Per usual I am busy judging for an RWA contest and voting in FanLit Forever at the same time. In Challenge 2 it was the Golden Heart. This round it’s The Lauries hosted by From The Heart Romance Writers. It really brings to mind some basic differences.
For one thing, the RWA contest try to counteract personal biases. You are supposed to score based on the quality of the writing rather than whether or not you personally like it.
Tastes are so varied and unreliable. It makes sense that some would say they have no place in judging the worthiness of a piece of fiction. If we all rate fiction based on nothing more than how much we like it – or at least how compelled we are to read it – then some excellent writing will not receive the recognition it deserves. To be fair, we must set aside our personal likes and dislikes. True?
I don’t think so.
It’s hard to argue that some excellent writing will indeed suffer at the hands of judges if those judges can’t get beyond their prejudices. But consider the purpose of fiction.
Fiction exists to engage our attention. We aren’t talking quantum mechanics here, or even an Idiot’s Guide To whatever. We are talking about something that SHOULD be designed to take us out of our everyday life and transport us through words to an experience we could not achieve in any other way.
Readers who don’t like what they are reading aren’t likely to read very far. If they don’t read the whole book, why would the want to buy another by the same author? Isn’t that what character and plot, and voice is all about? There’s no point in focusing on any aspect of a book if it isn’t done with an eye to making the book as readable as possible.
Should how much a judge likes a story be the sol criteria for judging? No. But it should probably be the biggest one. And I notice that more and more contest are including “Would you recommend this book to a friend”, “Would you like to read more of this book”, or “Is the book compelling” in their list of attributes to be scored. I know it’s the first thing I look at when my contest results come in.