FlashFriday just celebrated its anniversary last week, and this week marks the start of a new year and a new judging cycle… only this quarter: I’m a judge.
Friday arrived and I did what I do every Friday since I discovered FlashFriday (http://flashfriday.wordpress.com/) I waited until after midnight to look at the picture before going to bed, in the hopes that something would come to me in my sleep.
Please note: this trick rarely works for me, and even when it does the results are weird at best.
This time I wasn’t really looking to write since well I’m judging and as such I’m ineligible until after my stint as judge is over.
This meant I had to wait until after everything was closed to look at the stories. Usually I’ll write my story then look at the others and leave comments. This time, a story did come to me– a light little tale about using people’s prejudices to get them to believe the truth… which I posted as a judge’s entry.
Then came the hard part (or what I thought was the hard part at the time: not reading any of the entries. After midnight, right before bed, I copied the entire collection of comments and spent the next half and hour stripping out comments and IDs so that all I was left with were the stories and their word counts.
Then, to be sure I didn’t remember anything… I went to bed.
Now, the reason for stripping out the IDs is so that I am judging the stories, not the writers. There are a lot of writers I like and respect who submit stories to Flash Friday and I didn’t want that to color my responses.
I was able to rate the first few, but since they were at the start of the competition I was conservative with my ratings and wanted to keep everything relative.
Points were assigned to technical things such as spelling, grammar and general story telling rules (hint, having a title is good, having one that goes with the story is even better).
This year a “Dragon’s challenge” was added and the story had to include an element assigned by ‘the dragon’, in this case the word “Laughter.”
If the story did not contain a version of this word (tense, usage, synonym) it was disqualified. Sadly this left several stories I really liked out of the running.
Then came another problem: me. I’ve never judged anything before. I’m a writer, I write I edit and I beta read. Needless to say half way through the competition I started thinking ‘You need to change this… you should really… NO. You are not beta-ing here. You are Judging.’ Then I had t force myself back into the role of judge.
After assigning points on the technical side, I assigned points for artistic merit (something far more subjective than ‘did they punctuate this sentence correctly?’)
Once this was done, a rating was chosen as a cut off point that narrowed down the field.
Then the whole process started over, only this time, I looked at the artistic merit first, and, since one of the artistic elements was ‘does it stick with you?’, I rated those characteristics from memory.
This quickly identified the three most memorable stories and gave me my honorable mentions as well.
So, I wrote up the results and as I was writing them up, I discovered who had written the stories I chosen. This was supposed to make it so I wouldn’t second guess myself, and wouldn’t seem prejudiced for certain authors, but as soon as I saw who’s work I’d chosen, I did start second guessing.
But then I remembered one key thing: I liked these authors because of their work– it would make sense that I would like their work.
So, I wrote up my comments and submitted them.. thus ending my first service as a judge.