Evaluating a manuscript is not an exact science. Although judges strive for total objectivity, no work of art will have the same effect on every person. The scoresheet breaks down all the many areas of novel-writing technique so that you can see your strengths and weaknesses, but you can’t please everyone. One person may love the emotion in your novel, whereas another may feel your characters are melodramatic.
Inconsistent scores are inevitable and occur in many manuscripts. All judges have individual sets of interests that guide their scoring. Judges may not agree on all points, but neither will your readers or publishers. By providing multiple perspectives of your manuscript, Ink and Insights can help you to see the effects your work can have on a diverse readership.
Readers are fickle beings: what one reader finds amusing, another may find offensive. What appeals to one person may not appeal to another. Having these four opinions will help show you how your work may resonate with readers outside of your circle of friends and family.
In short, here are some reasons your scores may be inconsistent:
-Each judge brings to the contest their own backgrounds and qualifications, tastes, reading experiences, strengths and weaknesses, personal and professional experiences, and a host of other qualities that make them unique readers.
-You happen to have a judge who is a stickler for the areas your novel is weak in, whereas other judges might be more forgiving about this kind of error, or otherwise find that it doesn’t diminish the quality of the total manuscript.
For example, Strong POV control is one of my biggies, as is building authentic emotion, timeline consistency, and organization. However, I might not notice so much if your setting details aren’t on point, nor will I be too picky about theme, style, and dialogue. Those just aren’t areas that jump out at me unless they are REALLY off.
In the end, we hope you get a mix of judges that will dredge up all the weaknesses in your submission so that when you submit again next year, it will shoot to the top of that leaderboard!
Catherine York — Contest Admin and Sixth year as Ink & Insights judge