For Shits and Giggles

May 30, 2007 | Karin's Blog | 42 comments

While I was cleaning out some file cabinets I haven’t looked in for ages I found two Daphne entries. May ’04 the postmark. A year before I sold my first book. As I skimmed through the comments for my favorite entry of the two, WM, a book that I am certain will be rewritten and published, I discovered I missed finaling by 2 points. I had two perfect 128 scores, one 126 score and the kiss of death score, a 76.

Now, I am going to gloat a bit, and I probably shouldn’t but, well, I am. And here’s why. The two judges who gave me the perfect scores were published in both romance and non fiction. The 126 score was by an unpublished author and the 76? A published in romance only author.

Let me give you a bit of a blurb on this story. Dark alpha detective goes under cover to nab a suspected black widow. This is a dark, single title, romantic suspense. It’s evident from page one.

So this judge who gave me the 76? She made comments like “Your hero comes across harsh.” Well duh he’s pissed he has to go undercover and he has zero respect for the black widow. “Your hero seems a bit caustic.” Double duh, he’s a homicide detective. “If you fixed the hero I would recommend this book.” Yada yada yada. She obviously is not familiar with the ‘hot alpha cop’. (her loss) I found out why.

She signed her name.

I hadn’t noticed that before. Soooo, I googled this published romance author. Hmm, she has a nice site. She writes category. Now before anyone jumps on me and says category authors do write red hot alphas, I am not implying they don’t, I just haven’t read many…hardly any…none. Hell, maybe I’m just not reading the right ones. But in my defense every time I was rejected by HQ/Sil the problem was always my hero. Too dark. But, I digress. Anyhoo this judge hasn’t had a release since 2004.

Here’s the real weird thing. The other entry? It just missed finaling as well, and that story will never see a bookstore shelf, no matter how many times I revise. My top scores, one a perfect 128 and one 2 minus perfect were judged by published in romance authors. None left their names, and they were stingy with the comments. Nary a mark on the submitted pages. I’m scratching my head. I don’t get it. The first entry rocked the house!!!! The second? It was admittedly a dud. Why did they score almost identical?

I will say the judge who hated my hero in the rockin’ entry did give me this tidbit to chew on. “You have potential. Never give up!” I appreciate that. I’ve written those words myself on entries I’ve shredded only to see them go on and sell. So what the hell do I know?

Hmm, when I started to write this I felt kind of smug, now, I feel kind of dumb. I feel bad for the judge who hated my entry and prevented me from finaling. She hasn’t released in 3 years, and from the content on her site it doesn’t look like she has anything on the horizon. And that my friends I would never wish on any author. Ok, well there is this one…but, well, you know what I mean.

Now with all of the above said, I have had other judges decimate my entries. I’ve had some who have said the entry was so bad they could not judge it. I had one judge say (I’m paraphrasing here) “It is obvious English is not your first language. To better reach your American audience I suggest you take English classes.” 🙂 I’m serious. It didn’t bother me in the least that she didn’t get that English was not the heroes’ first language. But it didn’t matter, the entry sucked the big one anyway. But have you ever had such nasty comments from a contest judge that if you knew voodoo you’d use it?

And please share the bloodletting. I love hearing snarky judge comments. I’ll give a signed copy of GOOD GIRL GONE BAD to the commenter with the meanest judge comment.





  1. Lee

    Ive learned a lot from my contest experience. I’ve great judges and harsh ones, my main complaint has always been the judges knowledge on what their scoring. I’ve had comments like I needed to do more research into law enforcement. Twenty years as a cop was enough research.

  2. Jen Apodaca

    I can’t think of the meanest, but the funniest was from a Daphne judge (in the Published contest). She said something like:

    “You obviously don’t understand sons.”

    My three sons cracked up when I showed it to them!

  3. Cat

    Contests are funny. The same entry can sometimes bring opposite reactions. In one I had one judge tell me I had too much back story. The other one said not enough. Sometimes it’s a crap shoot who you get as a judge. Some are easy on all the entries they judge, others go through the manuscripts like a vengeful ex-wife and criticize everything.

    I like the contests that tell you how the judges score all the entries they saw. You can get a better perspective how you did then.

  4. Karin

    snicker, Lee. I’ve had those comments too. Crime television shows need to come with the disclaimer:
    This is total bullshit dreamed up for viewer entertainment.
    Maybe then the general populace, and contest judges will figure out Hollywood cops and real cops don’t match up.

    Jen, I remember you telling me about that one! Too funnee.

  5. Hubby

    Lee – Karin got a similar comment once about needing to do more research into law enforcement. Hello! What you see on TV is not real nor close to being accurate! In fact, the general public wouldn’t believe half of what really goes on or recognize it as true law enforcement.

    Honey, anytime you feel the need to do more research you just let me know. Have we covered handcuffing technique yet?

  6. Karin

    Cat said, “others go through the manuscripts like a vengeful ex-wife and criticize everything.”

    I know! What’s up with that? I have read some really awful entries, but I never go psycho ex-wife on them. And let me tell you, some were so awful they deserved it.
    I had a judge who could not finish reading an entry of mine because, “It has given me a migraine and I need to take some aspirin.”

  7. Michelle

    LOL, fun topic. A Daphne Paranormal / Fantasy entry of mine once garnered me the comment (I’m paraphrasing here, can’t remember exactly): Your writing style seems forced or somewhat false. LOLOL. It was the only comment this particular judge gave me on the whole submission. This was from a published author (she signed her name) who gave me 3 or less for everything except the one thing she had to score me 5/5 for (that the entry was indeed a fantasy romance) but didn’t make one comment (expect for the one above), even though the rules were every 3 or less mark had to be accompanied by a comment. She obviously HATED it. It was my first contest entry, but the other judges gave me pretty good scores, if I remember correctly.

  8. Karin

    Honey, I think we need to work on that hook ’em move. 😉

  9. Karin

    Ouch, Michelle. When I feel lazy with an entry, I put it aside until I have the time and energy to make comments. Comments, good and bad can be very helpful. A commentless score sheet even if it’s a perfect score is boring.

  10. Cele

    I have been tolda I do not take criticism well, so enter a contest? I don’t think so.

  11. Michelle

    Well, they say rather a love it / hate it reaction than a ‘it was okay’ reaction. Boy, did I get the feeling the hate it thing was going on with her, LOL.

  12. LaDonna

    LOL, these are a hoot! The bottom line, I quit doing contest as a rule. Karin’s is the only one I’ve ever done really well in, finaled or otherwise. I’ll listen to those who are in a position to BUY, or submit my work as in agent. I don’t write in a specific box, and frankly it gets old being told I’m doing it wrong. Who says?

  13. LaDonna

    Oh, the worst comment was, I’m not sure who the hero and heroine are? I hate that one. It’s not always obvious in the first ten pages. The category for that one was Mainstream with Romantic Elements. The one category they’re trying to “flame” as we speak. For the GH that is. And I only entered that once, years ago.

  14. Liz Kreger

    I haven’t entered chapter contests in a number of years … primarily because the judges didn’t seem to know what they’re doing. I know that the Wisconsin FabFive now has a training session for its judges, which is a big plus.

    I’ve generally had the reaction ranging from “loved it” or “meh” to my entries. The comments were usually very helpful but these entries were some of my first writing attempts. I’ve learned a lot since then.

  15. Mary

    Okay I have a question for all you ladies. How do you enter all these contests? Are they listed on the net and under different catagories/story lines?

  16. spyscribbler

    I’ve only done one contest, and it wasn’t really judged. I could list a few about music, though, LOL …

    Incidentally, those were written to kids. I’ve read some mean comments to authors, but I have to tell you, the kids are so much stronger than us authors, LOL. (Although, how people can’t have the decency to encourage a child just baffles me.)

  17. Karin

    LaDonna, I entered the GH a few years ago. Sent my money and my ms and never heard a thing back. All that money and not even a score? No thanks.

    Liz, I think I entered the fab five. and the feed back was solid. No blank comment pages.

    and I hear you about learning a lot since the first contest. I’ve learned quite a bit from judges comments. Mostly, either I’m n track or way off.

  18. Karin

    Michelle, I guess the good news is, you elicited a strong reaction. 😉

    Mary, the contests we are mostly talking about are RWA (romantic writer’s association) sponsored contests. RWA chapters run contests to build up the coffers. There are plenty of others hosted by publishers, and other writer’s groups.

  19. Karin

    Cele, I can well imagine the fumes steaming from your ears if you received some of the comments I have. It’s best for all parties involved if you do not enter contests.

  20. Karin

    Spy, what kind of music contests?

  21. Liz Lipperman

    The worst one I got was from the GH this year. I entered in the Main Stream with Romantic Elements category. I got a “4” with the judge’s comment, “This is not a romance.”.

    Duh, what part of M with RE didn’t she get? She had the synopsis in her hand which clearly had a wedding and a happily-ever-after with the hero. I want my $50 back.

  22. LaDonna

    Liz, how horrible! You DESERVE your 50 bucks back. Stop this madness, I say! LOL.

  23. Karin

    Ouch! Liz. Like LaDonna said, I think you just might be due a refund on that one.

  24. Edie

    Liz, that sucks. I didn’t enter the GH this year. I didn’t think it would compete well against the snappier chick lit books. When I enter a contest, I want to win! Or at least final, lol.

    My worst was my last one with only two judges. The first (published) judge gave me high marks but didn’t make hardly any comments. The second (unpublished) judge tried to change EVERYTHING I WROTE. She clearly doesn’t know what “voice” is.

    I don’t enter contests anymore, but I do judge some. Fab Five drops the lowest score, which I think is a great idea.

  25. Amie Stuart

    Ok I know we talked about this before over at MSW but here goes…..”Your heroine is a slut,” and “This is not a romance.” And something about getting a book on writing romance because I obviously didn’t know how.


    I’ll say this, I developed a tough skin!

  26. Tracey

    Liz – I got one of those recently – I write Dark Urban Fantasy and got 17/35 because there was no romance in the first 3 chapters. Well d’uh. Anyway the lowest one was dropped so luckily it didn’t count to my score. I actually ended up finalling in that one.

    What I hate is unpublished judges telling you how to write it the right way and how I’m doing it all wrong because I am not following the so called rules.

  27. spyscribbler

    Piano competitions for young ‘uns. 🙂 Just state-wide ones, not massive, professional, career-making ones!

  28. wanaki

    I entered 2 contests last year. The first I got honorable mention in the romance category (they usually only give out 1st and 2nd place). I then entered the same story in another contest and didn’t even make it past the first round.

    I had a line where the main character was talking about her beautiful best friend – “she was wearing a green sweater that showed off her best assets – both of them”. One judge told me heterosexual women don’t talk that way. Um, I’m happily married and if I see a hot chick, I’m not afraid to comment!

    There were a few other comments along the same lines, by the same judge. It just goes to show you everything is subjective!

  29. Karin

    grr, trying to comment today has been so frustrating!
    that said, i’ll be back to follow up with a few comments later tonight. mi vida loca calls

  30. Karin

    Tracey, I think for the most part, many unpublished judges take themselves and their judging a wee bit too seriously. they are overly critical, whereas the pubbed judges have mellowed and generally get what works because they understand the craft. there is a lot to be said for taking advice from someone who has published as opposed to someone who hasn’t. but, it still stinks when the judge pubbed or unpubbed who is judging a specific category doesn’t *get it* when judging an entry.
    but as in your case, luckily more judges got it than not, and you finalled. 🙁 I never finalled.

  31. Karin

    Edie, ditto what I just said to Tracey.
    but, I have to say, even with a fab score, I WANT COMMENTS!!!!

  32. Karin

    Egads! Amie, I remember. Personally, I think you win.

  33. Karin

    wanaki said, “One judge told me heterosexual women don’t talk that way.”

    My question is how the heck does that judge (whether a male or female judge) know what all women think? And for the record, I love that line, and think it’s a great chick line.

  34. Karin

    So, spy, do the piano judges get snarky with the kids?

  35. Tracey

    “she was wearing a green sweater that showed off her best assets – both of them”.

    I love it – what a fantastic line.

  36. LaDonna

    Have to agree, great chic line. I’d have laughed while reading it, and “got it.” Hmm, sounds like that judge is too quick on the heterosexual comment there. Me thinks there could be underlying paranoia on the loose. LOL.

  37. Cele

    I’m with LaDonna on the judge and the Chic line –

    sheesh you were talking about her green eyes right

  38. Amie Stuart

    Wanaki…I’m with karin and everyone else. It’s a great line! I would have died laughing. As it is, since I’m at work and all, I just snickered to myself 😀

  39. Karin

    We need to vote! Who gets the worst judge comment prize??????

  40. LaDonna

    “Your heroine is a slut,” and “This is not a romance.”

    Ouch! All of these were amazing, but this one was really raw, and quite rude. My two cents.

  41. spyscribbler

    LOL, Karin, I can’t remember the mean ones. But a medium judge this year wrote to a kid, “Do you own a metronome? Do you even turn it on?” She loved questions. “Do you even know what dynamics are?”

    I had one a few months go that just wrote, “Practice more.” The child learned a lot from those comments!

    What can you do? To address what Cat said above, there is a program out there, that they use for a few professional piano competitions. It takes all the scores a judge makes, figures out the lowest, highest, and average score the judge gives, and then adjusts the points.

    In other words, if one judge never gives above 90, and another entrant gets a judge that always gives between 110 – 120 (let’s say, out of 120 points), then the program will adjust both scores so that the entrants are judged on an even scale.

    (I explained that horribly, didn’t I?) I wish some writing competition would use that program.

  42. Liz Lipperman

    I agree. “Your heroine is a slut.” takes the prize.

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