Have you ever judged a writing contest? I have not, but I have been judged. Oh yes, judged and found lacking. I have also been judged and found brilliant. Oddly, it was the same manuscript in the same contest.
I like what I like. I buy books I know that I'm already predisposed to like. Recently I made a foray into horror/thriller and found that I do not like it. I like aspects, but the gore is over the top and doesn't further the story for me. If I was a horror reader by nature, maybe I'd find that gore necessary as much as sex is in romance (disclaimer: I think gore in horror and sex in romance has its place, but can be gratuitous -- this is my main objection).
What I find unfortunate about the judging process is that the judges of writing competitions are generally not allowed to judge within their own genre. I write historical. People who enjoy my stories enjoy historical settings and, generally, understand aspects about the history already. For a judge who does not read and enjoy historical to read and judge it seems out of place. The same goes, perhaps even more so, for paranormal. People who are just unable to suspend disbelief for the supernatural will not enjoy the reading experience if they're judging a paranormal manuscript. They're predisposed not to like it.
Because of this, one of the scores I pay most attention to is about the writing itself. You don't have to like the genre to recognize a well written work. Usually the scores on the quality of writing are consistent across the panel of judges.
This brings me to the reason for this blog. I just got my Golden Heart score sheets (RWA: thank you for the change, by the way. I love that it breaks it down.) In one book, I got scored a 9/10 and a 10/10 for the quality of writing. I also scored a 5/10. Huh? I understand stylistic differences or just not enjoying a writer's voice, but 5/10 makes me think I need a refresher course in sentence structure. How does one judge give something a perfect score, and the other fail it completely? It blew my mind. I don't know how to address it. My fragile self esteem makes me more likely to dismiss the high scores as a fluke rather than the low score. People have all sorts of opinions about story, character, etc... and I can allow for differences there, but if I just can't write paragraphs cohesively this is a huge problem.
Disclaimer: This is not a complaint, it's a reaction. I am very grateful for the judges who took the time to read my manuscript and give feedback.
I'm left with an unclear course of action (if any). Even more so, I'm left unsure about my own abilities. Don't worry; I'm not fishing for complements or in need of hugs. I'm fine -- I just need to step away for a moment and try to look at things objectively. In the mean time...