As an Ink and Insights‘ judge, one of my main tasks is to be objective as I read and critique. It’s important not to let my subjective views determine how an excerpt will be judged.
I have preferences of course, things like genre and age category. All judges have the same kinds of preferences. One of the reasons for this is familiarity. For example, as speculative fiction, mystery/thriller, and action-adventure are among the genres I often read and write too, I have a good idea of what’s expected from these kinds of stories. As such, these mostly show up in my inbox.
Writers don’t have to worry about judges reviewing subject matter they can’t stand either. For example, I tend to avoid subject matter with graphic depictions of violence against children. Personal experiences and my potential reactions to such, doesn’t make me the best judge for stuff like this. Other judges have their own “no-list”.
Organisers are very respectful of what we don’t want to read, especially as this could colour our critiques to trend to the subjective. If there’s something that might be just outside our no-list lines in a submission we’re given, organisers first check to be certain we’re willing to give it a go.
Let’s move on to being objective about your own work. This can be a challenging thing to do. Most of us just want to write that first draft and believe every word is gold. That’d be awesome, but is probably never the case lol.
I still cringe reviewing aspects of some of my older work. It’s not because the stories aren’t good, it’s just noting where I could have developed them better. This is me being objective about my own work. If I’d been consistently subjective, and resisted constructive feedback for example, there’s no way my present work would have been able to improve.
It’s as important to develop the “skill of objectivity” as it is to continue to develop your craft. This might mean having the wisdom to let someone else take a read before you click send, especially if you think you won’t be able to let go and be objective.
Taking points and editorial critiques off the table for a moment…
Since I started judging the competition in 2018, there are entries I’ve read that have blown me away. Truly beautiful depictions of worlds, intriguing plots, and fun voices. None of this has stopped me from having a word in the comments when necessary though.
Bottomline: No matter how much I might love a story, gushing about it without highlighting the issues won’t help it, or the writer.
Judges choosing to rely solely on subjectivity isn’t something that works with a competition like Ink and Insights. As judges, our goal is to help writers be able to put their best foot forward after they’ve received our feedback. Objectivity is way more helpful than subjective applause with no substance.
Don’t be discouraged if your Ink and Insights’ feedback includes tough questions or brings up major issues in your story. We only have your best interests at heart and want you and your work to succeed :).
The next Pages Unforgotten post is the newsletter on Sept 2. Until then try more posts on my Blog.
This is my fourth year as an Ink & Insights’ judge and throughout its duration, I’ll share a connected post once a month. Learn about the Ink and Insights’ writing competition