Writing Contest Tips

Writing contests are a great way to get your foot in the door to the writing world.

You practice your writing and editing as well as trying to meet deadlines. If you win, you get bragging rights as well as the satisfaction of knowing that your writing actually is pretty good.

So what can you do to make sure you submit your absolute best writing to a contest?

writing contest tips rachel poli

1. Titles matter. Create a unique, meaningful title for your piece. It will be one of the first things the judges see and you want them to be intrigued to read it.

2. Finish before the deadline. Finish the first draft of your piece at least a week before the deadline. You want to five yourself ample time to edit, revise, and make sure it exceeds the contest’s guidelines’ expectations.

3. Create a fantastic protagonist. You want the judges to love your character, sympathize with your character, feel the same things your character feels.

4. Follow the guidelines. I can’t stress this enough. Read over the guidelines for the contest. If you don’t follow all of them, your piece will automatically be out, regardless of how fantastic your writing may be.

5. Stick to the theme. Some contests call for open fiction, others call for fiction revolving around a theme. Make sure your story contains that theme, or it’s out.

6. Know the difference. Literature contest focuses more on deep characters, setting, creativity, and beautiful use of language. A Writing contest focuses more on plot and popular fiction.

7. Stick with on Point of View. Most short stories are too short to alternate POVs, so just stick with one and make sure it suits your story the best. If you do happen to enter a novella contest, unless you’re really confident, still stick with one POV. Do you know how many entries the judges are reading? Don’t confuse them with multiple characters to follow in one story.

Please note that while I’ve entered contests plenty of times before, I’ve never won anything. Take these tips with a grain of salt and do what you believe is best for you and your story.

Good luck!

How do you enter writing contests? What tips do you have for us?

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13 thoughts on “Writing Contest Tips

    • Not that I know of.
      Though I have to admit that I tend to come up with titles first. Then I end up basing a plot off of that. I don’t know why, but that’s just how my mind works.
      The only story (series) that didn’t work that way was my George Florence novels. I have a title for the third book, but that’s it.

    • To me, developing characters in a short story is the same as developing them in a full-length novel–you just have less words to get it down on paper.
      With this being said, give your character a couple of distinctive traits (maybe three) as well as their goal or ambition in the story. If there is any background information that you can give on the character that also has to do with the plot, then add that in there.
      If it comes out too long, you can always edit and ask yourself, “Does this develop the character? Does it also improve the plot?” If yes, keep it. If not, you can probably take it out.
      I hope this helped! This is a great article on writing characters, so you can check this out: http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/hooked-on-a-feeling

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