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Thursday, January 28, 2016


The No Pile

If, like me, you like to keep your writing sharp (and have a firm deadline) by entering writing contests I'd like to share with what I learned after getting an insider's view of writing contests. Let me start by saying that contest judges are strict! Of course, if you had hundreds of entries waiting to be read you would be too. Faced with all those entries it seems the judge's first job is to narrow the field. And they do so ruthlessly. So make sure your manuscript makes it past the first round.

Follow the directions - If you were asked for 5000 words or less and yours is obviously 10,000 words, if you submitted the dreaded single spaced manuscript, if you included your name on the front page -- any deviations from the rules will land you in the "no" pile. Think they will read it and love your work so much they will overlook an extra 5,000 words? No, chances are they won't even read the first line.

Submit to the wrong contest - Think you can shoehorn your romance into a paranormal short story contest by adding a last minute ghost story told by one of the characters? True, the judges will read but once it becomes obvious that your submission belongs in another contest and every other submission is more fitting to their contest your manuscript will go in the "no" pile.

Have a worn and tired manuscript - If your manuscript has seen better days (and better contests) it might end up in the "no" pile simply because the judges assume that, since everyone else took a pass on it, it must not be very good. Instead of reusing manuscripts that have been returned from other contests or that sat on your desk gathering dust (and dog eared corners), print out a new copy. And don't commit the cardinal sin of mistakenly sending a cover letter you sent to another contest or addressing the judge by the wrong name in a cover letter!

Avoid typos - True, judges will overlook the occasional typo or grammatical mistake. But if the same mistake crops up again and again or there are dozens of typos they will assume you simply didn't care and into the "no" pile for you. So look over your entry with as much intensity as you would if you were submitting it to someone in the publishing industry (which judges often are).

Have fun with writing contests, but also improve your chances of winning by treating them just as seriously as you would any other writing assignment you receive.

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Blogger The Former PK said...

This is a very helpful post. Thank you! I wonder if you have a good list of contests?

7:28 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

@The Former PK - You can check out NewPages Big List of Writing Contests: - it has everything from poetry to book length contests and more listed by deadline.

12:56 PM  

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