The Diamond Heart Award for Published Romance Writing

Diamond Heart Award Announcement

We are thrilled to announce that our highly anticipated Diamond Heart Awards is quickly approaching. To ensure a smooth and fair competition, we have set the initial entry cap at 240. But don’t worry if you don’t make it in right away! If we reach our entry cap, we will establish a waitlist. As our dedicated judges complete training, we will pull entries from the waitlist in the order they were received. This means everyone has a fair chance to participate in the Diamond Heart Awards.

Warmest regards,
RWA Contest Committee

Unveiling the Diamond Heart Awards – A New Chapter in Honoring Excellence

Since its inception, Romance Writers of America (RWA) has proudly presented an array of awards in recognition of romance writing excellence and showcasing the remarkable talent and creativity of romance authors.

Purpose

The Diamond Heart Awards recognize authors who have mastered the craft of romance writing and showcase their talent and creativity in producing romances that are equitable and inclusive and are exemplary models of the romance genre. We celebrate the power of the romance genre with its central message of hope and love, because romance is for everyone.

Vision

Envisioning a celebration of romance in its myriad forms, we aspire to recognize, honor, and elevate the craft of romance writing in all its diversity, inclusivity, and equity. Through the Diamond Heart Awards, we aim to recognize and honor those storytellers who beautifully weave narratives of love and hope, breaking barriers and embracing all shades of the human experience. We champion authors whose writing redefines the contours of the romance genre, contributing to a literary world where “happily ever afters”  or “happy for nows” are for everyone. Our vision is to illuminate the power of romantic narratives that transcend differences, foster connections, and inspire hope, while ensuring the rich tapestry of our collective experiences is reflected and respected in every romantic tale we celebrate.

2024 Diamond Heart Awards Schedule

Wednesday, April 17, 2024 - Judge sign-up begins

Friday, May 10, 2024 - Judge sign-ups close at 4:59pm Central Time

Friday, May 17, 2024 - Last day for judges to complete training and testing

Monday, June 3, 2024 - Category entry caps announced

Wednesday, June 5, 2024 - The contest opens at 11 a.m. Central Time rwacontest.org. RWA members and non-members may submit one entry at this time. Entries will be placed on a waitlist if entry caps are met.

Monday, June 17, 2024 - The contest opens to second entries. Both member and non-member entrants may enter a second book if the final entry caps have not been met. All entrants may enter up to two books in total.

Friday, June 21, 2024 - The contest closes to entries at 4:59 p.m. Central Time.

Monday, July 1, 2024 - Deadline for works to be submitted to RWA’s contest site by 4:59 p.m. Central Time. Failure to meet this deadline will result in disqualification and forfeiture of the entry fee.

Friday, July 19, 2024 - The first round of judging will open, and works will be sent to the judges.

Monday, August 26, 2024 - Round one scores due to the RWA Office.

Friday, September 13, 2024 - The second round of judging will open, and works will be sent to the judges.

Monday, October 21, 2024 - Round two scores due to the RWA Office.

Friday, November 1, 2024 - Phone calls to notify finalists will commence. Release of official finalist list on RWA’s website by 3:00 p.m. Central Time.

Friday, November 8, 2024 - The Third round of judging will open, and works will be sent to the judges for evaluation.

Monday December 16, 2024 - Round three scores due to the RWA Office.

Awards Ceremony - January 2025 TBD

The Contest Committee and RWA Executive Director will make every effort to adhere to the schedule as listed. However, we reserve the right to adjust the schedule in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

Entries

Diamond Heart Fees

  • First Entry: RWA member entrants will pay $65 for the first book entered
  • Second Entry: RWA member entrants will pay $85 for the second book entered
  • Non members will pay $195 for first book entered; and $195 for second book entered

Diamond Heart Entrant Eligibility

  • The Diamond Heart Awards Contest will be open to members and non-members
  • If the entry is a collaboration, all collaborators must be RWA members in good standing to qualify for the lower entry fee
  • Entrants must be 18 (eighteen) years of age by the entry date
  • Entrants are required to indicate their acceptance of the contest terms
  • Neither RWA staff nor members of their immediate families are eligible to enter or judge the contest. “Immediate family” is defined as spouse, parents, and children. Adopted, foster, and step are included in this definition.
  • To enter the Diamond Heart Awards Contest go to rwacontest.org

Basic Requirements

  • Entries must be a work of original Romance Fiction. To be defined as a romance, all entries must have the following:
    • A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as they want as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
    • An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.
  • Watermarked Submissions
    • If applicable, placement of watermarks shall be restricted to the header and footer of each book page.
    • Watermarks placed across the text of the pages may result in disqualification of the entry.
  • Disqualification
    • Entries should not contain problematic content that is potentially insensitive, upsetting, offensive, or inappropriate to specific groups.
    • The Romance Writers of America prohibits the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, such as text generators, plot generators, paraphrasers, summarizers, or translators, in the preparation and submission of contest works.
    • RWA Contest Committee and Executive Director reserves the right to administratively disqualify an entry at any point in the contest. In that case, the file will be deleted, and the entry fee may be refunded.

Diamond Heart Entries

  • Entry must have an English language publication date of 2021, 2022 or 2023, or in the case of a serialized work submitted as a whole, an original English language publication date of 2021, 2022 or 2023 for the final installment of that work.
  • Entry must not have been entered in whole or part into previous contests for published works administered by the RWA national organization (e.g., THE VIVIAN or the RITA contests).
  • Entry must be an English language edition.
  • Entry must be submitted as a single PDF file, with a copyright page and authorized by the publisher. Entrants are encouraged to submit other file formats in addition to the required PDF file (e.g, epub).
  • Entry must meet the requirements for the category in which it is entered. A book may not be entered into more than one category.
  • If a novel is published as part of a collection, the entire collection does not need to be entered into the contest.
  • A collection of novels in one volume does not constitute one entry. Each work must be entered and uploaded separately, and the appropriate fee must be paid for each entry.

Categories

Category Descriptions

  • All entries must contain a central love story and the resolution of the romance must be emotionally satisfying and optimistic.
  • Word count is determined based on computer word count. A plus or minus two percent of the total word count is permissible.
  • With the exception of Erotic Romance, all categories may have varying levels of sensuality.
  • Entries to categories without a length designation must be 20,000 words or more.

Contemporary Romance

Works that are set no more than 50 years before the contest date to the present.

Erotic Romance

Works in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These works may contain elements of other romance subgenres such as paranormal, historical, etc.).

Historical Romance

Works that are set at least 50 years before the contest date.

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance

Works in which themes or elements other than the romance are integral to the story even though a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic resolution to the romance are still present.

Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements

Works in which spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story, character growth, or relationship development, and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may be set in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system of any culture.

Romantic Suspense

Works in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.

Speculative Romance

Works in which fantasy worlds, paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot).

Young Adult Romance

Works in which young adult life is an integral part of the plot.

Best First Book

To be eligible, the author (or authors in the case of a writing team) shall not have had any other novel or novella previously commercially available in any format. 

Entry Category Eligibility

Published Entries

  • The entrant selects the category. Entrants may designate a second category for the work, in the event the original category selected does not receive the required number of entries to be judged.
  • Categories with fewer than 10 entries will not be judged. In the event the entrant’s originally selected category does not receive the required number of entries to be judged and the entrant has not designated a secondary category, the entry fees will be returned.
  • A book may not be entered in more than one category. For example: a historical novel that has a strong suspense element may be entered in Romantic Suspense or Historical Romance, but not in both.
  • No category changes may be made after the contest entry deadline, with the exception of entries in a canceled category.

Basic Submission Rules

Entrants will be able to enter one title from June 5, 2024, to June 16, 2024 at rwacontest.org. Entrants will be able to enter a second title starting June 17, 2024, until the maximum number of entries is reached or the contests close on June 21, 2024, whichever comes first. Each entrant may submit up to two entries.

Deadlines

  • Provided the contest has not achieved the maximum number of entries before that time, entries must be received no later than 4:59 p.m. Central Time on June 21, 2024 (rwacontest.org). Entry forms received after the deadline will not be processed, and a refund will be issued.
  • Works must be submitted to RWA’s contest website no later than 4:59 p.m. Central Time on July 1, 2024. Entrants who fail to meet this deadline will be disqualified, and the entry fee will be forfeited.

Scoring

  • All final categories will have one winner.
  • On November 1, 2024, the RWA Contest Committee and Staff shall notify finalists via phone. The official list of finalists will be posted on RWA’s website by 3:00 p.m. Central Time on November 1, 2024.
  • Final scores will be made available to the author once the contest is concluded, and winners have been announced.

Round One Judging

  • The purpose of this first round is to establish a minimum standard for submissions.
  • Round One will have three judges per entry.
  • Judges will receive the entire work and answer six yes/no questions.
    • Does it have a central love story?
    • Does it have an HEA or HFN?
    • Does the entry fit the category?
    • Overall Quality: Was the reader engaged throughout the work?
    • Should this work progress to the next round?
    • Is the work free of problematic content?
  • Each entry will receive a total of 18 answers (six yes/no answers times three judges). Every entry that receives seven or more ‘yes’ answers will progress to Round Two.

Round Two Judging

  • The purpose of round two is to narrow the entrants to the finalists.
  • Round Two will have three judges per entry.
  • The judges will read the entire work and assign scores according to the rubric.
  • There are 10 areas to be scored per entry. The scores for each area will be combined, and the entry will receive a score of between 10-100 from each judge. Finalists will be determined based on the average of the three scores.
    • Opening
    • Characters
    • Romance and Plot
    • Climax
    • Pacing
    • Dialogue
    • World Building
    • Authorial Voice
    • Mechanics
    • Overall Impression
    • Tiebreaker: In case of a tie, scores from round 1 and round 2 will be combined as the tiebreaker.
  • Movement to the Third Round of Judging
    • Based on the number of qualified entries received, the top scoring 5% of each category’s entries will advance to Round Three/the final round.
    • No category will have more than 10 finalists.
    • Any fraction will be rounded up to the next whole number, not to exceed 10 finalists.
    • No entry receiving less than 85% of the total possible score will advance to the next round.

Round Three Judging

  • The purpose of round three is to select the winners.
  • Round Three will have three judges per entry.
  • To guarantee the uniformity of all rounds, entries in the final round should be randomly assigned to judges.
  • The judges will read each finalist’s work and assign scores according to the rubric.
    • Resonance of Theme and Content
    • Emotional Impact and Reader Engagement
    • Quality of Writing
    • Originality and Innovation
    • Cultural Impact
    • Tiebreaker: In case of a tie, scores from round 1, round 2, and round 3 will be combined as the tiebreaker.
  • Selecting Winners
  • There are five areas to be scored per entry.
  • Each entry will receive a score of between 5-25 from each judge.
  • The scores will be combined, and the winners will be determined by the cumulative highest score.

Judging

The purpose of the Diamond Heart Awards is to recognize excellence in published romance novels and novellas, and our goal is to create a contest that is equitable and inclusive.

Judge Criteria and Selection

Judges must have a deep love for and knowledge of romance fiction and believe that everyone deserves a happily ever after. The ideal judge will be able to provide a fair assessment of all assigned books and will abide by RWA’s core values and our anti-discrimination policy.

Judge Eligibility

  • Individuals must demonstrate an understanding of romantic fiction to effectively critique the story, characters, and plot. Book reviewers, librarians, professional critics, bookstore personnel, and published romance authors are examples of individuals who may possess the background necessary to serve as judges.
  • All judges will go through an application process to affirm qualifications. Applying to judge the contests does not guarantee acceptance.
  • The Contest Committee and RWA Staff will affirm judges as to qualifications based on eligibility requirements.
  • Selected judges must complete and successfully pass diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA), sensitivity, and contest training and agree to follow the prescribed rubrics when judging.
  • Entrants to the contests are not required to judge. Judging is therefore voluntary and independent of contest participation as an entrant.
  • Judges will not be eligible to judge the category(ies) in which they are entered.
  • Judges must familiarize themselves with the rubrics and strictly adhere to them when judging entries. The purpose of the rubrics is to minimize bias in judging and elicit useful critiques.
  • First, Second and Third Round judges must read the entire work for each assigned entry.
  • Romance Writers of America Board members who enter the contest must recuse themselves from decisions related to a contest entry to maintain the integrity of the organization and its contest rules. Appeals must be handled by the RWA Contest Committee and Staff.
  • To the extent permitted by law, RWA will track and analyze all submitted scores. In the event there is a concern that a judge’s scores are out of compliance with the rubric or constitute a violation of RWA’s Anti-Discrimination policy, the judge may be contacted for more information. If the explanation given is unsatisfactory, RWA reserves the right to remove a judge from the Golden Heart and Diamond Heart Awards contest and/or the future judging pool. These decisions will be made by the RWA Contest Committee and Staff. Decisions can be appealed to the RWA Board.

Judge Selection Criteria

First Round

  • Individuals who fall under the following categories whose application has been submitted and accepted are eligible to judge the first round if they have completed and passed the required DEIA, sensitivity, and Round One rubric trainings:
    • RWA General Members
    • RWA Associate-Writer Members
    • Non-RWA members who have published in romance fiction within the past five years, do not work for a publisher or agency, and do not acquire works of romance fiction.
    • Book reviewers who have published critiques of at least three works of romance fiction within the year before the contest open date, have an established platform or contribute to an established platform such as a personal blog or social media or YouTube account dedicated to posting reviews. Reviewers who post solely on platforms such as Goodreads, BookBub, NetGalley, online retailers, or similar are not eligible.
    • Booksellers and Librarians who are currently employed at a bookstore or library or have been employed at a bookstore within three years before the contest open date.
    • Professional critics paid by a media corporation (e.g., The New York Times, Library Journal, etc.) for critiques and have had three published critiques of romance fiction within the year before the contest open date.

Second Round

  • Individuals who fall under the following categories whose application has been submitted and accepted are eligible to judge the second round so long as they have completed the required DEIA, general sensitivity, and Round Two rubric trainings training:
    • RWA General Members
    • Non-RWA member authors who have published in romance fiction within the past five years, do not work for a publisher or agency, and do not acquire works of romance fiction.
    • Book reviewers who have published critiques of at least three works of romance fiction within the year before the contest open date have an established platform or contribute to an established platform such as a personal blog or social media or YouTube account dedicated to posting reviews. Reviewers who post solely on platforms such as Goodreads, BookBub, NetGalley, online retailers, or similar are not eligible.
    • Booksellers and Librarians who are currently employed at a bookstore or library or have been employed at a bookstore within three years before the contest open date.
    • Professional critics paid by a media corporation (e.g., The New York Times, Library Journal, etc.) for critiques and have had three published critiques of romance fiction within the year before the contest open date.

Third Round

  • Individuals who fall under the following categories whose application has been submitted and accepted are eligible to judge the second round so long as they have completed the required DEIA, general sensitivity, and Round Three rubric trainings training:
    • Book reviewers who have published critiques of at least three works of romance fiction within the year before the contest open date have an established platform or contribute to an established platform such as a personal blog or social media or YouTube account dedicated to posting reviews. Reviewers who post solely on platforms such as Goodreads, BookBub, NetGalley, online retailers, or similar are not eligible.
    • Booksellers and Librarians currently employed at a bookstore or library or have been employed at a bookstore within three years before the contest open date.
    • Professional critics paid by a media corporation (e.g., The New York Times, Library Journal, etc.) for critiques and have had three published critiques of romance fiction within the year before the contest open date.
    • Freelance editors, book coaches, creative writing educators who teach genre romance.
    • Highly qualified judges from rounds one and two who have demonstrated a breadth of knowledge of genre romance.
    • The final round judges will evaluate works from different categories.

Judge Matching

  • Judges will be asked to indicate which categories, subgenres, and sensuality levels they feel they are most qualified to judge and with which they are most familiar.
  • Entrants will be asked to indicate their entry's subgenres and sensuality level.
  • Using the above information, entries will be sorted and assigned to judges via a computer program to ensure the judges are both qualified to judge and familiar with the entries they receive.
  • If a judge is also an entrant in the competition, they cannot judge entries in the same category.
  • A judge will not receive more than ten entries per round. Judges can self-select between one to ten entries to judge in a given round; to be communicated to the contest organizers prior to the beginning of judging.

Confidentiality

  • The identity of the judges and which books they judge is confidential. Communication between judges and entrants is expressly forbidden.
  • Until the contest winners are announced, to protect the contest’s integrity, judges should not discuss the works, post comments in email, on social media, or review the works they judge. Under no circumstances should a judge identify the works they judged.
  • All questions about entries should be directed to the Contest Committee and RWA staff.

Rubrics

Round One Scoring
  • Round One will have three judges per entry.
  • The judges will read the entire work and assign scores according to the rubric.
    • Does it have a central love story?
    • Does it have an HEA or HFN?
    • Does the entry fit the category?
    • Overall Quality: Was the reader engaged throughout the work?
    • Should this work progress to the next round?
    • Is the work free of problematic content? (If this does have problematic content, please follow the procedures in the Policy for Reviewing Potentially Problematic Content)
Round Two Scoring
  • Round Two will have three judges per entry.
  • The judges will read the entire work and assign scores according to the rubric.
  • There are 10 areas to be scored per entry. The scores for each area will be combined and the entry will receive a score of between 10-100 from each judge. Finalists will be determined based on the average of the three scores.
  • The top one-third of each categories’ entries based on the number of qualified entries received will advance to the Round Three/the final round, excepting that no category will have more than 10 finalists. Any fraction will be rounded up to the next whole number, not to exceed 10 finalists.
  • However, no entry receiving less than 85% of the total possible score will advance to the next round.

Opening

  • A compelling opening grabs the reader’s attention from the first paragraphs and makes them want to turn the page, drawing the reader in with intrigue and/or emotion.
    • 9-10: Opening immediately grabs and holds the attention of the reader.
    • 7-8: Opening engages the reader on many levels.
    • 5-6: Opening interests the reader.
    • 3-4: Opening somewhat interests the reader.
    • 1-2: Opening fails to grab the attention of the reader.

Characters

  • Well-developed characters don’t contain stereotypical, cliched, or one-dimensional elements. Their internal and external lives engage the sympathy of the reader, and their actions are consistent with their personalities. Use of character point-of-view conveys the tone and emotion of the story.
    • 9-10: Main characters are well-defined, and not stereotypical. The reader understands their traits and their flaws, and roots for them to grow and change over the course of the book. Their goals and motivations add to compelling narrative conflict.
    • 7-8: Main characters are well-defined, with multi-dimensional internal and/or external lives. The reader engages with the distinct emotional journeys they take over the course of the book.
    • 5-6: Characters are nicely developed and described, with both internal and external lives that are multidimensional and not reliant on stereotypes. Their goals and motivations create conflict that is not contrived.
    • 3-4: It is hard for the reader to get a feel for the main characters. Characteristics aren’t multi-dimensional or aren’t well thought out, leading to unclear or inconsistent goals, motivations, or conflicts.
    • 1-2: Main characters are underdeveloped, or they are described inconsistently or using stereotypes. Their journeys are not important to the reader, or the conflicts tied to them are contrived.

Romance and Plot

  • An original, fresh plot is skillfully set up and believable (or the reader is able to suspend disbelief). Plot and conflict are realistic and not easily resolved. Plot is sufficiently complex to sustain the story, and is made stronger by compelling characterization. Romance is interwoven with the plot.
    • 9-10: The romance and plot are skillfully set up. Conflict is realistic, fresh, and not easily resolved. Character goals and motivations are integral to moving the plot forward. There are no moments when the reader does not easily suspend disbelief.
    • 7-8: There are minimal concerns in the development of the romance or plot. There are few moments when the reader does not easily suspend disbelief. Character goals and motivations enhance the plot’s forward momentum.
    • 5-6: The plot and romance don’t contain fresh elements or intriguing spins on tropes. Character goals and motivations may not be integral to moving the plot forward.
    • 3-4: The plot and romance contain inconsistencies, are confusing, or are unbelievable. Character arcs, romantic arcs, and plot arcs are not integrated.
    • 1-2: The plot is weary, unclear, overdone, or cliched. Conflict does not arise from characterization or is too easily resolved. Romance does not progress in a meaningful way.

Climax

  • Believable conflict keeps the main characters apart while they work towards goals the reader can identify. These stakes build to a strong climax or final turning point, and to a satisfying resolution, or to the unification of story elements.
    • 9-10: The climax of the story is extremely detailed and the reader wants to read on for the ending.
    • 7-8: The climax is detailed and the reader is invested in the resolution of all plot elements.
    • 5-6: The climax is fairly detailed, leaving the reader somewhat interested in the outcome.
    • 3-4: The climax of the story has few details and leaves the reader with questions about what happened, or there are unresolved plot elements.
    • 1-2: The stakes of the story are weak, or the climax of the story is unclear.

Pacing

  • The balance of dialogue, exposition, and action keep the story moving forward in a well-paced book. The story flows well, and every scene is essential. Back story is well integrated without slowing the pace.
    • 9-10: Story grabs the reader’s attention throughout, with smooth scene transitions and a genre-appropriate balance of dialogue, action, and exposition. The romance progresses hand-in-hand with the wider storyline.
    • 7-8: Dialogue, action, and exposition are genre-appropriate. Scenes are essential to the story. The romance and the storyline work together to hold the reader’s attention.
    • 5-6: Dialogue, action, and exposition are genre-appropriate. Scenes are necessary to the story.
    • 3-4: Back story is poorly integrated. Extraneous scenes sometimes disrupt the reading experience.
    • 1-2: Story has a poor balance between dialogue, action, back story, and exposition. Extraneous scenes and rough transitions disrupt the reading experience.

Dialogue

  • Strong dialogue enhances characterization, plot, and emotion when it is distinct and realistic for each character. It reveals new information to the reader.
    • 9-10: Compelling dialogue that shows great skill in conveying tone and emotion. Each character’s diction and voice are distinct.
    • 7-8: Dialogue sparks reader interest. The dialogue distinguishes the characters and reflects their emotional and story arcs.
    • 5-6: Dialogue and dialogue tags successfully advance character and story.
    • 3-4: The dialogue can be indistinct, stilted, unrealistic, or repetitive. Dialogue tags aren’t used appropriately.
    • 1-2: The dialogue slows and confuses the story. The characters’ voices are not distinct. The dialogue and exposition are not well-balanced.

World Building

  • The world of the story is clearly defined and complete, but not intrusive. The story’s sense of time and place is built with consistent details and appropriate research. A multi-dimensional array of side characters appear as needed to enhance the story and fill out the world.
    • 9-10: The world is vibrant, consistent, and clear; grounded in sensory details that enhance the impact of the story.
    • 7-8: World-building details are consistent, with some emotional impact on the story.
    • 5-6: The world of the story leaves the reader occasionally ungrounded. Details don’t add significantly to the impact of the story.
    • 3-4: The world of the story is adrift in time or space, or has rote and dry details.
    • 1-2: The world of the story lacks detail, or the details are contradictory and confusing. The setting lacks depth and color, or it intrudes disruptively into the story.

Authorial Voice

  • A clear authorial voice exhibits strong and varied word choices and uses language to enhance the narrative.
    • 9-10: Authorial voice is clear and interesting. The writing is lively, expressive, and engaging. Word choice is vivid, precise, and inclusive, steering clear of clichés and stereotypes.
    • 7-8: Authorial voice is consistent, and distinct. The writing is fluid and engaging, with varied word choice, and steers clear of clichés and stereotypes.
    • 5-6: Authorial voice is clear. The writing is fluid and readable, with somewhat varied word choice, and steers clear of clichés and stereotypes.
    • 3-4: Authorial voice is not distinct or consistent. Many areas could have benefitted from better word choice and/or eradication of clichés or stereotypes.
    • 1-2: Authorial voice is not unique or is not apparent. Word choice is not varied or precise. Language is cliched and/or perpetuates stereotypes.

Mechanics

  • Varied sentence structure, consistent grammar, and a story free of spelling errors enhance the flow of reading. Deliberate colloquial or stylistic choices (including intentional misspellings) do not count as errors.
    • 9-10: Sentence structures enhance the pace and voice, adding depth to character and action; few/no errors in spelling or grammar.
    • 7-8: Exhibits a good mix of sentence structures, and only minor errors in spelling or grammar.
    • 5-6: Sentences are somewhat varied, with simple, compound, and complex sentences; some errors in spelling or grammar.
    • 3-4: Sentence structure is unvaried, many beginning the same way. Spelling or grammar errors disrupt the reading flow.
    • 1-2: Sentence structure needs improvement; there is little to no variety in sentence style. Writing has frequent spelling or grammar errors.

Overall Impression

  • In a strong book, the writing is vivid, evocative, and appropriate to the genre, and the reader is invested, eager to know what happens next. A Happily Ever After ending is defined as the main characters risking and struggling for each other and their relationship, and being rewarded with the resolution of conflicts, emotional justice and unconditional love. A Happily For Now ending is defined as the main characters risking and struggling for each other and their relationship, and being rewarded with the temporary resolution of conflicts, and the promise of emotional justice and unconditional love.
    • 9-10: The reader is engrossed and eager to read the entire book throughout. The romance concludes with happily ever after / happily for now.
    • 7-8: The book is emotionally satisfying. The romance concludes with happily ever after / happily for now.
    • 5-6: The major conflict has been adequately resolved, but the ending is not entirely satisfying. The romance concludes with happily ever after / happily for now.
    • 3-4: The reader is not engaged with one or more major elements of the book. The romance may or may not conclude with happily ever after / happily for now.
    • 1-2: The reader is not engaged with several major elements of the book. The romance may or may not conclude with happily ever after / happily for now.
Tiebreaker

In case of a tie, scores from round 1 and round 2 will be combined as the tiebreaker.

Round Three Scoring

  • Round Three will have three judges per entry.
  • The judges will read each finalis’s work and assign scores according to the rubric.
  • There are five areas to be scored per entry. Each entry will receive a score of between 5-25 from each judge. The scores will be combined, and the cumulative highest score will determine the winners.
Resonance of Theme and Content
  • This category evaluates the depth and contemporary relevance of the themes explored in the work, assessing how skillfully they're integrated into the narrative and how they resonate with current societal discussions or timeless human experiences.
    • 5: Themes are timely, profound, and expertly interwoven into the narrative. The content resonates deeply with current societal discussions or presents timeless themes in a fresh, captivating manner.
    • 4: Themes are relevant and well-integrated into the narrative, providing meaningful context for character actions and plot developments.
    • 3: Themes are clearly present and contribute to the overall narrative, although their integration could be more seamless.
    • 2: Themes are present but not fully explored or capitalized upon.
    • 1: Themes are either vague, underdeveloped, or poorly integrated into the narrative.
Emotional Impact and Reader Engagement
  • This category gauges the emotional journey offered by the book and its ability to captivate and maintain the reader's interest throughout the narrative.
    • 5: The book provokes deep emotional responses and maintains a compelling narrative that engages readers from beginning to end.
    • 4: The book provides a substantial emotional journey and largely maintains reader engagement.
    • 3: The book elicits emotional responses and keeps the reader's attention.
    • 2: The emotional impact and reader engagement are intermittent or inconsistent.
    • 1: The book lacks emotional depth and struggles to hold the reader's attention.
Quality of Writing
  • This section scrutinizes the level of craftsmanship in the writing, including the use of language, dialogue, pacing, description, and the balance of showing versus telling.
    • 5: The writing is exceptional in its use of language, with powerful dialogue, pacing, description, and balance of showing vs. telling.
    • 4: The writing is strong, with well-crafted dialogue, pacing, and description.
    • 3: The writing is competent, although certain elements (dialogue, pacing, description) may lack consistency.
    • 2: The writing is adequate, but could be improved in several key areas.
    • 1: The writing lacks proficiency, with significant room for improvement in basic storytelling elements.
Originality and Innovation
  • This category investigates how the book differentiates itself within its subgenre and across the broader market, assessing its innovative use of or departure from traditional tropes.
    • 5: The book is highly original and innovative, providing a fresh take on familiar tropes or introducing entirely new ones.
    • 4: The book shows substantial originality and innovation, with unique characterizations or plot developments.
    • 3: The book contains some original elements but relies heavily on familiar tropes.
    • 2: The book's originality and innovation are limited, sticking closely to genre conventions without much variation.
    • 1: The book lacks originality and innovation, strictly following genre conventions without introducing any fresh elements.
Cultural Impact
  • This category focuses on the book's potential to spark meaningful conversation and challenge societal norms, evaluating the representation and exploration of diverse experiences and perspectives.
    • 5: The book has significant potential for sparking conversation and challenging societal norms, with strong representation of diverse experiences and perspectives.
    • 4: The book presents diverse experiences and perspectives and could spark some conversation, although its potential for challenging societal norms is somewhat limited.
    • 3: The book includes some diverse experiences and perspectives, but does not significantly challenge societal norms or conventions.
    • 2: The book has limited diversity and little potential for sparking meaningful conversations or challenging societal norms.
    • 1: The book lacks diverse representation and offers no significant challenge to societal norms or conventions.
Tiebreaker

In case of a tie, scores from round 1, round 2, and round 3 will be combined as the tiebreaker.