This month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:
J is for judging. Whether you participate in a critique partnership or critique group, write reviews, or judge contests, you’re called upon to judge the work of other authors. Yes, it’s tough enough deciding if your own writing is good, bad or indifferent. But we writers depend on honest feedback from our peers to help us sort through plot problems, identify word repetition and grammar mistakes, and on the plus side, to gain attention from agents, editors and readers.
The old adage “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything” doesn’t serve us well when we’re called upon to help another author improve their writing. Nor is it fair to anyone in a contest to give only positive feedback. Judging implies recognizing both positive and negative aspects of a work. But there’s no need to be mean, either. Honesty can be couched in kind words, helpful suggestions, and critical feedback that leaves room for the other person to grow as an author while protecting their ego.
Judging another’s work is fun when they’ve done a great job, you enjoy their story, and you can easily give them positive reinforcement. Most of us don’t enjoy the flip side of that coin, when we could not finish the book, when there are so many errors that it looks like we bled all over the page with our red pen, or when we have to score a contest entry so low that we know the entry has no chance of advancing. But if we’re determined to help our fellow authors ensure that manuscripts are truly ready to be published, then we have no choice.