Last spring I entered “The Murder Plague” in the Unpublished Novels (science fiction) category of the Florida Writers Assocition’s annual Royal Palm Literary Awards. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Florida’s a big state. There are a lot of great writers here.
So I wasn’t terribly disappointed last month when I got a notice from the contest coordinator telling me that “The Murder Plague” was not a finalist. A little bit, sure. But it was easy to shrug off. Here’s how the contest worked: We submitted both the complete manuscript and a seperate entry of the first 30 pages. Two judges would read the first 30 pages, and score them. If it scored high enough to be a finalist, then the judges would read the entire manuscript. The winner in my category was “Outpost Earth” by L.H. Davis of Malabar. Congratulations!
So when I got the letter last month saying, “sorry, you’re not a finalist” I moved on pretty quickly. I forgot that FWA promised to share the judges’ comments when the contest was finished.
Those comments, scorecards, arrived last night and they were wonderful.
One judge liked it a lot, giving me mostly 5s on a scale of 1-5, in 10 different judging points, for a total score of 46 out of 50. The other judge liked it a lot less, but still liked it, giving me mostly 3s, and a total score of 30. I gotta believe that if the both liked it as much as the first judge, and my combined score was 92, I’da been a finalist for sure.
“This is a fresh voice and approach,” Judge #1 concluded. “I want to continue reading.”
And I actually like the second judge’s scorecard better, because he provides some really good suggestions on how to improve “The Murder Plague.” He (or she) is like the tough editor who makes writing better.
Judge #2’s conclusion was just as encouraging: “As a reader, I love the concept, love the moments when your writing takes off, and love the possibilities of the story. The manuscript needs work, but the good news is that the manuscript is worth the effort. Best of luck!”
So while I shop “Eve’s Swath” over the next few months I’m psyched to give “The Murder Plague” a thorough rewrite.