How to Get in the Judge’s In-Pile

How to Get in the Judge’s In-Pile

Have you ever entered a writing contest and wondered what swayed the judges? What are they looking for? How do they choose the winners?

Here are my 20 top tips on submitting your writing with the best chance possible for you to win.

  1. Read the contest rules. All of them, not just the first few.
  2. Brainstorm your ideas. Either with your friends, your family, a fellow writer, or even your cat. Talk it through out loud.
  3. Write your first draft. And know that this is just a DRAFT!
  4. Title is everything. Make it interesting. Think of newspaper headlines.
  5. Lead with a good hook. That first sentence should grad a hold of the reader and hang on tight.
  6. Write characters we care about. Nobody wants to following a boring or bland character.
  7. Plot – plot – plot. Need I say more?
  8. Point of view. Be clear on whose point of view the story is written from, and stick to it.
  9. Beware of cliches. No editor or judge wants to read cliches. So don’t use them.
  10. Write something different. Don’t use the same common story line that most writers use. Find something unique and different, or write the story from someone else’s perspective to turn it around.
  11. The editing begins! Now is where the real work starts.
  12. Stay under he maximum word count. If the contest calls for entries up to 5,000 words. You don’t have to write a full 5,000 words. In fact, the judges will appreciate those who can tell a complete, captivating story in far less.
  13. Avoid being non-descriptive. The devil’s in the details! Oops! A cliche, but this one is okay. It’s relevant. If you don’t write clearly enough for the reader to SEE and FEEL it, you’ve lost already.
  14. Endings and resolutions. Make sure that the ending ties everything up. That all questions are answered or dealt with on some level. Don’t leave the reader hanging.
  15. Get in a critique group. This will be one of the best things you can do for the advancement and improvement of your writing.
  16. Revise for flow and organization. Go back through, scene by scene. Does it make sense? Is it orderly? Does Tuesday come after Monday?
  17. Put it aside – break time. Give yourself enough time to put it in the drawer for a week, or more if possible. Then come back to it with fresh eyes. You’ll be amazed at what you catch, that you overlooked the first time.
  18. Revise your contest entry. Writing is rewriting!
  19. Proofread, proofread and do it again. Have at least one other person proofread it too. The more eyes the better.
  20. Read the contest rules one more time before submitting. Trust me, it’s worth it!

Good luck. Contests are a great way to gauge the success of your writing.



Sorting Through Feedback

Sorting Through Feedback

Getting feedback from your editor, or critique partners can bring a mixed bag of emotions.

You need the feedback to know what you’re doing right and wrong. What’s good, and what needs to be changed. But sometimes it’s also hard not to take it personal.

Repeat after me “They’re critiquing my writing – not me!”

And just because someone doesn’t like the way you wrote, or didn’t write something, doesn’t mean you have to change it. It’s just their opinion. Remember that too! It’s just their OPINION.

Sift through all the comments, use what you can, and throw out the rest. No one, not even your editor, expects you to make every single change they suggest. Always give yourself time to digest other’s comments. Don’t rush into making changes right away.

And save old drafts, just in case you decide the changes don’t really work.

Sherry Briscoe






























How to Maintain a Healthy Writing Group

How to Maintain a Healthy Writing Group

Being a part of a writing group, in my mind, is a crucial part of the creative process. We need feedback and input from other writers. But creating or joining a writing group is not enough.

First, you have to find one that you click with. You need to be benefiting from the group, as well as contributing. If you’re in a group that doesn’t energize and help you – leave it. And you can be a part of one or many writing groups at one time.

One of the most important elements of having a healthy writing group is having consistent, regular meetings that are scheduled at a time that works for most of the writers involved.

You don’t need officers, but you do need someone who organizes the meetings, and facilitates them. This person generally keeps everything on track and can stop the whole group from going too far off topic.

Clear, outlined parameters of what the group does and doesn’t do are important. Go with what works best for the members of your group. Schedule who submits how much and when.

Make sure you are getting valuable feedback from the group. After all, that’s what it’s all about. Getting and giving feedback!

Sherry Briscoe

Writing Contest With Free Feedback

Writing Contest With Free Feedback

The Idaho Writers Guild is once again sponsoring their #writing #contest. Each entry is judged by two or more industry professionals. And you receive the judge’s scorecards after the competition is over.

Accepting submissions now through March 5, 2018. Winners will be announced at the May 4/5 IWG Writers #Conference in Boise.

First place winner in each category receives $100.  Second place winner in each category receives $50.

Entry fees are $40 for non-members of the Idaho Writers Guild, and $35 for members.


  1. Short story
  2. Novel first 10 pages
  3. Non-fiction
    1. memoir first 10 pages
    2. essay/article – max 2,500 words

Check it out, and get the full guidelines and entry form at



“My mind, which I used to consider a great ally, has turned into a sparrow on a leash.” ~ Dessa

It is a beautiful thing when our passions, our craft, our imagination all get away from us. Relinquishing control is a practiced art form all its own. Do you meditate regularly?


The above is from The Writer’s Handbook – 365 Days of Inspiration & Motivation by Rochelle Cunningham. A fellow Gypsy writer, a friend, and talented wand maker, I invite you to check out her book.

We can all use inspiration, and this book is full of quotes, suggestions, tips, and more to help you with your writing. Every author should have it on the corner of their desk.

I do!

Building Realistic Characters

Building Realistic Characters

Character refers to the essence of who anyone is on the inside. Is he or she a good person or a bad person? A fighter or a wimp?

Character is the spirit of that person. Writing strong characterization is important.

List some traits for your protagonist. For your antagonist. For supporting characters.

  • lazy
  • energetic
  • in-your-face
  • quiet, shy
  • invisible
  • intrusive
  • kind
  • selfish
  • egotistical
  • insecure
  • scared
  • trusting
  • inspiring to those around them
  • a teacher
  • a student of life
  • religious
  • sarcastic
  • insulting
  • appreciative
  • patronizing
  • inquisitive
  • studious
  • loving
  • So much to choose from! What is the spirit of your characters?

Make Your Character Likable From the Start

Make Your Character Likable From the Start

If you want your readers to root for your lead character, you need to do something early on to make sure that you’ve earned that. Without a character to root for, your story has nothing going for it.

Your readers need to identify with someone early, and if your characters are generally unlikable, even if you may think they’re interesting, it simply isn’t enough to sustain a story.

  • Write strong dialogue that shows how witty or charming your character is.
  • Or use action, showing a selfless act early on in the story to establish them as a positive force.