How to Build a Better Writing Contest


Whether you’re a sponsor, judge, or contestant each person has a responsibility to the success of the contest.What can you do?


  1. Convey the standards through score sheets and concise guidelines or training for judges.
  2. Ban judges’ promotion of their books and writing services except in optional signature lines.
  3. Return scores and comments to all contestants at least one week BEFORE announcing finalists and winners. (Why? All contestants should have an equal opportunity to bring any legitimate errors or problems to the attention of contest coordinators, and the coordinators need time to correct the situation if warranted. Coordinators verify the numerical scores, but some issues aren’t noticed until the contestants receive their scores and comments.)

First-Round Judges:

  1. Set aside your personal frustrations, problems, likes, and dislikes.
  2. Avoid promoting yourself and your services except in permitted signature lines.
  3. Remember most entries are partials and not all elements will be fully developed.
  4. Provide concise, positive, constructive comments and leave the real world rejection to the final round agents and editors.
  5. Read Jody Wallace’s informative and humorous series on contest judging. (See link below.)


  1. Read and follow entry rules.
  2. Check the score sheet and guidelines for judges.
  3. If there’s a legitimate error or question about your submission, scores, comments, or a judge’s action, contact contest coordinators immediately.
  4. Thank the sponsors and judges.
  5. Avoid public rants about contests, judges, and scores.

Are you a sponsor, judge, or contestant? What do you think?


Jody Wallace’s 4 part series on oontest judging

Jamie Gold on her experiences as a judge

Linda Style’s contest pros and cons:

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