Sunday, January 15, 2017

Seven Tips for Winning a Writing Contest

So you’ve written an amazing manuscript.  Now what?  Before shopping it around (only to have it die in the slush pile), why not distinguish it as an award-winning manuscript?  Quite simply, agents and editors are more apt to read your manuscript with interest if it has already been vetted and stamped with approval in a writing contest.

Easier said than done, right?  Perhaps.  After all, prominent writing contests receive thousands of entries.  However, the bennies are worth it!  To give your manuscript the best chance possible of clinching a win, I’ve compiled a list of Seven Tips:

Seven Tips for Winning a Writing Contest

1) Be a rule worshiper!  When it comes to writing contest rules, follow the guidelines precisely.  Nothing will get you disqualified quicker than shrugging off formatting rules or having your name on the manuscript.  In other words, read the rules and then read them again! 

2) Titles matter.  A title is the judge’s first impression of you as a writer.  Find something inviting and perhaps a little mysterious.  A zany title or one that uses alliteration is sure to get the attention of the judges.  One word titles can be effectively potent! 

3) Proofread!  Make your persnickety high school English teacher proud and proofread!  Judges will literally judge you as unprofessional when grammar and usage errors run amok.  Have someone else look over your work for spelling, punctuation, and tense shifts.  Strive for active rather than passive voice. 

4) Submit Early.  Most judges begin reading as soon as the entries come in.  The smart play is to have your work read while they are fresh.  An editor once told me eighty percent of entries are submitted during the last few days of the contest, so judges will be inundated towards the end.   

5) Include a bio if possible.  Some contests may not allow this, so check it out first.  A bio outlining your credentials will give credence to your writing and put the judge in a good “head space” before reading.   

6) Lead with a great hook!  It’s just a hard fact that judges will write off (pun intended) entrants with weak openings.  Start with a powerful, moving, or hilarious first sentence, and you will hopefully snare the judge for a win. 

7) Write the most compelling piece you can!  Kind of obvious, but submit your absolute best work possible.  Incorporate a lively theme, memorable characters, and vivid words that evoke imagery.  It’s trite – but show, don’t tell!

Still feel intimidated?  Don’t!  Remember the number one golden rule of writing contests: You never win what you don’t submit.  Write on!!

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