wasn’t the best fit for this particular contest. Something to think about anyway. I don’t regret it though, because the remaining comments and suggestions are worth considering, and may result in a better book in the end.
Nor do I fault the contest, or the judges. I fact, they have earned from me a greater respect for having to muddle through my entry. I will forever appreciate them taking the time to read it, and give me their honest assessments.
In the final analysis, it’s my fault for not studying my own novel more such as its genre, sub-genre and target audience, and comparing it to the overall purpose of the contest.
I just saw this quote, and think it’s rather appropriate:
“Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.” – Red Haircrow