Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Scoring Criteria for Writing Contests

When I was a judge for an annual writing contest, the scoring criteria was based on the Diederich Scale.  Six categories were described and points/ scores were to be given( high middle and low), based on your interpretation of  the writing  within the category descriptions. Not all criteria applied with some entries you were given, but you as a judge would determine which most applied to the entry you were judging, and score points accordingly. It was not an easy task, but after "judge training" and a few contests under my belt, I found the system had a hidden bonus. It sharpened your insight about your own writing. Because it was a boon to me, and I  assume many  writing contests may  use a similar system, I thought it might be helpful to new writers to view the categories and use them as a guideline for their own writing.







The first three category descriptions, Characterization, Plot, Conflict, and Dialogue  are fairly general  expectations to follow and score, but deciding which range, (high,middle and Low) most applies to an entry was difficult at times. If you as a writer did your homework about rules of manuscript given by most publishers, the last two categories, Mechanics and Presentation should not  result in a problematic scoring in that category.
Of all the categories, I seemed to have  the most difficulty with number 4. Style and Pacing, so I summarize below the guidelines for giving the high point rank for  that category. Hopefully, it may help new writers view what contests or publishers are looking for.
High award of points: 
Writer's Voice rings true without being overwhelming, The story moves at an appropriate pace to the story situation, Compulsion to turn the page stays with the reader; Author puts words together in an interesting or unusual  way, sentence length varies as necessary to tone and mood, Opening and ending hooks work well; may need polish, but the concepts are effective

This type of guideline for judging writing contests may have changed over the years, but I feel that the categories may always provide a tool to give one a good measure of their writing, regardless of genre. O f course, a good editor will help, but if you consider a future writing contest, do check out your entry with the above categories. and best of luck to everyone.


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Mary,

The criteria you present for judging in a writing contest are excellent. They are enduring suggestions for self-editing improvement. A good thing for each of us to do as writers is to take your checklist for judging and apply it to our own work after we've polished it and put it away for a time.

Catherine Dilts said...

As I am currently judging a contest, I appreciated the advice in your blog. I agree that being a judge can give you insight into your own writing. It's amazing what jumps out at me in a contest entry that I've overlooked in my own work!

Susan Oleksiw said...

In the past when I've judged a contest with other writers, I've been surprised at how different our perceptions are. This list, or something like it, could certainly help us come to a better understanding of what we're looking for and why we disagree on various entries. Thanks for posting this.

Mary F. Schoenecker said...

Jacquie, I'k glad you found the suggestions good for self-editing. It was my inspiration for the topic.

Mary F. Schoenecker said...

Yes,it is revealing to see your own flaws in others writing. I hope you will continue to judge and write. Thanks for your comment.

Mary F. Schoenecker Writes said...

I also found comparisons of other judges surprising and even too judgmental at times. It is a good learning experience,though. Thanks for sharing a comment.

Karen McCullough said...

Good point about the way contest judging can help our own writing! It’s harder to see the flaws in our own writing than in others, but looking at others’ work objectively helps train us to know what to look for!

Carole Price said...

Great post, and spot-on points to remember as I critique my writing groups chapters. It will also help as I am currently editing my own book.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Mary: I've judged a lot of contests, and while the judging sheets change from group to group (or conference to conference) they basically emphasize these same elements of the craft. Thanks for the refresher. I put my books in contests because an award, should we get one, looks really good in your bio.