Completed Scoresheet Example by Nikki Baird

Category: Romance

Title: New Moon

Entry #: 101A

Subgenre: Fantasy/Paranormal

Critique requested for this copy of entry? Yes _____ No ___X__


_____7____ Presentation & Formatting

_____4_____ Genre

_____25_____ Storytelling

_____11_____ Characterization

_____8_____ Synopsis

_____55_____ TOTAL SCORE (80 points possible)

(Judges: please double-check your addition)



8 = Entry is an example of outstanding, breakout fiction, not just for a contest, but compared with published fiction. Strong commercial appeal within and possibly outside the chosen genre. Contestant has mastered all aspects of storytelling and writing craft in the area being judged. **Judges: Scores of 8 are not to be given lightly - use rarely if at all.**

7 = Entry is of publishable quality. Both writing ability and storytelling are equivalent to published work of the same genre in the area being judged.

6 = Entry is close to publishable. Only minor edits or adjustments in storytelling and writing craft seem necessary to bring the entry up to publishable standard in the area being judged.

5 = Entry is above average for a writing contest. Entry exhibits most of the basics of the writing and storytelling craft, but weak points are distracting in the area being judged.

4 = Entry is average for a writing contest. Writing and storytelling ability are evident but not honed in the area being judged.

3 = Entry is below average for a writing contest. Writing and storytelling ability are significantly lacking in the area being judged.

2 = Entry lacks both storytelling and writing ability in the area being judged. Judge can clearly see areas for improvement and has noted them.

The criteria below generally apply to commercial fiction. Judges may select those criteria most applicable to the work and assess each entry on its own merits. Criteria that aren’t applicable won’t influence scores. Judges may add other criteria; criteria and scores are subjective. Judges: please comment in the space provided.


Category--7 points possible

Are the manuscript and synopsis professionally prepared according to contest rules? 12 point Courier New font; double-spaced; 1” margins; ragged right margin; header, including page numbers on every page; consistent 24 or 25 lines of text. Do chapters and synopsis begin 1/3 down the page? Are there minimal typos, spelling errors, misused words? Are punctuation and mechanics correct with a minimum of grammatical errors? Rules can be broken for effect, but clearly by the conscious choice of the author.

The manuscript is professionally prepared according to industry standards.


GENRE: _____4_____ TOTAL SCORE Category--5 points possible

Does the story meet the general standards of this category and subgenre, evident in both the manuscript and the synopsis? (See the category and subgenre guide for criteria.)

5 = seamless fit for genre; 4 = good fit, perhaps ordinary or stock; 3 = some difficulties with genre elements, world, or research; 2 = difficulties determining genre or questionable fit for genre.

It's really challenging to start a romance with the couple already together. However, the author does do a good job of setting them against each other in the manuscript, but it is maybe a little too mild - she wants to be like him (a vampire) and that's really the last thing he wants for her. What reduces this conflict is the sense that at least some of the other vampires, like Alice, don't mind her a few years older - that eventually one of them will give in and make her a vampire. They're just making her wait a little longer, for now. From the synopsis, it appears that most of this story doesn't center on Bella and Edward, which seems odd. Is the romance between Bella and Edward, or Bella and Jacob? The black moment seems to occur when Edward believes that Bella has died, and in a somewhat stock twist, decides to kill himself, a la Romeo and Juliet. But since the couple has spent most of the story apart, I question whether that can have a lot of impact. In other words, this romance seems overly convoluted - is there a way to drive the tension more directly between Bella and Edward, so that they're working on their relationship, rather than spending the whole story apart? Also, as far as the paranormal elements go, there doesn't appear to be any real downside to being a vampire in this world, which I wonder if that is part of the reason why the conflict in this story ends up having to be so convoluted?


STORYTELLING: _____25_____ TOTAL SCORE Category--40 points possible

____4______ Beginning: Score: 8 points possible

Does the writer open with a setting (that doesn’t overwhelm the reader with description) and an interesting POV (point of view) character with a definite problem or stuck in a critical situation? Does the story start in the right place? Is the story question and/or premise foreshadowed or established? Is there a hook?

The opening starts with a preface that is all of a page. It definitely sets the POV character in a situation where she is in dire straights, but it completely lacks detail. I struggle with the point of the preface, since Chapter 1 starts seemingly well before these critical events. Is the preface there just because the dream sequence opening and the mundane details of Bella's life are so slow that the author has to hint that more excitement is to come - a promise to the reader that it will get better? I think the first chapter has hints of intrigue and it's well written, but I think the author could've grabbed the reader harder if the opening set up more strongly that Bella already has a reckless streak in her, and that this reckless streak is both the catalyst for the events that lead to Edward distancing himself, and the cause of the events that ultimately lead to the story's finale. The story question isn't clear to me from the opening - it could be, Will Bella become a vampire? But it could also be, Will Bella learn patience - the kind of patience that she would need to successfully navigate the immortality that she just seems destined for?


_____4_____ Emotional Content: Score: 8 points possible

Does the writer succeed at connecting with the reader on an emotional level? Is the emotional intensity of the character’s crisis or predicament shown? Are the stakes clear? Are the stakes high enough? Is there a heavy reliance on coincidence, backstory, or info dumps that undermines the drama or hinders the reader’s emotional connection to the story?

I'm worried that there's a lot of back story in the opening pages. It definitely drags. And while on one level I can relate to Bella's obsession about birthdays: even if she had managed to convince herself that it's just another day, it's still yet another day older. If she's truly worried about getting older, her fears about birthdays seem overstated - I feel like the author could have opened this with any day, and have Bella just as worried about every single little day that takes her farther from Edward's immortal age. In that sense, I thought the drama felt a bit contrived. And other than in the preface, that's really the only conflict there is in the opening. I struggle to see high stakes - to see how this day is truly different from any other day in Bella's life. I think the opening could be far more gripping than it's played out here, where it's bogged down with back story and teen drama that feels pushed on the reader, rather than developing naturally from the characters.


_____5_____ Narrative: Score: 8 points possible

Has the writer created a compelling, readable narrative? Are there frequent stumbling blocks to the storytelling flow, like too much description, not enough description, language that doesn't suit the tone, verb tenses that don't match, etc.? Is the choreography clear, easily visualized, but not overly-described with excessive stage direction? Does the writer show a basic knowledge of sentence structure and variety? Are there a lot of passive verbs and/or helping adverbs? Are transitions between paragraphs clear?

The narrative reads smoothly, but there is a lot of it in the opening. There are three lines of dialogue in all of what I'm guessing to be the first 5 pages.


____7______Voice/POV Score: 8 points possible

Voice is about the author's style and tone, the personality that emerges from the narration. Is the voice clear, strong and consistent? Does the voice match the characters’ dialogue, motivation and goals, and not read as authorial? Are metaphors and similes suited to the character, setting and time period, and are not distracting or overused? Is the POV the right one for the story? Is the POV consistent without a lot of head-hopping? Are any changes in POV deliberate, and do these changes enhance the story and propel the plot forward?

The author does an excellent job of dropping the reader into the mind of an 18-year old girl.


______5____ Scene Craft: Score: 8 points possible

A scene consists of a setting, character(s), action, dialogue and narrative. Scenes should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Do the scenes drive the story forward, or are they gratuitous and/or arbitrary? Is the scene in the right person's viewpoint, i.e., the character with the most at stake in that scene? Are any changes in setting clearly staged, and are the transitions between scenes clear?

There is a lot of character description in the manuscript, and the arrival at school felt a little like it was done specifically to make it easier for the author to introduce a bunch of characters, rather than move the story along.


CHARACTERIZATION: _____11_____TOTAL SCORE Category--16 points possible

______5______Characters: Score: 8 points possible

Are the main characters, protagonist and antagonist, well-defined and clearly in conflict with each other? Are they compelling and interesting, with inner lives, emotions and conflicts as well as outer conflicts and problems? Do they have clear motives and goals?

Bella feels very well developed, and the author appears to have a solidly built world around the vampires and how they mange their lives as they are. The conflict is where I have to take points off. The protagonist is clear, the antagonist is not. This story seems initially to be set up around whether Bella will become a vampire as the central question, in which case Bella and Edward are at odds with each other and it impacts their relationship. But instead, Edward leaves. So that conflict can't be developed or explored. Then, from the synopsis, Bella conveniently replaces Edward with Jacob. So is the central question whether Bella can ever get over Edward? Since she uses Jacob as a means to get closer to Edward, it doesn't seem like she really ever even tries to explore that possibility. Or is the central question about whether Bella can learn patience and control? About whether Bella really is ready to become a vampire? That question didn't seem to get explored either.


______6_______ Dialogue: Score: 8 points possible

Does the dialogue reveal character, evoke emotion and tension, and advance the plot? Is there any use of dialect and/or idiom that clouds the dialogue’s meaning or overwhelms the reader with confusion? Are tags essentially invisible (he said, she said) or wrought with distracting verbs and adverbs? Do the characters have distinctive voices, or does everyone talk alike?

The dialogue works well, when we get to it, but there are a lot of dialogue tags. In just the first exchange between Bella, Edward, and Alice: mumbled, continued, complained, told, protested, told, stammered, snorted, accused, interrupted - all on the same page. While it's not overt stage direction per se, it does get in the way of the flow.


SYNOPSIS: _____8_____ TOTAL SCORE: Category--12 points possible

______4______Plot: Score: 6 points possible

Does the synopsis opening match the manuscript’s opening? Is the synopsis clear from the beginning, the inciting incident, through rising stakes and turning points, to the black moment, climax, and resolution? Does the plot contain a spine, a central conflict that begins to unfold in the opening paragraphs, continues throughout the story, and is settled satisfactorily in the end? The entire story is told; no secrets remain. Does the synopsis outline a captivating idea that makes the judge eager to read the book?

[For the record, I used the combination of the School Library Journal review and the Booklist review that are posted on Amazon. While these descriptions are not designed to be synopses, I went ahead and treated them as if they were.] The manuscript opening builds very slowly to the opening of the synopsis, which actually sounded like a better hook. In the first 20 pages, we don't get to Bella's party where the blood is spilled, which is the second line of the synopsis. That's a long time to ask a reader to be patient. Also, the conclusion is kept obscured in the synopsis - there is no connection between how the synopsis concludes and the preface in the beginning, which I assume has something to do with how the story ends. A synopsis should tell all and keep nothing obscured.


______4______ The character’s journey: Score: 6 points possible

Is the plot intertwined with the main characters’ journey? What do they want? Why can’t they have it? What must they do to get it? What’s at stake if they fail? Are their motivations and goals clear? Is there conflict, tension and suspense? Do minor characters muddle up the synopsis with unnecessary information? Do subplots enhance the story and affect the outcome? Win or lose, what has the protagonist learned? How has the protagonist changed?

As noted above, I struggled with this part the most. I feel like there is a journey in there, but I don't know that the author does the best job of bringing that journey to life. It seemed like even the author struggled to lay the story out in the synopsis.


A final note from the judge:

Type comments in the text box: text box will expand

I think the mechanics in the story are just fine. And the manuscript was very clean. The issue for me centered on the bigger picture - a stronger opening that better defines the story question, and a more strongly developed story question to begin with. Making these elements stronger can easily take this story from "good" to "great".


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