01. Judging criteria


Here’s some helpful advice about how I judge my competitions: 

  • first, I list all the names of the stories and their writers’ details on a spreadsheet which I keep for future reference;
  • then I create a second spreadsheet with only the story titles, so that the entries are all anonymous;
  • on that second spreadsheet, I list across the top all the special ingredients I’ve asked for in your stories, eg the word limit, a title, the identity of the main character, the setting, other details I’ve stipulated in the rules (eg a special colour, further characters, Wicked Words), then the basic elements of a good story, including an attention-grabbing beginning, an interesting challenge or problem, a well- constructed storyline, a good cliff-hanger and resolution, and a great ending.
  • After that I list important things like grammar, punctuation, spelling, general vocabulary, originality, and finally, that all-important X-Factor.
  • Each of my headings has a value in points between 3 and 10, and as I judge each entry, I decide how many points to award the entry under each head.
  • Just for your information, I allocate 10 whole points to vocabulary, to setting, to character details and to X-Factor!
  • After the judging is finished, I calculate the total score for each story, then put them in descending order to determine the winners of each place! This is how you’ll sometimes find that I’ve awarded equal place to two very different stories!
  • Finally, I rematch the story title with the writer, so that I know the winners’ names, ages, grades, schools and cities!

 Lessons to be learned from this:

  • No matter how good your story, if you go over the allotted word count, you will be marked down – lightly or even heavily, depending on how bad the over-count is in your story – so always, always, stick to the allotted word limit!
  • Make sure, during your editing, that you have included every single ingredient that I have asked for! There were a number of wonderful stories which would have placed highly if essential ingredients had not been left out (and easy points lost accordingly) – so always, always, read the instructions!
  • Remember that I am a Setting and Character Fiend! The more detail you include in your story about the place, era, season and weather, and the more information you give me about the characters’ appearance, background and personality, the higher you will score!
  • And I really appreciate unusual and interesting vocabulary!
  • Endings are just as important as beginnings! So don’t end your story with a sigh of relief – until you’ve made sure that your ending has as much impact or beauty as the beginning!
  • Finally, X-Factor marks depend on the overall impact of the story, and especially your writing style. So make an extra effort to describe things in a lyrical or clever way, and to make your dialogue and your story funny or clever. Or both! There’s nothing more attractive to a judge than a story that puts a big smile on her face!

 So, my friends, I hope you understand how many long hours I spend on the judging, and how careful I am to be fair to everybody! It’s a huge job, but I love it, because I simply LOVE reading your ideas and your own special interpretation of my instructions!

Thank you again, EVERYONE who

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