2022 Cascade Contest Scoring Elements

2022 Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Contest

Scoring Elements by Category

Each entry will be scored based on ten elements. Each element will be given a score of up to 10, for a possible total entry score of 100. Consider these elements as you prepare your entry because this is what the judges will be looking for.

Contemporary Fiction Book

  1. Opening hooks readers and draws them into the story. 
  2. Backstory and facts are provided in a natural and interesting way. 
  3. Writing is fresh and original, demonstrating the author’s voice. 
  4. Character motivation is strong enough to move the story forward and take the main character on a journey. 
  5. Writer has a strong command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Writing is well-paced and free of clichés (except in dialogue). The level of craftsmanship is high. 
  6. Manuscript has a believable story world where the possibility of conflict exists. 
  7. Dialogue develops the characters and their emotions, and it moves the story forward. 
  8. Characters are well-developed and differentiated. (If unpublished, the first 15 pages show promise of characters who are well-developed and differentiated.)
  9. Story includes a spiritual element or seems appropriate for the Christian market. 
  10. Story holds the reader’s interest and provides a powerful emotional experience. (If unpublished, synopsis and opening pages indicate full manuscript will hold interest to the end and provide a powerful emotional experience.)

 Historical Fiction Book

  1. Opening hooks readers and draws them into the story. 
  2. Backstory and facts are provided in a natural and interesting way. 
  3. Writing is fresh and original, demonstrating the author’s voice. 
  4. Character motivation is strong enough to move the story forward and take the character on a journey. 
  5. Writer has a strong command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Writing is well-paced and free of clichés (except in dialogue). The level of craftsmanship is high. 
  6. Believable story world is set in the past, where the possibility of conflict exists. 
  7. Dialogue develops the characters and their emotions, and it moves the story forward. 
  8. Characters are well-developed and differentiated. (If unpublished, the first 15 pages show promise of characters who are well-developed and differentiated.)
  9. Story includes a spiritual element or seems appropriate for the Christian market. 
  10. Story holds the reader’s interest and provides a powerful emotional experience. (If unpublished, synopsis and opening pages indicate full manuscript will hold interest to the end and provide a powerful emotional experience.) 

 Speculative Fiction Book

  1. Opening hooks readers and draws them into the story. 
  2. Backstory and facts are provided in a natural and interesting way. 
  3. Writing is fresh and original and demonstrates author’s voice. 
  4. The main character’s motivation is strong enough to take the character on a journey. 
  5. Writer has a strong command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Writing is well-paced and free of clichés (except in dialogue). The level of craftsmanship is high. 
  6. Novel has believable story world where the possibility of conflict exists. 
  7. Dialogue develops the characters and their emotions, and it moves the story forward. 
  8. Characters are well-developed and differentiated. (If unpublished, the first 15 pages show promise of characters who are well-developed and differentiated.)
  9. Story includes a spiritual element or seems appropriate for the Christian market. 
  10. Story holds the reader’s interest and provides a powerful emotional experience. (If unpublished, synopsis and opening pages indicate full manuscript will hold interest to the end and provide a powerful emotional experience.)  

Nonfiction Book

  1. Opening effectively introduces topic and tells readers what the book is about. 
  2. Manuscript answers a felt need. 
  3. Manuscript title (and chapter titles, if provided) are interesting, making readers want to read more. 
  4. Author establishes competency to deal with the subject through personal experience and/or research. 
  5. Manuscript is well-written, interesting, and easy to understand. Author paints word pictures to help readers understand. 
  6. Structure: Manuscript appears to be well-organized and designed in a logical way. 
  7. Author has a strong command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The level of craftsmanship is high. 
  8. Author effectively uses anecdotes and facts to set the stage and illustrate points. 
  9. Manuscript has a spiritual thread that is natural for the topic or seems appropriate for the Christian market. 
  10. Book holds the reader’s interest; conclusion is satisfying; book delivers what was promised at the beginning. (If unpublished, synopsis suggests the conclusion will be satisfying and deliver what was promised in the beginning.)  

Memoir Book

  1. Opening creates a strong impression or hook. 
  2. Story concerns a significant and compelling personal life event. 
  3. Narrator’s voice is fresh and feels true. 
  4. Author uses anecdotes and historical facts to set the stage and illustrate points. 
  5. Author uses metaphors and imagery to paint word pictures to help readers understand. 
  6. Conflict is strong enough to move story forward and take the main character on a journey. 
  7. Narrator’s motivations are clear and believable. 
  8. Author has a strong command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The level of craftsmanship is high. Writing is well-paced and free of clichés (except in dialogue). 
  9. Manuscript contains a spiritual thread or seems appropriate for the Christian market. 
  10. Story holds the reader’s interest, delivers what was promised in the beginning, and provides a powerful emotional experience. (If unpublished, synopsis and opening pages indicate full manuscript will hold the reader’s interest, deliver what was promised, and provide a powerful emotional experience.)  

Young Adult Book (AGES 12–18+), Fiction

  1. Opening hooks readers and draws them into the story. 
  2. Characters are believable with relatable problems they must solve. 
  3. Manuscript has a believable story world where the possibility of conflict exists. 
  4. Writing is fresh and original, demonstrating the author’s voice. 
  5. Dialogue sounds realistic and reveals plot, conflict, and emotion. 
  6. Conflict is strong enough to motivate main character’s journey. 
  7. Characters are well-developed and differentiated. (If unpublished, the first 15 pages show promise of characters who are well-developed and differentiated.)
  8. Author has strong command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Style is appropriate to genre: tight, efficient prose with well-paced action. 
  9. Story contains a spiritual thread that is natural to the story and appropriate for the Christian market.  
  10. Story holds the reader’s interest, has an ending that is satisfying, and leaves the reader with hope. (If unpublished, synopsis suggests the ending will be satisfying and leave readers with hope.) 

Young Adult Book (AGES 12–18+), Nonfiction

  1. Opening tells what book is about and provides a hook. 
  2. Manuscript’s subject is one this age group needs or wants to read about. 
  3. Manuscript title (and chapter titles, if provided) are interesting, making readers want to read more. 
  4. Author incorporates setting and word pictures to help readers understand. 
  5. Writing is fresh and original; author establishes voice and competency with topic. 
  6. Structure is logical and easy to follow. Points build on one another and continue to a satisfying conclusion. 
  7. Author effectively uses anecdotes and facts to set the stage with authentic representation of information/attitudes as they exist(ed). 
  8. Author has a strong command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The level of craftsmanship is high. Writing is well-paced and free of clichés (except in dialogue). 
  9. Manuscript is inspiring or brings new insight. It contains a spiritual thread or seems appropriate for the Christian market. 
  10. Book holds the reader’s interest, conclusion is satisfying, and book delivers what was promised at the beginning. (If unpublished, synopsis suggests the conclusion will deliver what was promised in the beginning.) 

Middle Grade Book (AGES 8–12), Fiction

  1. Opening hooks readers and draws them into the story. 
  2. Characters are believable with relatable problems they must solve. 
  3. Manuscript has a believable story world where the possibility of conflict exists. 
  4. Writing is fresh and original, demonstrating the author’s voice. 
  5. Dialogue sounds realistic and reveals plot, conflict, and emotion. 
  6. Conflict is strong enough to motivate main character’s journey. 
  7. Characters are well-developed and differentiated. (If unpublished, the first 15 pages show promise of characters who are well-developed and differentiated.)
  8. Author has strong command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Style is appropriate to genre: tight, efficient prose with well-paced action. 
  9. Story contains a spiritual thread that is natural to the story and appropriate for the Christian market.  
  10. Story holds the reader’s interest, has an ending that is satisfying, and leaves the reader with hope. (If unpublished, synopsis suggests the ending will be satisfying and leave readers with hope.) 

Middle Grade Book (AGES 8–12), Nonfiction

  1. Opening tells what book is about and provides a hook. 
  2. Manuscript’s subject is one this age group needs or wants to read about. 
  3. Manuscript title (and chapter titles, if provided) are interesting, making readers want to read more. 
  4. Author incorporates setting and word pictures to help readers understand. 
  5. Writing is fresh and original; author establishes voice and competency with topic. 
  6. Structure is logical and easy to follow. Points build on one another and continue to a satisfying conclusion. 
  7. Author effectively uses anecdotes and facts to set the stage with authentic representation of information/attitudes as they exist(ed). 
  8. Author has a strong command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The level of craftsmanship is high. Writing is well-paced and free of clichés (except in dialogue). 
  9. Manuscript is inspiring or brings new insight. It contains a spiritual thread or seems appropriate for the Christian market. 
  10. Book holds the reader’s interest; conclusion is satisfying; and book delivers what was promised at the beginning. (If unpublished, synopsis suggests the conclusion will deliver what was promised in the beginning. 

Children’s Chapter Book (AGES 6–10), Fiction or Nonfiction

  1. Opening hook creates interest and draws readers into the story. 
  2. Story concept is original and will appeal to young readers. 
  3. Children can identify with main character and see character overcome obstacles. (If nonfiction, book title and chapter titles are interesting to target audience, well-organized, logical, and easy to follow.) 
  4. Manuscript has a distinct story world the character must deal with. (If nonfiction, author uses anecdotes and facts skillfully to advance theme.) 
  5. Excellent writing style (including good grammar) that is age-appropriate with short paragraphs. 
  6. Age of characters appropriate for target audience. (If nonfiction, descriptions of setting and real persons/situations enhance reader’s experience.) 
  7. Characters and events meet the experience and possible expectations of this young audience. (If nonfiction, book is truthful in its presentation of information and attitudes.) 
  8. Text enhances reader’s experience. Descriptions in text create sense of place. 
  9. Manuscript contains an inspirational thread or seems appropriate for the Christian market. 
  10. Ending is satisfying and leaves young readers with hope, or in nonfiction book provides children with the opportunity to learn more about the world. (If unpublished, synopsis suggests the ending will be satisfying and leave young readers with hope, or in nonfiction book will provide children with the opportunity to learn more about the world.) 

Children’s Picture Book (AGES 2–10+), Fiction or Nonfiction

  1. Descriptions create word pictures. 
  2. Story idea is fresh and original. (If nonfiction, topic is appropriate and will appeal to young children.) 
  3. Text contains pleasing sounds (such as rhymes, rhythm, repetition, or patterned language) and uses proper grammar. 
  4. Text flows naturally when read aloud. 
  5. Children can identify with main character and see character overcome obstacles in the story. (If nonfiction, topic will inform young readers and provide fresh insight through accurate depiction of facts and attitudes.) 
  6. Familiar words or actions are interspersed with less familiar ones. 
  7. Story and style are appropriate for young children. 
  8. Page breaks seem to be indicated in the appropriate places. 
  9. Dialogue or narration reveals plot and keeps story moving. (If nonfiction, writing holds the reader’s interest and keeps the book moving forward.) 
  10. Manuscript or book contains inspirational thread or seems appropriate for the Christian market.  

Article, Column, Nonfiction Short Story, or Blog Post—(all Blog Posts are considered published)

Note: Word-count rules are not a scoring element. Entries that do not adhere to the 2,000-word limit for this category will be disqualified and not judged.

  1. Opening clearly tells readers what the piece is about and creates a hook that draws the reader in. 
  2. Topic delivers help for a felt need, shows originality, and creates instant connection with readers. 
  3. Title creates interest. 
  4. Piece contains interesting twists or facts presented in a fresh way. 
  5. Author establishes competency in the subject area through personal stories, facts, anecdotes, or research. Author effectively uses anecdotes and details to set the stage and illustrate points or strengthen emotional tone and theme. 
  6. Author has a strong command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The level of craftsmanship is high. 
  7. Author’s voice is authentic; narrative is well-paced, engaging, and free of clichés. 
  8. Piece contains an inspirational thread or seems appropriate for the Christian market. 
  9. Entry is well-structured and presented in a logical way. Points build upon points, leading to a satisfying ending. 
  10. Piece will inspire or give fresh insight to the reader. Conclusion is satisfying and delivers what was promised at the beginning.

Poetry—A Single Poem

Note: Word-count rules are not a scoring element. Entries that do not adhere to the 1,000-word limit for this category will be disqualified and not judged. 

  1. Theme shows originality and freshness. 
  2. Subject is emotionally engaging and resonates with the reader. 
  3. Poem flows with excellent rhythm—has a pleasing cadence whether rhymed or not. 
  4. Poet engages the reader using the senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. 
  5. Poet effectively uses word sounds (such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, or rhyme) and word choice to create a mood. 
  6. Poem enables the reader to see, think, or understand a theme or topic in a new or more compelling way. 
  7. Poet uses imagery and symbolism effectively. 
  8. Poet uses repetition, line breaks, and other poetic conventions effectively. 
  9. Poet demonstrates command of language—poetry may take liberties with grammar and punctuation, but spelling is important. 
  10. Poem has an inspirational thread or seems appropriate for the Christian market.  

Devotional—A Single Devotional

Note: Word-count rules are not a scoring element. Entries that do not adhere to the 350-word limit for this category will be disqualified and not judged. 

  1. Devotional opens with a personal story/illustration that effectively hooks the reader (creates interest) and directly connects with the insight about how God works in daily life. 
  2. Devotional is unified (focuses on only one point/theme and stays on that subject) and coherent (reflects a logical, orderly flow/connection between sentences and paragraphs). 
  3. Writer uses detailed, specific, and concrete language to describe his/her spiritual insight about or connection with God. 
  4. Devotional includes or refers to Scripture, and the theme invites the reader to a deeper understanding of God’s Word. 
  5. Writer’s voice is genuine, sincere, and vulnerable. 
  6. Illustrations contain flawed people with real problems, not perfect families. 
  7. Tone is not preachy. (For example, the author avoids words like “should” and uses “we” and “our” instead of “you” and “your.”) 
  8. Theme of devotional has universal appeal/application to a general audience rather than targeting a limited audience. 
  9. Closing paragraph uses specifics, details, and concrete language to help readers make the leap to apply the writer’s insight about God to their own lives. 
  10. Devotional message explicitly refers to God and/or Jesus Christ, rather than just good, moral Judeo-Christian principles.  

Fiction Short Story (includes Flash Fiction)

Note: Word-count rules are not a scoring element. Entries that do not adhere to the 2,000-word limit for this category will be disqualified and not judged. 

  1. Story is based on an original idea or theme. 
  2. Opening provides a hook to pull the reader into the story. 
  3. Story is written in an original way with a unique voice and unexpected outcome. 
  4. Writing is well-organized, with effective transitions. 
  5. Setting and physical details contribute to the mood and theme. 
  6. Writing is expressive and includes figurative language and detailed descriptions that engage the reader. 
  7. Story contains an inspirational element or seems appropriate for the Christian market. 
  8. Sentences are carefully crafted to create fluidity, interest, and variety. 
  9. The writing demonstrates understanding of grammatical conventions. 
  10. Story holds interest and provides a satisfying conclusion.