Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Long Post about a Short Story

It takes a particular skill to write short stories. And the Skint Short Story Competition (see here and here) has proved that many of you have it in bucketloads! The overall standard was way above my expectations. I never doubted that making a decision would be difficult. What I didn't predict was that there would be so many entries that could easily have won.

I've posted before about the criteria I used to rank the entries:

  • good writing (of course!)
  • whether the story fitted the theme
  • whether it worked as a short story
  • whether it took me somewhere I hadn't been before.
Skint's co-ordination and judgement have been impeccable. Email threads wove their way between Cardiff, Cornwall, Chester, Surrey and London as the debate took shape. We all made our individual choices without conferring. What we did discuss at great length was the fairest way to arrive at a consensus.

In the end we each came up with a shortlist of 6 and ranked them. That was the point at which the subjective nature of the process kicked in.

Bearing in mind that only the top 3 would win, of those:

  • only one entry appeared on all 5 of our lists
  • 2 people had this as their 1st choice
  • the other 3 ranked it 3rd, 4th and 5th.
  • one entry was on 4 lists
  • but only one person ranked it 1st
  • 2 others ranked it 3rd, but the other person had it 5th
  • one entry was on 3 lists
  • 2 of which ranked it 2nd
  • the other person ranked it 4th
  • In the shortlist of 6, 4 of us had 4 of our choices
  • But that means we all had choices that never made it to the final 6
  • There were some cases in which one of us shortlisted a story that others felt significantly weaker than other non-ranked entries
Am I boring you? Are you still here? We agreed we wanted the process to be as transparent as possible. The only way to demonstrate how difficult the decision has been is to show you the minutiae.

What this illustrates is that if your story does not appear in the final 6, it's still quite possible that at least one of us had it right near the top of our list!

Anyway, it ain't over yet. We're now each ranking the shortlisted 6 to come up with a final 3.

Thanks to Skint for organising the competition and asking me to be on the panel. I've really enjoyed the experience and have learned a lot along the way.

Thanks to fellow judges - Skint (again), Minx, Clare and Maxine. The collaborative process worked well I thought ...

And very big thanks to everyone who entered. You made me chuckle, whimper, shiver and occasionally brought me close to tears. Good writing at its best!

If anyone would like feedback on their entry, feel free to email me by clicking 'contact me' here. I will of course only be able to give you my personal opinion, which (as must be clear by now) may well be very different from that of the other judges.

Write on!

8 comments:

Cailleach said...

Judging is very hard work, lots of thinking involved and analysing - I don't envy you that task at all!

skint writer said...

A great post Debi, and an honest one

DBA Lehane said...

I feel very flattered to have made the last 6, whatever happens thereon in. I feel even more humbled when I consider some of the great stories/writers who didn't make the final cut. To demonstrate that, a couple that were my favourites and which I commeneted on...didn't figure at all. Now that either demonstrates I'd make a lousy judge or that there were more good stories than final places! I'll leave you to figure which it is! And let's not forget, ANY of the entries can win the reader's choice which, in many ways, is as much a winner as the final judges winning entry.

Debi said...

Lehane - I think that's the 1st comment you've left that I unequivocally 100% agree with!

Atyllah said...

I don't envy any of the judges the task. There is some great writing out there, some brilliant stories - but I think you and the other judges have done a great job! Well done.

DBA Lehane said...

Damn! Debi, I must be slipping...don't worry I'm off to Switzerland for 4 days. Hopefully that will give me time to take stock and reflect and come back 100% fully opinionated charged! ;)

Anonymous said...

You don't say (which would be interesting and supportive to the shortlisted) how many entries you had.

Debi said...

Sorry, anonymous. The link to Skint's posts gave more details.

The final count was 33 entries.