Nonfiction Monday: On Figure Skating Scoring and Writing

By Carol Hinz
Editorial Director, Millbrook Press

To stay with the sports theme on this blog, let’s go from barefoot running to figure skating. While a significant number of Minnesotans were focused on a certain football game yesterday, the highlight of my weekend was watching the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships.

After Rachel Flatt bested Mirai Nagasu in the ladies event, the New York Times ran an article entitled Skating’s Scoring Has Little Love for Artistry. Figure skating switched to a new scoring system a number of years ago, and there have been complaints from the beginning that it overemphasizes the importance of technical ability while not sufficiently rewarding artistry.

What does this have to do with writing? While reviewers don’t rank every book on a points system, I think the best books have both technical and artistic merit. Let’s look a little at what this means for nonfiction.

Technical components of a work of nonfiction might be:
-factual accuracy
-proper spelling and grammar
-conveys the who, what, when, why, where, and how of the topic

Artistic components might be:
-writing skill: age-appropriate vocabulary, varied sentence structure, a feeling that the writing is natural and not forced or awkward
-smooth transitions and seamless flow throughout the book
-passion: the writer is engaged with the topic and makes the reader care about it too
-logical organization of the material being presented (just like the organization of elements in a skating program should be logical)
-the tone and presentation are a good fit for the topic

Interestingly, the criteria that make up the program components (artistic) score in figure skating aren’t all that different than the components listed above: (1) skating skills, (2) transitions, (3) performance/execution, (4) choreography, and (5) interpretation.

I hope this metaphor is useful to someone out there when it comes to evaluating nonfiction. If nothing else, perhaps you’ll have something new to think about as you’re watching the Olympics next month!

For more detail about how skating’s scoring system works, check this out.nonfiction_monday

This week’s Nonfiction Monday host is Playing by the Book.

One thought on “Nonfiction Monday: On Figure Skating Scoring and Writing

  1. Mama Librarian

    Fascinating analogy, Carol! I will definitely think about these points while scoring books on my blog (and watching figure skating — though not at the same time!).

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