What contest judges look for

Posted by Patrice Wilton | 10:13 AM | 5 comments »

Good morning,
I'm sure that most of us have entered a contest or two and would love to know what a trained judge looks for in their entries. Well, here is a wonderful list prepared by Marie Force which was published on our Florida Romance Writers group. I think we all can benefit from this and use it for editing our own work, whether for contests or not.

1. Huge chunks of back story dumped early on.
2. Point of view--each scene should be told in one POV.
3. Starting sentences repeatedly with He or She
4. Telling vs showing.
5. Whacky character names that jump out at you.
6. Inappropiate humor
7. Starting the story in the wrong place. Start with action. First page must ROCK.
8. Pace - hit them hard and fast right out of the gate.
9. Avoid clunky dialogue - use contractions.
10. Formatting
11. Make sure your characters physically move from place to place - don't have the reader ask how did they get there?
12. Voice--make sure your voice of your character is consistant with their age
13. Cliches - avoid it. Find a fresh, unique way to say it.
14. Remember your market.
15. Love scenes - do not use gross or unneccessary details that will turn off the reader.

Okay, everyone, hope this helps with your own writing. Happy editing!


  1. Beth Trissel // March 11, 2010 at 10:31 AM  

    Excellent points! Very helpful for all those entering contests.

  2. Patrice // March 11, 2010 at 11:12 AM  

    It is helpful Beth. I tried to cut and paste the entire list but it wouldn't let me, so I have the highlites. One thing she said, was that an editor told her she only looked at the first page. It must start with Action, it must Rock, and if it doesn't grab her attention right away, she won't read any more. It's a tough business, always has been, but it's killer right now.

  3. Mary Marvella // March 11, 2010 at 12:10 PM  

    Thanks, Patrice. We can use this list, along with others, to remind us of things to check when we edit our work.

    Some things we needed when we wrote the first pages aren't necessary for a reader to know yet.

  4. Joelle Charbonneau // March 11, 2010 at 12:24 PM  

    I've had several editors tell me they only look at the first two or three pages. I've also been told that they skip prologues and start with chapter one since they find most prologues are unnecessary. I thought that was really interesting.

  5. Mary Ricksen // March 11, 2010 at 6:14 PM  

    Great advise Patrice. Thanks!