Writing Competitions - How to Increase Your Chances of Winning
Writing competitions are popping up all over the place these days, and a quick online search will undoubtedly bring up a hefty list of exciting opportunities for you to sink your teeth into. Competitions cover every genre, and include micro-fiction, short stories, poetry, essays, articles, and novellas. Word counts vary considerably, and range from a few words to several thousand words. Some competitions are even free to enter, and the rewards can be extremely lucrative. The biggest problem with writing competitions, however, is that they often attract a large number of entries, which obviously makes them extremely competitive. So, how do you make your entry stand out from the crowd?
1. Read the rules – this is the most important part of the competition, and yet surprisingly many people fall at the first hurdle. You must adhere rigidly to all the rules. So, if it says a maximum of 1,000 words for an essay competition, you must stick to it; otherwise your entry will immediately be disqualified from the competition and all your hard work will have been in vain.
2. Presentation – make sure that your entry is immaculately presented and thoroughly proofread before it goes off to the competition. Always type your entry, or get someone else to type it for you. Use a 12-point, easy-to-read font, such as Times New Roman or Aerial. Most competitions ask you to double space your work, unless it is poetry, and to use one side of the paper only. Make sure that all your sheets of paper are crisp and white too, as you definitely don’t want them to look as if the dog has chewed the corners or you have been using them to stand your coffee cup on!
3. One at a time – don’t ever be tempted to send the same piece of work to more than one competition at the same time. You probably would be elated if you were lucky enough to win several competitions with the same piece of work, but the judges would certainly see it very differently if they found out.
4. Make sure your work is original – if you really want to win a competition, then always offer something completely different. If you are writing a short story, for example, stay away from old hackneyed storylines and make sure your story has a gripping plot, unusual characters, and a satisfying and surprising ending. If the theme is travel, then tear yourself away from sunshine, turquoise seas and Mediterranean cuisine, and instead focus your mind on a science fiction story set in outer space. Be different, and your entry will stand out from all the rest.
5. Add a little humour – a little humour can go a long way, especially as many judges often have to read through several hundred entries when judging a competition. You don’t have to make the judges split their sides laughing, but a touch of humour can help to lift even the gloomiest tale.
6. Put your entry aside for a few days – unless you haven’t heard about the competition until the last minute, it is always a good idea to put your entry aside for a few days after you have completed it. Dashing off to catch the last post or desperately clicking the ‘send’ button on the computer will only end in heartbreak. When you do look over your piece of work again with a fresh pair of eyes, you will notice all kinds of errors and think of numerous improvements that can be made. Try to be objective about your work too: Does every sentence convey the right meaning? Could you use a more powerful word here and there? To give you entry the best possible chance, every word must count.
7. Keep trying – last, but not least, don’t give up if you don’t win anything at first. Remember that writing is a very personal thing and what one judge dismisses as not good enough to make the shortlist, another may think is a definite winner. No writing is ever wasted, though, as it is all good practise and experience for you. Someone has to win every competition, and you have to be in one to win one. Good luck!
This content was provided by one of our users, Jane Grimshaw