RWA has some great contests. I've entered a few in the past, and recently entered one after spending time away. Since I am a finalist, I can't complain. 🙂 In the past, however, I've gotten a 10 and a 3 on the same entry in the Golden Heart. WTF? (I don't know what the scoring system is like now, but trust me, this was a looong time ago.)
Okay, I know there are people out there who get upset and refuse to change a thing, even when the comments might be of merit. No, instead, they disparage the judges and the contest and everything else under the sun instead of taking a long hard look at what they wrote and seeing if maybe they could fix something after all. And with the GH now, it's even easier to dismiss the scores because there are no comments allowed. I forget the reasoning behind that. It probably happened when I was overseas and reading my RWRs sporadically. 🙂
But what about when you're on the other side of the fence as a judge? I judged a contest not too long ago. I received 5 entries. I took my time, made lots of comments. I tried to impress upon each author what I felt she did really well. I also made suggestions for what jarred me or bothered me as a reader. I went for the big stuff: plot, characterization, motivation. I didn't bother with nitpicky stuff, except to mention that oh, hey, you might want to take a closer look at X. I've been on the receiving end of comments from people who clearly didn't know what they were talking about (grammar rules they got wrong, etc) so I know not to go off on tangents about subordinate clauses.
Now, how many thank you notes do you think I got? If you guessed one, you guessed right. Would it surprise you to know that the person was a finalist in the contest? A couple of the ones I judged got pretty high scores from me, and lots of nice comments, but they didn't final. So no note. I fully admit that I myself have been guilty of not writing the note right away in the past. And the longer you wait, the less likely you are to do it. To my shame, there were times I didn't send a thank you because I figured I'd waited too long and they didn't want to hear from me.
I was wrong, though. People want to be thanked for their time. Even if you don't agree with the comments, you should thank the person for making them. Realize that this person is a reader too. Sure, maybe it's jealousy, if that makes you feel better. Or maybe she's right and you could change your hero's name from Englebert to Joe because nobody wants to read about an Englebert. Ultimately, you decide what to do to your work so don't let your indignance get in the way of thanking someone for their time.
Yes, I admitted to sometimes dropping the ball on the thank yous. But not anymore. I even thanked the person who gave me a rotten score. I didn't agree with a word she said, but I thanked her nonetheless. She took time out of her day to read the mss. Though I think she may need remedial English classes, that's just my opinion and still doesn't take away from the fact that she gave me enough of her time to read my work and comment throughout. So grit those teeth and write those thank yous. We all know we're supposed to do it, but how many of us really do?