Winning a writing contest not only gives you happiness and joy, but can also get you much needed attention. Winning is impressive, but you have to first astonish the judges with your entry before you even have a chance at winning. In most contests, judges quickly decide who’s in and who’s out. There are many more people in the out pile than in, so how do you get in?
You can make your entries to writing contests stand out with these proven tips. Most people are rejected before the real judging even begins. Often, judges find very few entries they believe are worthy of a second read. Just follow these tips and watch your winnings increase greatly.
If you have a network inside of the writing community you are more likely to win a contest that gives prizes. Compare your work with other writers that you admire or really good work on the same subject. Is your work just as good or at least as closely skilled? Find out who is judging the contest if their names are public and check them out. Find out what kind of work and styles they prefer. You are more likely to win if you are doing something the judges personally prefer, it’s called bias and it gives you an edge over the competition.
Find others to read and constructively critique your work. Try to find people that read a lot, and are especially familiar with your subject. Students, teachers, bookstore owners, and other writers are great people to ask to read and review your submission. Just ask that they remain absolutely honest and don’t just tell you what you want to hear.
Although it is human nature to question things and try to bend the rules, you can’t do this in a writing contest. The guidelines are meant to give ease to judges searching through potentially hundreds of submissions for one perfect winner. The curvy font may look pretty, and your page may look more professional single spaced but it is important that you follow the instructions. Often time’s incorrect submissions will not even be considered. Generally you are required to use a 12pt standard Times or Arial font face, double spaced.
Try to stay under the maximum word count by at least 200-500 words. The less the word count is the more daring you have to be with white space. A writer that crams too many words into too little space is just showing they are insecure about their talents. As long as you are within the required guidelines you entry will be just fine. Is your entry clean of mistakes and professionally presented within the space and style requirements?
Your first paragraph, first few pages, and the last page are the real kickers when it comes to a writing contest. These are the most viewed pages by judges and should show off your skills. Avoid being non descriptive and saying things like the old woman or the little girl. There are already enough non descriptive tales out there and they are meant for teaching children English. Judges want to see that there is a voice behind the words and character. Be the real you; write real. Sometimes you have to write several drafts and come back to them before you discover you inner voice.
Avoid being too common and unoriginal. Stories about wanderers, talking animals, re told science fiction, and lesson oriented is very common and will not win you accolades or monetary benefits. Write honest, be weird, and express the truth and it will put you in, not out. Sentimental narratives about first loves and years gone by are also not award winning material. Writing is generally better when it comes from the heart, but don’t get mushy, just be real.
A basic plot will not win the contest either. All writers know that there is a beginning, a conflict, a climax, and an ending but there has to be a reason to read the story. As stated before, sometimes you will have to cut two or three drafts before you really discover your characters quirks and personalities. Base them on people that you know and can refer to when in need of a character nuance. Understand the motivation behind your characters actions and don’t be afraid to use prose and layering. Winning submissions should have underlying subtexts no matter how short the piece may be.
After you have submitted you work to two or three contests you may think that’s it, and wait by the mailbox for a letter of acceptance or rejection. There’s way more to it than that. As aforementioned it is important to stay involved in the writing contest community, especially when you are first submitting. You want to build relationships with the contest providers and judges that may help you out somewhere else down the road. If you get a letter stating your work has been review and is being considered, send back a thank you note to the person who sent it. These are the little things that can get you noticed.
Original quality writing is what wins contests. Keep applying to contests and never stop sending your work out to potential publishers. Winning a writing contest can help you do many things like get published, recognized and paid, as well as make you feel validated and proud. Constantly keep at it and don’t work alone. Remember to let others read your work and give you ideas for improving it.