Ever feel like the bio section at the bottom of your query letter looks a little skimpy? How about the “About” page on your blog, Facebook profile, Twitter profile, etc? For unpublished authors, winning writing contests is a one way to build a writer’s bio. Word count limitations which challengers writers to keep the ‘short” in short story helps hone skills. Having deadlines provides motivation to complete work in a timely manner. Plus, writers get exposure of their work, and based on which contests entered, that attention could come from publishers or agents.
Here are my tips on increasing your chances of winning:
- Check and double-check the contest guidelines to make sure your entry fits within the theme, word count, format guidelines. Don’t give the judges a reason to disqualify your entry.
- Vanquish every typo, grammar, and spelling error from your story. It might not help you win, but a polished entry can’t hurt either.
- As with manuscripts, a great hook will draw the judge in. The writer’s job is to make their entry stand out above all others.
- Unlike with poetry, short stories cannot get away with “Untitled”. Give a lot of consideration to the title for your entry. It tells the judge what to expect. For example, I recently entered my YA short story “Zombie Kibosh Crew” in the OWFI 2012 contest. The story genre is right there in the title and it helped me eliminate backstory. With a 1,200 word limit, cutting words was vital.
- Stay focused on one point of view. Trying to work in multiple POVs can muddled the entry, may bump you over the contest word count limit, and might confuse the judge.
- Only enter your best work, especially for fee-based contest. Otherwise, you’re just throwing away your money.
- Don’t give up!
After you’ve researched which contest are right for you, all that’s left is mustering the courage to enter. One popular contest is the Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. This fee-based contest gains winners publication, potential exposure to editors and agents, and recognition on the Writer’s Digest website. Writer’s Relief List of Writing Contest offer information on contest for creative writers. This site also offers links to anthologies open to submissions, for those chose that route. One of my critique partners recently wrote a post on ongoing contest (here).
Do you have any writing competition tips? Do you have suggestions for finding other contests?