Are the characters interesting and engaging? Do they behave in a consistent manner? Do they have distinct personalities? Or are the characters one-dimensional or generic?
Is it clear who is speaking? Does the dialogue help move the story along or benefit the character development? Or does the dialogue merely feel like filler or serve as a means of conducting info-dumps?
Does the author follow the accepted norms of grammar and punctuation consistently?
If a first person narrative, is the narrator interesting? Does he/she remain focused on the storytelling, or ramble on about unrelated matters? Does the narrator tell the story, or simply present a longwinded soliloquy? If third person narrative, is the narrative voice consistent throughout?
Is the story original? Does it take the norms of the genre and present them in a unique and entertaining way? Or does it simply rehash stories that have already been done?
Does the plot present a credible chain of events, or jump around on a whim? Do the events in the story follow a clearly defined logic? Is the resolution of the story credible? Or does the author engage in a bit of deus ex machina to force a resolution?
Is point of view clear and consistent? If multiple POVs are presented, do they help or hinder the flow of the story? Do changes of POV make sense, or serve as info-dumps?
Does the author present the setting in a way that allows the reader to suspend belief? When necessary, has the author done the needed fact checking to make sure certain events could occur? If presenting situations that could not occur in the real world, has the author provided adequate background for the reader so the reader can accept the situations? Does the setting feel organic or contrived?
Duplication: Sometimes, we need to turn down otherwise good stories because we have already published something too similar. This happens sometimes when writer workshops give theme assignments to participants, and then later those participants all send out their stories for possible publication. If something is simply too similar to a story we have already published, we may either decline the story or request that you resubmit at a later date.
Failure to Follow Guidelines: While we aren't going to reject a story outright if it is five words over our word count, we do expect authors to make every effort to adhere to the guidelines. The guidelines exist to assist us with processing the high volume of submissions that we receive. Because we only accept a limited number of stories per issue, we may pass on a story that strays too far from our guidelines in favor of another.
Market Appropriateness: Our publication caters to a wide readership. Sometimes, we need to turn down otherwise good stories because they are not appropriate for our market. Examples include stories in which the speculative element is cosmetic instead of important or stories written specifically for children.
To help writers better understand how we rate stories and what we look for in a story, we are making available our score card. This score card is used to judge all fiction submissions sent to Bards and Sages, whether it is for the Quarterly, our annual writing contest, or special projects.
Upon request, we will provide writers with their score card results as well as comments made on the score card regarding the story.
Each criterion is assigned a score of 0 through 6. A story needs to achieve an overall score of 4 or better to be considered for publication.
What the numbers mean:
0 – Poor. Requires significant revision or reworking.
1 – Sub-par. Does not meet minimum expectations for the category.
2 – Fair. Shows potential, but would require revision before being publishable.
3 – Average. Demonstrates a basic understanding of the norms expected. Meets minimum expectations.
4 – Good. Demonstrates a solid understanding of the norms expected. Shows a solid grasp of the necessary elements of the category.
5 – Excellent. Exceeds expectations. Demonstrates above average understanding of the norms of the category.
6 – Exceptional. One of the best we have ever seen. Cannot imagine how it can be improved upon.