As we begin Rant Week 2, I’m gonna get on the soapbox about contest score sheets. I just got the results back from the latest contest I entered. Now, I know I shouldn’t complain since I finaled. **yippy! happy dance** But when I saw my scores I was quite honestly surprised I did. I got dinged bad by 2 of the judges because my hero isn't introduced in the 1st chapter. Grrr. I hate that. I also hate 1st chapter contests that expect everything to be revealed in what, the first 15 pages? Maybe, if it's CATEGORY. I write 100K+ books. Heck, my last book didn't have either the hero or heroine in the 1st chapter at all. It featured the 2 major secondary characters. It didn't bother my (then) agent but it would've put the contest judges' noses out of joint, I'm sure. (I knew not to send that one out on the contest circuit). And what if I did reveal it all like the score sheet wanted? You know I’d get dinged for info dumping. Um, hello, isn’t that what the synopsis is for?
Just so you know, I’m not a contest diva and I only enter contests that have an editor I want to get my manuscript in front of. I also usually check to see if the score sheets will be "friendly" toward my entry but this contest didn’t have theirs online to see. All I can say is if I finaled with what I consider 2 lowish scores (the 3rd was a perfect 100 *G*) that many of the entries must have suffered the same fate as mine did.
As everyone knows, contests are a crap shoot. You never know if you’re going to get a futuristic author judging your Regency historical or a contemporary series author who’s never read a paranormal judging your werewolf meets Godzilla entry. In most cases, an experienced judge knows how to adjust for this. A newbie judge/writer, well you’re probably SOL. But sometimes, as was apparently the case in this last contest, the judges feel their hands are tied with the score sheet set up the way it is. The lowest scoring judge gave me a perfect score on everything but the hero (she gave me 1s) and the romantic plot (duh, since the hero hadn’t shown up yet, there obviously couldn’t be any romantic sparks between the H&H), but apologized profusely for being forced to do it. My perfect score judge (a published author) said "Scr*w it, I don’t care if the hero hasn’t been introduced yet. I’m giving this author a perfect score anyway.” *G* Thank you Madam Judge for giving me the benefit of the doubt, which is what I do when I judge contests.
In the world of romance writing contests, you’re going to find judges who are the ‘benefit of the doubt’ kind and some who are ‘buy the book.’ Contest coordinators should make their score sheets more intuitive and less paint by the numbers. They need to revise their score sheets so that there is an alternative for the judges, like 'If the hero or heroine are not present in the 1st chapter, does the synopsis reveal a potential for romance?' or something like that. Like I said, I shouldn't be complaining because despite the skewed score sheet, I did final. But I'm speaking for all the other entrants who didn't make the cut because I hate to see a good entry get kicked out of the game because it’s not playing by somebody’s idea of ‘the rules.’