In judging a national contest, I hope to offer writers and editors specific suggestions so they can improve their craft. In exchange I'll get a modest honorarium. But I'll receive a bigger benefit the entrants may not realize.
As I'm forced to analyze individual components, I see things I'd miss if I were just reading. As I search for what worked and what didn't, I also learn about the craft. I'm reminded why certain techniques shine and others fail. I find examples worth following.
I can't simply give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. My score comes from weighing five elements. For each article, I have to pay attention to:
1) The idea (timeliness, appeal)
2) Effective development of idea
3) Writing style
4) Use of imagery/emotion
5) Originality of treatment
I'm also expected to make comments – offering examples for all five of where and why they succeeded or missed the mark. That means I need to pore over each piece.
If you're reading this, I hope you participate in a critique group. As you do, please take full advantage of the opportunity.
Yes, the other writers can learn from your comments. But that's the tip of the iceberg.
As for me, I hope the next fifty-three entries prove as valuable as the first.