Thursday, June 05, 2014

Tips for Entering Writing Contests

When you compete in a short story contest, you are facing numerous other talented writers. Your story needs to be polished, complete, and sent in before the deadline in order to have a chance. These simple tips are necessary to successfully participate in a short story competition.

Research the Competition

There are many people out there who want to scam naive writers. It is important to research any short story contest that you want to enter. Double check any contest to make sure that it is hosted by a reputable source, especially if they charge a reading fee. There are many websites available to help you discover legitimate contests, and simply Googling the contest name can often bring up and problems.

Read the Directions

If you don't follow the guidelines completely, you may have eliminated yourself from the contest before it begins. Rules are NOT made to be broken when it comes to contest directions. In many competitions, judges do not even read entries that do not properly format their entries or otherwise break the rules. Stick to the word count or page count that is prescribed in the directions.

Take Your Time

Don't wait until the day before the deadline to write and submit your story. Give yourself several weeks to write, revise, and proofread. By starting a few weeks in advance, you will have time to change your plan if your story does not unfold as you expect. Also, make sure to mail your entry in advance of the deadline.

Revise and Rewrite

Never send the first draft of a story to a competition. Legitimate short story contests are very competitive. You will always be able to find areas to improve a first draft. Once you complete a draft, set it aside for two to three days and work on something else. When you return to your story, you may find blaring mistakes or weak points.

Find a Beta Reader

Do you have a friend or fellow writer who would be willing to give you an honest critique of your work? Finding a great beta reader is important for fiction writers. After working on your story for a significant amount of time, it is helpful to bring in fresh eyes. Keep an open mind when listening to criticism from your beta. They just might be giving you the tools to win the contest!


Trusting your computer's spell check program to proofread your short story may lead you to problems. A judge may lose all confidence in your writing if you mistake "their" for "there" in the first sentence. Many writers find it helpful to print out a copy of their story for editing. Reading it backwards may also help highlight errors that you had previously missed.

Have Patience

Decisions can take time. Once you submit your entry, begin working on your next project or competition. There is nothing you can do to change your submission now, so worrying will just distract you from the next opportunity that comes along.

Persistence and determination are two of the key factors necessary for winning short story contests. The more competitions you enter, the better your writing will be. Keep an open mind and develop your talent as much as possible.

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