This tip sheet is for those manuscripts, you know the ones I’m talking about, the ones you start reading and groan. You get to the scoresheet and think, "Hmmmm average for a contest? No way, this deserves a 2 at best." You could be 100% validated. But your partner judge might not have the same reaction, OR, might be a little more generous.
It’s a 3rd read nightmare waiting to happen. So what to do?
- First, having been a judge for 20+ years, I came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t hurt and would likely do some good if I scored categories with a 5 most of the time. My first reason is, with a 5 in most categories, the manuscript isn’t going to make the final round.
- Second, if I use 5 scores, I can pick one category to give a 3 or a 4. I save this for the category that I feel the author would benefit the most by working on. I also put lots of supportive comments into that low score and add books I’ve found helpful.
- Third, I can pick one category, or two where the author is doing well (even if it is still not publishable) and encourage them by giving a 6 score. If I had given two 4 scores, I try to give two 6 scores. It’s not always exact, but I keep the scoring consideration in mind. Think of it as the sandwich method of contest scoring.
- All and all, the final score will be in the high 40’s or somewhere in the 50’s. Not likely to trigger a third read. AND, not devastating for the author. The author will likely pay attention to your comments and not pass you off as a hater.
- Now all of that said, if a manuscript knocks your socks off, score it high and don’t worry about triggering a third read. That’s what third reads are for, manuscripts you feel should go to the final round. If your partner judge didn’t agree, the manuscript gets another chance.
But reading those dreadful manuscripts on a third read.... well it’s just dreadfulness multiplied.