Writing Contest Tips:
CONSIDERATIONS IN CHOOSING A CONTEST:
First, determine what you want from a contest which may include:
- Winning (naturally!) to use as credentials
- Ego gratification
- Increase self-confidence
- Feedback/critique/different perspective
- Reading by a published author/agent/editor
- Hope you'll be discovered
- Opportunity to sell your book
- Satisfaction of having met a deadline
- Prove to the IRS you're a serious writer
- Use the lousy scores to gloat over later when you sell
Next, look at what the contest has to offer:
- Who are the judges?
- What is the prize for winning?
- Reading by editor/agent
- Reimbursement of conference fee
- Recognition at banquet
- How well known is the contest?
- What is its reputation?
- What is its track record for publication of winners?
- How many entrants are in the contest?
- Large number of competitors = more prestige if you win
- Small number of competitors = better chance of winning
- What kind of feedback do you get (score sheet, written critique, comments
on the ms.)?
- How much does it cost?
- Can you afford to attend the awards banquet?
- How many pages does it require you to submit?
- Is there a clear cut category that fits your entry?
- Do they let you know where you ranked?
Finally, ask yourself this: Is the potential payback worth the time,
money, and energy you're putting into it?
CONTEST SUBMISSION ADVICE:
- Ensure you enter the appropriate category
- Send chapter one (including the prologue if there is one), not chapter
- Ensure the synopsis covers the entire story, hitting only the high points
(characters' goals, motivation, conflict, and resolution)
- Write the synopsis in third person, present tense and don't include
- Make your beginning a grabber
- Try to end the manuscript text at a natural stopping point
- Leave the judge wanting to read more of your story--"A novel is a
story about a likeable or interesting character who overcomes seemingly insurmountable
obstacles in search of a worthwhile goal."
- Use proper manuscript format
Submission package--FOLLOW THE RULES
- Enclose entry form, filled out fully and legibly
- Sign the entry form if requested
- Enclose the proper fee
- Enclose the proper number of copies--no more, no less
- Enclose a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope)
- Enclose a SAS postcard if you want to know your package was received
- Use the proper postage on the package and the SASE
- Don't type your name on the manuscript (unless the rules indicate
- Do not exceed the maximum number of pages allowed by the contest
- Keep a copy of what you send
- Relax--it's not a life or death matter
- Keep writing!
- Consider it a competition with yourself, not your friends/critique
- Remember, winning contests is not the point--selling is
- Be professional--send thank you notes, no matter how dumb your judges are
- Read the score sheet and comments, then set them aside for a few days and
- Consider each comment objectively or ask a critique partner to help you
- If two comments are totally opposite, decide which you agree with or ask
- If you think a comment is totally off-base, ignore it, it probably
is--but try to determine why the judge made the comment
- If two or more judges say the same thing, listen
- Read the positive as well as the negative comments
- This is YOUR manuscript--change only what YOU think is appropriate--not
all comments will be on target
- Don't let one high score go to your head--some judges score everyone high
- Don't let one low score bother you--some judges score everyone low
- The important thing is not what score you received, but what you learned
from the experience
(Copyright Ó 1995 by Pam McCutcheon)
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