Round Two Rubric
For each scoring area, read the definition of that element, and choose the whole-number score that best fits that entry.
A compelling opening hook 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 hooks and 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
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 aren't important to the reader, or the conflicts tied to them are contrived.
An original, fresh plot is skillfully set up and believable (or the reader is able to suspend disbelief). Plot/external conflict is realistic, fresh, and not easily resolved because of misunderstanding. Plot is sufficiently complex to sustain the story, and is made stronger by compelling characterization.
- 9-10: The plot is skillfully set up. Conflict is realistic, fresh, and not easily resolved. Character goals and motivations are integral to moving the plot forward.
- 7-8: There are minimal concerns with plot or moments when the reader does not easily suspend disbelief. Character goals and motivations enhance the plot's forward momentum.
- 5-6: The plot doesn'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 contains major plot holes, is confusing, or is unbelievable. Character 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.
Believable conflict keeps the main characters apart while they work towards goals the reader can identify. These stakes build to a strong climax and satisfying resolution.
- 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.
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. Info dumps are avoided.
- 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: Info dumps and extraneous scenes sometimes disrupt the reading experience.
- 1-2: Story has info dumps and a poor balance between dialogue, action, and exposition. Extraneous scenes and rough transitions disrupt the reading experience.
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: Fresh, compelling dialogue that shows great skill in conveying tone and emotion. Each character's diction and voice are distinct.
- 7-8: The author uses realistic dialogue to spark interest. The dialogue distinguishes the characters and reflects their emotional and story arcs.
- 5-6: The author uses dialogue and dialogue tags successfully to advance character and story.
- 3-4: The dialogue can be indistinct, stilted, unrealistic, or repetitive. The author has issues with appropriate use of dialogue tags.
- 1-2: The dialogue slows and confuses the story. The characters' voices are not distinct. The author struggles to balance dialogue and exposition.
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.
A clear authorial voice exhibits strong and varied word choices and uses language to enhance the narrative. Author is a storyteller.
- 9-10: Authorial voice is unique 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 clear, 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.
Varied sentence structure, consistent grammar, and a story free of spelling errors enhance the flow of reading.
- 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.
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.