Two years ago I was short-listed for the Winchester Conference short story prize and this year was a bit disappointed when my entry didn’t get anywhere. But one nice thing about Winchester is that every entry (winner or ‘loser’) gets feedback from one of the judges. Mine arrived today and this year it is not in the form of a scoresheet which makes interesting reading in itself.
My story was scored on nine aspects: opening, title, plot/theme,action/pace, characters, entertainment quotient, dialogue, language and ending. I scored highest on title, plot, action and ending and was above average in everything else, although I was disappointed not to have done better on character and dialogue. But if 138 points out of 230 looks a bit lacklustre (and certainly not amongst the prizes) my anonymous marker described it as ‘an amusing well-paced tale’ and he/she took the trouble to add comments to some of the allocations so that the feedback has a personal touch. I’d also like to think that my score of 20 on the language scale (for “flashes of originality give it an extra sparkle”) is actually what I aimed to achieve, although “smooth and easy to read” would have scored higher!
I think it does help to have this kind of rubric, not just so that the writer can focus on what might need attention, but also to introduce a degree of uniformity in the response each writer gets. Instinctively I’m against reducing a piece of creative writing (especially my own!) to a tick-box score, but I’m also of the view that writing can be taught, in which case I have to concede it can be assessed.
This week Sarah Duncan puts forward the view that no writing is worthy of publication unless it scores 70% . Sounds good to me, just a shame that mine is languishing (searches for calculator) at a mere 60. Still it did get shortlisted here, so not entirely a lost cause!
On a different tack. I’ve just added a new page to the site. Two posts and a page already this week. Possibly a record!