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.
- Read the contest rules. All of them, not just the first few.
- Brainstorm your ideas. Either with your friends, your family, a fellow writer, or even your cat. Talk it through out loud.
- Write your first draft. And know that this is just a DRAFT!
- Title is everything. Make it interesting. Think of newspaper headlines.
- Lead with a good hook. That first sentence should grad a hold of the reader and hang on tight.
- Write characters we care about. Nobody wants to following a boring or bland character.
- Plot – plot – plot. Need I say more?
- Point of view. Be clear on whose point of view the story is written from, and stick to it.
- Beware of cliches. No editor or judge wants to read cliches. So don’t use them.
- 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.
- The editing begins! Now is where the real work starts.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Get in a critique group. This will be one of the best things you can do for the advancement and improvement of your writing.
- Revise for flow and organization. Go back through, scene by scene. Does it make sense? Is it orderly? Does Tuesday come after Monday?
- 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.
- Revise your contest entry. Writing is rewriting!
- Proofread, proofread and do it again. Have at least one other person proofread it too. The more eyes the better.
- 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.