Judging a Book

You may have noticed that I haven’t been tweeting lately about what I’m reading and haven’t posted any book reviews for two weeks. The reason being I have been reading some unpublished manuscripts for a book prize I am judging. I was very honoured (and a little bit daunted) about being asked to help judge the CAL Scribe Fiction Prize for 2012. That someone would consider my taste in books to be worth judging a prize to is very humbling however the fact that this also means an author could get their book published was a daunting prospect. Luckily it was not up to me to assess every entry in the prize just the shortlist which was also thankfully three books.

My initial plan of approach to reading the books was to apply my usual 50 page rule to each story and then go back and finish each of the stories but it didn’t work out this way. I got on a roll with the first book (and the other two) and read them as I would any other book in my pile. What was interesting was that I began to judge them quite differently to the books I usually read. The main difference was that the entries for the CAL Scribe Fiction Prize are for unpublished works and will go through the publishing process after they win. That is not to say the entries were completely raw works, they are all very accomplished stories and writing, but unlike the usual uncorrected proofs I get in advance which may contain more than the odd typo an unpublished work still has the opportunity to be tightened or cleaned up in the editorial process. This meant that in reading these books not only was I judging the story, writing, readability etc. but I also had to factor in potential. It was a truly fascinating way of reading and changed my whole set of criteria I usually apply to the books I read. I’m pretty sure all of the three books I’ve read will see the light of day at some point but for now there’s the tough choice of deciding which story should win the prize!

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