Week of April 8, 2012—JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
Quote of the week:
You want to remember that while you’re judging the book, the book is also judging you.”
I love that Stephen King quote. As I judge someone else’s writing, that writing is also judging me. The quote reminds me of the scripture that reads: “Judge not lest you be judged.” I’m also reminded of the Alcoholics Anonymous quote: “If you caught it, you got it.” When I find a problem in someone’s writing, it’s usually because I have found that same problem in my own writing (or may have that same problem and have not yet realized it).
I’ve just completed a month-long project where I judged fifty-seven short stories. The contest, sponsored by an old friend, allowed authors to submit their stories for a fee and then two judges read, critiqued, and scored each piece using a rubric for consistency and fairness. I learned a lot through this experience: First, I learned that I never want to judge a short story contest again. (I don’t like all that adult angst). But more importantly, I learned that many authors make the same kinds of mistakes over and over.
So what does all this mean to picture book writers? I think this short-story contest might be a microcosm of an editor’s slush and submission piles. I know from hearing editors speak that the vast majority of manuscripts are culled out quickly, and we all know that only a few books are published by each house annually.
Could it be that the common problems the authors of these short stories faced are also the common problems among picture book authors? Well, I’m not willing to do the research to prove it, but I am willing to hypothesize that it’s true. This week, I’ll explore some of those common pitfalls in hopes we can avoid them in our own writing and have our writing judged as being among the best.