Criticism vs. Critique

I entered a romance-writing contest several months ago and received  my results back today via email. The contest was the first 10 pages of your WIP (work in progress) and a brief synopsis of the overall plot. I hate writing a synopsis and avoid it whenever I can. Unfortunately, for this contest, one was required, but the rules stated it would not be part of the overall judging.

Three judges and their scores combined gave you your overall score. One of the judges was a professional/published writer in romantic fiction, one a beta reader, and one an unpublished writer, but a retired teacher and editor. This last judge was the harshest, and I’ll say meanest of the three. He tore my work apart, and I mean  TORE it apart. He critiqued where I put commas, my dialogue – which he called “trite”, my heroine, which he said he didn’t like and nothing would convince him to, and my sentence structure.  And he said my synopsis sucked. He really did! The published author gave me very constructive criticism NICELY, and pointed out a few things that needed improvement. The beta reader wrote how much she loved the story, the characters and the setting, and also, nicely, pointed out a few things for improvement. She gave me the highest scores of all three. You can guess who graded me the lowest – and I mean low.

Now my ego is as strong as an ox. People who know me know that. I can take criticism, constructive or otherwise, and pull out the parts of it that will help me in the future. I did this with all three of these judges, because they all had valid points.  But I wondered why the editor/teacher judge was so harsh in his delivery. He didn’t know me, knew nothing about me except for the pages being judged, and he sincerely could have made his points succinctly without all the nastiness.

This hasn’t turned me off to entering contests at all, because with each one I do enter, I learn something valuable. What I learned from this contest was that the beta reader, a lover of romantic fiction such as I am, is the person I write for, not the judge. The reader wrote comments all over the entry, such as “Aww!” when she read something touching, and “I love that he said that,” to a dialogue for my hero.

This is the person I write for. Plus myself, of course.

And here’s the best part of this story: I entered the same 10pages in another contest and two editors from publishing houses notified me they liked what they’d read so much they wanted to see the entire manuscript.

So THERE! Mr. Smarty-pants judge!

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1 Comment

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One response to “Criticism vs. Critique

  1. Thanks for posting this! I had a very similar experience with an RWA contest. One judge gave me an extremely low score and criticized my entire entry starting with the very first sentence and ending with the last–everything from characters to word choices to sentence structure. Another judge gave me 100/100 points and said she wouldn’t change a thing! I was overjoyed by the response of the second judge, but found it difficult to shrug off the negativity of the first judge (like yours, she was nasty in her delivery). Unfortunately, it did affect my enthusiasm for entering contests. Good for you for continuing–it was helpful to hear your positive perspective. Congrats on your manuscript requests!

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