Happy Labor Day Weekend, everyone!
I was in the middle of reviewing some of the many entries we’ve received for our Summer Flash Fiction contest, when I had to give my “kudos” to those who’ve submitted their stories. I know we at WOW have said it before but, truly, it takes a lot of courage to send your work in to these writing contests. I know…I’ve entered a few myself!
If it eases your nerves at all, contests are great for many reasons, even if you don’t win. First, it forces you pay closer attention to things like grammar, spelling, punctuation and other such things. Believe it or not, when it comes down to deciding between two entries, little things like proper spelling would be what give another person an edge. Honing in on this skill will also give you an edge in the publishing arena.
Flash fiction contests, like WOW’s, also help writers say a lot within a smaller word count. This is an important skill to learn, especially if you plan to write a novel some day. When writing a story under the word-limit gun, it all comes down to the expression, “Show, Don’t Tell.” You don’t have words to waste on descriptions or explanations–you must choose your words carefully. Believe me, readers (and editors) appreciate that.
Writing contests also help a writer focus on the story they’re trying to tell in a straightforward, but entertaining way. Usually what judges look for is a story focusing on one moment in time, with few characters, a good paced flow from beginning to end and no “beating around the bush.” You don’t want to waste almost the entire word count giving the background to your story. You can tell an excellent story–including some of the background– without having to go into a lot of detail by using great dialogue, mannerisms and how the characters interact with one another.
Finally, writing contests can help a writer get published. That’s right! You can jot that winning achievement on your writing resume–it counts. Even an Honorable Mention is quite a notch on the writing ladder. Just ask some of our winners and runners-up we’ve interviewed. ;oD
Before I go, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I owe my whole writing career to winning a writing contest in Byline magazine. If I hadn’t taken the chance and entered what I believed to be a good story two years ago, I wouldn’t be a WOW bloggess and Contributing Editor today. Not only did the story I entered win that contest, I also sold it to a major Inspirational magazine. And, to help give you some more courage, I won an Honorable Mention nod on another story, which I also ended up selling.
So…there you go. Our Summer contest is over but get writing and enter our Fall one. I’ll even give you some of Byline’s upcoming categories to try. No excuses…write, write, and enter! And I’ll look forward to reading some of your stories soon.
Byline Monthly Writing Contests
All dates listed are postmark, deadlines. Enter your own work only. Type your name, address, phone and the contest category on the first page of the manuscript (no cover sheet). Prepare entries using standard manuscript format. Manuscripts will not be returned so there is no need for SASE. You may send multiple entries to any contest but each entry requires an entry fee. Entries should be unpublished when entered. Cash winners only are notified by mail. A list of winners and HM's in each category will be published in the issue of ByLine dated three months after deadline. Contest winners may be considered for publication.
Mail entries to:Contests: ByLine MagazinePO Box 111Albion, NY 14411
September 2007 Deadlines:
COLUMN/OP-ED PIECE — Deadline Sept. 3, 2007. Suitable for a newspaper column. Topic and style of your choice (humor, political, satire, slice of life). 500 words max. Entry fee $5. Prizes: $35, $20, $10
SEASONAL POEM — Deadline Sept. 15, 2007. Poems on any subject that have a definite relationship to any of the four seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall). Think past obvious images (e.g. falling leaves, Christmas trees, or chirping birds). Avoid predictable language. Any style, but limit length to a single page. Entry fee $3. Prizes: $35, $20, $10.
JUVENILE SHORT STORY — Deadline Sept. 20, 2007. Fiction for ages 5-8; 9-12; or 13-16. State targeted age group on ms; 2,000 words max. Entry fee $5. Prizes: $40, $30, $20.
OCCASIONAL POEM — Deadline Sept. 29, 2007. Write a poem that pays tribute to a holiday or an important event (birthday, anniversary, graduation, etc.) Any style, and commemorating any occasion, but limit length to a single page. Entry fee $3. Prizes: $35, $20, $10.
October 2007 Deadlines:
CREATIVE NON-FICTION — Deadline Oct. 3, 2007. Nonfiction (either essay or article) that reads like a story, using fiction techniques to present factual information or events. 2,000 words max. Entry fee $5. Prizes: $40, $30, $20.
UNRHYMED POETRY — Deadline Oct. 15, 2007. Any non-rhyming style (e.g. free verse, blank verse, haiku, etc.) Any subject. Limit length to no more than two pages. (Shorter poems more likely to be published.) Entry fee $3. Prizes: $35, $20, $10.
GENRE FICTIONE — Deadline Oct. 20, 2007. Story that fits particular genre: romance, sci-fi, confession, mystery, western, etc. No children’s stories. 3,000 words max. Entry fee $5. Prizes: $40, $30, $20.
FRENCH FORM POETRY (In English) — Deadline Oct. 31, 2007. Poem must be written in a form originating or commonly used in French Poetry. Examples: chanson, rondeau (or rondel), triolet, pastorelle, or villanelle (originally an Italian form). Indicate specific form on the poem. Entry fee $4. Prizes: $35, $20, $10.
November 2007 Deadlines
NEW TALENT SHORT STORY — Deadline Nov. 4, 2007. Open to any writer who has never won a cash prize in a ByLine fiction contest. Maximum length 3,000 words. Entry fee $5. Prizes: $50, $30, $20.
LIGHT VERSE — Deadline Nov. 16, 2007. Poetry that attempts to be humorous usually through the use of satire, wordplay and punning. Poems should be brief. Any rhyme or alliteration should be used skillfully and with a point. Avoid doggerel. Read Billy Collins, Wendy Cope, and Jonathan Swift as well as Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein. Entry fee $3. Prizes: $35, $20, $10.
GENRE FICTION, ROMANCE — Nov. 22, 2007. Short romance story; 2,000 words max. Entry fee $5. Prizes: $40, $30, $20.
SHORT POEM — Deadline Nov. 30, 2007. Short, concise poem having on any subject. Do not exceed 25 lines. Unrhymed or skillfully rhymed (slant rhymes, half rhymes, internal rhymes). Try to avoid "perfect" end rhymes. Entry fee $3. Prizes: $35, $20, $10.
December 2007 Deadlines
PERSONAL MEMOIR — Deadline Dec. 5, 2007. An incident or remembrance from your life that left a lasting impression. Written in first person; 1,000 words max. Entry fee $5. Prizes, $40, $30, $20.
CHILDREN’S POEM OR VERSE — Dec. 15, 2007. Poetry or verse written for a child 10 or under. Think nursery or counting rhymes, jump rope songs, beginning readers. Attend to age-appropriate concepts and vocabulary. Avoid overused themes and doggerel. Strive for delight! Entry fee $3. Prizes: $35, $20, $10.
SHORT ARTICLE — Dec. 20, 2007. Any nonfiction subject suitable for a magazine or newspaper; 1,500 words maximum. Entry fee $5. Prizes: $40, $30, $20.
OPEN POETRY — Deadline Dec. 31, 2007. Poetry in any style, any form, on any subject. Rhymed or unrhymed. Length should not exceed two pages. Entry fee $4. Prizes: $35, $20, $10.