Look around and you’ll find no shortage of writing contests. A quick Google search of the words “writing contest” uncovered over two million pages of results! Winning a writing contest is more than just a professional pat on the back or a quick infusion of cash. It’s the opportunity to expose your work to new audiences…and some of them may have the potential to influence your future success as a writer. That’s why, every year, thousands of writers cross their fingers and submit their work for judgment.
Still, sometimes it can seem as if entering writing contests are like throwing darts in the dark (not something we recommend, by the way). Of course, the more you throw, the more likely you are to hit that bullseye, but you need to make sure you’re aiming in the right direction first. That’s where we can help.
At WritingRoom.com, we’ve entered our fair share of contests and are excited to be hosting our first one, WritingRoom’s Author Launch Contest. As such, we can let you in on a few insider tips that may help guide you to your next win.
- Do your homework. Before you invest the time to enter, read the winning works of the last contest. What kind of styles won? Are you confident that your work is up to par with the winners? Also, check out the judges to see what kind of writing they prefer and decide if your work will be a suitable read.
- Follow the guidelines. Each contest is different. Read the policies carefully. Then, once you format your work to specification, go back and read the policies again. Double check that you’ve met all criteria to avoid being disqualified.
- Proof. Your. Work. Enough said.
- Flaunt your talent in the first few pages. Judges don’t have time to read over every single entry from start to finish. If you don’t grab their attention by page two, you’re a goner. Capture interest with great opening statements, memorable characters, genuine dialogue and an intriguing plotline in the first 500 words or less.
- Come in under the word count. If the limit is 3,000, don’t feel as if you need to give the judges all 3,000 words to make an impression. In fact, judges are often impressed by short, powerful works that don’t take maximum effort to showcase the author’s talent.
- Explore the unusual. Consider how many works the judges have read over their lifetimes. They’re all too familiar with expected plotlines and safe subject matter. Catch and retain their interest with something both heartfelt and original.
- Make it multi-dimensional. One common theme among most winning entries is layers of undertones. Your work should carry underlying subtexts and subtle symbolism no matter how short it may be.
- Get some feedback first. It always helps to have another set of eyes on your writing before you send it in. Tell your friends and family about the contest and get their honest opinions. Even better, submit the work to your writing community for critique.
- Present with professionalism. Resist the urge to try and make your work stand apart with colored paper, flowery fonts or off-the-wall dedications. Instead, show off with a vibrant title and brilliant opening line.
- Don’t give up! Rejections are the name of the game in contest submission. Don’t let it get you down. Always stay involved and keep entering new contests! You never know when you’ll catch the eye of a judge who falls in love with your style.