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What feedback would you give contest organizers?

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Jdeweese View Drop Down
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    Posted: 11 May 2018 at 3:05pm
As I prepare to bow out this year, I’m putting together my feedback to send to NYC Midnight. Here are my suggestions but would love to hear yours:

1. There are too many genres and the descriptions are confusing. I would recommend collapsing categories - so for example combine sci fi/fantasy, action/suspense, serious romance and rom com, etc.

2. Deadlines are way too short compared to other contests. Would recommend 2 weeks for first round, week for second, and three days for last.

3. Assign judges based on genres they know. It’s really disheartening to hear a judge say “I only know Game of Thrones and your story is too much like it” when I was using a basic idea that is in a lot of fantasy stories.

4. For the love of everything holy, stop scheduling on freaking Holliday weekends! I burned some bridges skipping out on Easter brunch to write, and the finals are happening over Mother’s Day weekend.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JESimpson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2018 at 3:35pm
Nothing really to add to your list (I may feel differently after Round 3, ha). Just some comments -- numbers correspond to your own list.

1. Agreed. I lucked out with pretty straightforward genres but some struck me as awfully fine-grained.

2. The deadlines (and word counts) were okay for me. With more room to maneuver, I think I might've been much less disciplined about the story -- more wrapped up with its expression.

3. I nyself haven't run into that problem with judges not knowing the genre, but if that happens, yeah: argh!

4. This is a toughie, given the international scope of entrants: like they say, it's always a holiday somewhere. (Actually, I've never heard them -- whoever they are -- say that. But it sounds like something they might!)

Thanks for raising the topic!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote chrissie0707 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2018 at 3:44pm
Haven't had a genre issue with the judging, but other than that I think this list is pretty spot-on for my own thoughts. Scheduling is always going to be an issue, though, and there will be conflicts no matter when the rounds take place. I missed Indiana Comic Con for the second round, as well as Easter with my family.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote mstracho Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2018 at 9:05pm
Originally posted by Jdeweese Jdeweese wrote:

As I prepare to bow out this year, I’m putting together my feedback to send to NYC Midnight. Here are my suggestions but would love to hear yours:

1. There are too many genres and the descriptions are confusing. I would recommend collapsing categories - so for example combine sci fi/fantasy, action/suspense, serious romance and rom com, etc.

2. Deadlines are way too short compared to other contests. Would recommend 2 weeks for first round, week for second, and three days for last.

3. Assign judges based on genres they know. It’s really disheartening to hear a judge say “I only know Game of Thrones and your story is too much like it” when I was using a basic idea that is in a lot of fantasy stories.

4. For the love of everything holy, stop scheduling on freaking Holliday weekends! I burned some bridges skipping out on Easter brunch to write, and the finals are happening over Mother’s Day weekend.

1. I disagree. It's hard if you haven't written any of them, but action and suspense are completely different. Plenty of action stories have 0 suspense and vice versa. Fantasy and sci-fi are also completely different so they can't be combined in this competition just like they can't be combined at book stores. 

2. I also disagree with this. They're challenging deadlines for sure, but that's the point. If you want long deadlines like other competitions, go enter one of those competitions. That's what they're there for! The time limit is integral to this competition. It's a completely different competition if that aspect is changed.

3. I can see how this would be frustrating. I would say my biggest feedback to the competition is also to improve judging. I'm not sure if it's possible for the first round to do it by genre because of the sheer volume of entries, but I bet they could do it for the second round. Third round would again present a challenge though, since each writer chooses their own and judges don't know what's been chosen until the story gets handed in. It might cause chaos to have to organize all of that after the deadline. 

4. I can also see the frustration here, but I'm not sure this can be fixed either. Let's be honest. It's ALWAYS a holiday. This competition spans such a long time I feel like it'd be impossible to not have something on a holiday. Sometimes that's just the way cards fall. I guess if it's enough of an issue for you, we get the schedule before we enter, so you always have the option to make the choice not to. Additionally, if we aren't writing on a holiday then they're probably judging on one, or something else. So it's really about who does work when.  

I hope this doesn't sound harsh! We all have our opinions, right? Thanks for sharing!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Jdeweese Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2018 at 1:31am
Not harsh at all, and of course we can agree to disagree.

I did some more research and I guess the 24 hour deadline is a big part of the draw so I take that back. I think my other comments are fair, and combining genres would give both the writers and judges more freedom. After all, the final round is anything goes so why be quite so restrictive in the first round?


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Heartstart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2018 at 6:45am
My biggest issue is that there's not much lead time between the announcement of the results for the previous round, and when the new round commences. Three days isn't really long enough, and it's hard when a round does take place over a holiday weekend (and I get what people are saying about it always being a holiday somewhere, but Easter is pretty ubiquitous in the Western world), which means you don't know whether to accept other plans, or block out that weekend in the hope you'll make it through, etc. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (6) Thanks(6)   Quote Suave Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2018 at 7:07am
This may just be me, but I think the poor souls that maintain the "Master Lists" should get a discount on entry fees.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote jennifer.quail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2018 at 1:08pm
I can definitely see combining/refining genres.  Science fiction and fantasy....I could go both ways, as they absolutely are shelved together for a reason, but if they are separate, they need to be very clear exactly what they want in terms of fantasy (and also think if you are having 'horror' and 'fantasy', you need to lose 'ghost story.' That's a sub-category of those, not a genre.)  Meanwhile, while major-house publishers do distinguish between suspense, thriller, and action, the majority of people don't.  And of course, political satire is simply too narrow and too personal taste as opposed to satire more broadly.

Also, I'd point out I immediately signed up for FictionWar Summer when, because I'd entered spring, they offered an enormous early-bird discount. Meanwhile I bypassed Script here and thought a lot about it before doing Flash. It's expensive, and feedback from judges of...extremely variable quality isn't really worth the fee on its own. The forums actually provide more useful material there.  The only reason I ultimately did Flash was it's shorter and they say two stories at minimum, not one. There are a lot of contests and markets out there, and one that's pricey and has long, slow turnaround for the first round in particular needs to add value if they expect that kind of money.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote lisafox10800 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2018 at 1:34pm
I know this will never happen because of the likelihood of opening a Pandora's box, but I'd love to see weighted average scores - whether the difference between first and second place, and making it versus an honorable mention was a landslide or just a fraction of a percentage point. (I am a market researcher by trade, and I know that ranking exercises without context/weight don't tell you much. Add the weight in and it's a whole other story).

In flash they use a points system so the first 15 in the group get points and the bottom 15 do not, which gives a bit more clarity but still doesn't paint the whole picture.

Fiction War started tiering their entries but the difference is, no judge feedback there. So you can see, relatively, the tier your story ended up in but no rationale for it.

A combination of both would be a perfect situation, but is highly unlikely.

Oh, and either revising political satire and comedy or doing away with them entirely. First, there aren't as many markets to submit to in these genres after the fact, and what one judge thinks is funny another thinks is mundane or boring. Think about your own favorite comedy movies. I love "Clue" and my husband hates it. He loves "The Naked Gun" and I tolerate it. I honestly think getting satire or comedy in this competition is the kiss of death - not because they're impossible to write (and they can even be fun to write!), but because judge subjectivity weighs far more heavily than in any other genre. One judge reading Comedy may like slapstick but hate puns. Another might love puns and hate slapstick. Even if you've written a great story, it becomes a no-win situation.  Just my opinion - happy to agree to disagree here.

Otherwise, I am perfectly fine with the deadlines, page counts, time limits, etc. Agree that judges should be paired to genres they have real-world experience in. Asking a mystery writer judge to comment on SciFi or Fantasy is just plain wrong.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote thesaura73 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2018 at 2:26pm
I would just like to understand if there is any correlation between feedback and judging. Explicit scoring would be good as Lisa said, and knowing the magnitude of difference in scores. I was totally flummoxed by getting an HM with the very bland feedback I got. Weighted scoring across all competitors could have shown, "Hey, my heat just didn't score as high as other heats." You can guess that is what happened, but it just feels arbitrary. 

I'm OK with everything else, as I feel it is a time management/plot development exercise (and I am sorely lacking in those areas, the main reason I started entering!). 
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