There are five judges in all.
I am the first judge.
My job is to see that entries conform to the contest rules and are appropriate for the category in which they are entered.
I also check to be sure the author is really an "unpublished writer" as defined by the rules.
Finally, I eliminate any story that is obviously not up to the level of a potential winner.
After the contest deadline I compile a final list of eligible stories and send it to the outside judges.
Sherry, Richard, and Rockin' Croc whoop up the new century.
The four outside judges are unknown to one another, so there is no comparing of notes.
They independently rate the stories and give points to each one. They then narrow their choices down to 5 finalists. They give the one they judge best 5 points. The next best will get 4 points and so on. When all judges are finished we will have four lists of finalists--one from each judge.
When I have all the lists in hand I make a count and the story with the most points is the winner, the next is the runner-up, and the rest get honorable mention. The honorable mentions are listed in alphabetical order.
We then make the announcement--first to winners and finalists and then to all participants and all our members.
As for how long this will take--consider these factors:
I can't start to make up the list of eligible stories until I have posted all of them on the website. Many stories come in just before the deadline. so that makes it harder for me to finish my part of the job. After they are all posted I compile a list and send it to the outside judges.After that, we simply wait until the outside judges have read (or re-read) the stories and have made their final ratings.
That's how it's done and why it usually takes one or two months.
So be patient. Stories aren't easy to judge. They aren't cows or pumpkins. Each one is unique. It takes time to read them carefully and to judge them properly. Our judges really care about making good decisions.
I think the excellent collection of stories by our past winners and finalists is proof of our judges' careful work.