Writing contests give you a great chance to gain exposure, practice your skills, and get your work reviewed by professional editors. Plus, you get an opportunity to get published and earn a prize. You won’t stop there, though. Distinguished candidates of writing contests build relationships with editors, so they can easily get a deal for actual publications in print.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a short story writer, an aspiring novelist, an essay writer, or a blogger – there are different kinds of writing contests that help you gain prestige in the publishing world. You have a great opportunity to build your online reputation before launching a big project, so don’t neglect it!
The only question is: how do you win a writing contest? Of course, you won’t be the only applicant, so you’ll compete with numerous skilled and talented writers. Follow these tips; they will help you get noticed:
Pay attention to the requirements
It won’t matter how impressive your entry is if it doesn’t meet the main requirements. First of all, you need to understand what the host is looking for. Are you supposed to showcase depth, subtlety, creativity, criticism, poetic use of language, or inventive literary forms? You should check and understand the instructions before you start developing the plot.
Remember: you need to write a unique entry for every single contest you apply to. Even if the requirements of few contests seem similar, the judges will disqualify your entry if they notice it has already been published somewhere else.
This is also very important: pay attention to the submission deadline! If you plan to enter a specific contest, note down the due date and plan your time accordingly. It’s always better to submit your entry early; that’s how you get more attention from the judges.
Develop an impressive hero
What’s the main thing that fascinates you when reading a short story? It’s the main character! If you want to impress the reviewers, you’ll need to stay away from the superhero cliché. Your main character should be a weird, but mesmerizing blend between darkness and light.
Inner conflict is always attractive, mainly because it reminds the readers of their own struggles.
Throw a surprise
Critics love surprise endings. If they anticipate the end as they start reading your story, you’ll fail to impress them. If, however, you skillfully guide the plot into an unexpected turn, you’ll throw a nice surprise for the reader.
Don’t get this tip too seriously, though; no one likes a shocking ending that’s completely disconnected from the rest of the story. You need to provide some hints throughout the plot, so the reader will think “How didn’t I figure this out?” That’s the type of ending that can win you a writing contest.
Be clever: proofread!
Nothing is more off-putting than bad form and grammar. Every writer knows that. The judges won’t care about the awesomeness of your entry if it’s not flawless in terms of grammar and language. Of course, you can always use slang if that fits your story and the contest’s requirements, but you should still edit and proofread the piece in order to make it perfect.
You need to adhere to the standards of proper form, language, and style for the type of literature you submit.
If you make the judges feel something when they read your entry, you’ll have a chance to win. They have already read too many pieces of literature, so it’s difficult for an average writer to awaken their emotions. That’s why you need to deliver something that’s above the average. You want them to see your characters in front of their eyes. You need them to imagine the scenes and feel the pain, joy, sorrow, and all other emotions your hero is experiencing.
Although your characters are fictional, you should make them as real as possible. When the readers get the impression that your story could happen in real life, they put themselves in the shoes of your characters and you can easily guide them through an emotional rollercoaster.
Don’t Get Disappointed if You Don’t Win. Enter Other Contests!
This is the golden rule to winning a writing contest: you grab as many opportunities as possible. Maybe you won’t get the main prize the first time, but you should keep in mind that there are tons of other opportunities all over the Internet. Search for contests that meet your standards, follow the rules, and submit a brilliant entry by the deadline.