Golden Heart Scores by Debra HollandThis past week, RWA sent out the Golden Heart contest scores to all the entrants who didn’t final. On Thursday, I started reading online how two of my fellow 2005 GH finalists had each received a 2 for a score. Appalled that they would even receive such a low number, I commiserated with them.
Then yesterday my scores arrived. For three of my books, I had good, but not great scores. Oh, well. But for Lywin’s Quest, a paranormal, I received 8.7, 4, 2, 9, 8. Welcome to the 2 Club.
The 4 I can live with. Lywin’s Quest barely has enough of a romance for it to quality in the category. That could annoy someone who wanted a sexy book. But a 2? For a book that was a 2005 GH finalist!
Then one more friend chimed in that her book had received a 2. This is the same book that a few weeks ago Kensington had snapped up and is a story I can’t wait to read.
On the 2005 loop, we’ve been discussing the care we give to the entries we are judging. The rare times any of us have given a 2 score was because the manuscript was truly awful--combining poor formatting, grammar, punctuation, a bad or unrealistic plot, lots of passive language, and a lack of understanding the basics of writing. Each low score we have to give is agonized over, because we know that we can be causing someone pain and discouragement.
The one time I have ever given a two--and even then it was a 2. something--was when the manuscript was SO bad, I cringed all the way through it. Plus it started out with a sweet, almost children’s story tone, then had the hero raping someone he met at a party. Ugh.
People try to say consoling things such as, “When you receive very high scores and very low scores that means you have a strong voice. People either love it or hate it.” Perhaps that’s true to a point. But if you hate my story, or any of the others I’ve mentioned, ask yourself, “Is it still a good book? Is it well-written, well-structured, with good character development? Are there a lot of beginner’s mistakes? Or is it just my personal preference?
If I’d turned in a new manuscript that hadn’t been critiqued by writers I trust, this kind of score could shake my faith in my work. Luckily that’s not the case for me, or my three other friends. We are all GH finalists, so we know we are good writers. And, since my 2 manuscript was a finalist last year, as well as finaling in the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal chapter’s contest, I don’t have to doubt it. But I don’t like the idea that doubts and insecurities could have happened.
Several people have written that they wonder if some judges would deliberately sabotage the scores so one of their friends could place in the contest. I have a very hard time believing that anyone could actually lack the integrity to do something like this. But since I have no other reasonable answer for the 2’s, especially since one of the other 2 recipients is in my category, that thought has also crossed my mind. Did we have the same judge? I hate that I could even think such a thing.
So what’s the solution?
There’s nothing RWA can do about dishonest judges. However, they can examine the scores that have big discrepancies and one of the scores is a 2 or a 3. Then check to see if the same individual is giving out these low numbers. Quietly cross that person off future judging lists.
RWA should also expand the guidelines given finalists for the meaning of each number. Perhaps they should actually state, “Don’t give a 2 or a 3 just because you don’t like the story.”
I also think there should be a simple sheet with about ten items that the judges can mark off. Items such as, Problems with Grammar and punctuation, or Needs more conflict between the hero and the heroine. Then the entrants would understand more why they received the scores they did.
For all of you writers in the 2 Club (or anyone else who’s received discouraging scores) you’re in good company. ☺ Don’t let yourself become discouraged by your scores. Keep learning your craft and writing better and better books.