Sunday, September 21, 2008

HOW IS A JUDGE TO JUDGE?

I treated myself to a writing magazine yesterday on my day in the city, waiting for my new glasses for driving – preparing for my new wee car. So, I settled down to read some of the mag and was horrified by a ghost story in it; a competition winner that would never have got near the final five if I’d been the judge. It wasn’t seriously bad and most of the flaws, well the ones that bothered me, were in the first five paras; I had to do a double-take almost immediately and found myself talking out loud in disbelief:

seven sentences in a row began with ‘The’, and this followed being annoyed at the many short sentences from the first seven-word beginning, the repeat of ‘as’ within seven words. Not a good start, you would think, for a competition entry – but it won!

How could this pass for any kind of excellence? On one hand you might think that it’s good for all of us who work at editing and polishing but not if you get a judge like that who must have disregarded a host of better work for this effort; you can’t rule out subjectivity in creative writing – the judge must’ve liked and got carried away with the story…but he certainly didn’t do his job, in my opinion.

7 comments:

BetteJo said...

I'm not a writer but I notice when I've started too many sentences with the same word and that kind of thing.

That surprises me!

ireneintheworld said...

i know, it's a pretty basic part of the editing process and i can't understand a judge not noticing it, i couldn't believe my eyes and began counting aloud! on my fingers! x

Anonymous said...

Your blog post did make me laugh. I occassionally enter a monthly short story competition that is judged by a well known local author. This month's competition was won by a story which I struggled to read at the time. It's not that the writing is bad - technically it is very good - but there were one or two niggling flaws in it that prevented me from enjoying it. Now, I realise that that is mine, not the judge's or the writer's fault. It is possible to have a wonderful story that is riddled with technical errors. It is also possible to have a technically proficient story that completely lacks substance - a nice setting described, an excellent character sketch, but nothing more. Who is to say why such stories win, but they do. And, at the end of the day the important thing is to write what you want, and not try to second guess the judge or the competition.

ireneintheworld said...

yep you're right there anon, you can't second guess judges so might as well just do your thing and hope for the best, but it is annoying. i'd been reading an article that suggested reading and studying comp winners to get an idea of what gets through. i was disappointed at the first! x

Stubblejumpers Cafe said...

Hi Irene,

Your blog is featured this week at Stubblejumpers.

Kate

Anonymous said...

Annoying, yes, but I would go mad trying to write a story in the same style as one of the winners of, say, the Fish or the Bridport prize. They are the bionic equivalent of a human; the all singing all dancing, bells n' whistles, of short story writing. Could you imagine ploughing through one of them in Novel length? - 80K of pure prose muscle. :(

ireneintheworld said...

i've never read any anon, but it's high time i did. i've always shied away from reading comp winners, i think because i once tried and didn't like it! so here goes. x