3 Secrets to Winning a Writing Contest
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Writing contests are any writers’ test of excellence. Well, do you all agree with this statement? Is it only about your writings skills and talent or there’s more to winning a writing contest?
While many of my writer and blogger friends take part in many such competitions of writing, but not all know the secrets of winning them.
So, here comes to help a seasoned freelance writer and speaker, and an Aha!NOW blog community member for a long time. Please welcome Amandah Blackwell, who takes part in writing contests and understand them well. Here’s over to her guest post on the 101 of writing contests.
It’s a word you’d like to read when you open up your email after submitting your short story, blog, poem, novel or whatever writing you sent in for a writing contest.
But for many writers, they don’t see the word winner. They receive an email with, “Thanks for entering our contest. We regret to inform you that you are not the winner. Please try again.”
The rejection and agony become too much and before you know it, you’re drowning your sorrows in a pint of ice cream. And the heartbreak leaves you cold and empty inside; never wanting to write another word, again.
But remember what Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Before you say “Goodbye,” to writing contests know that you have a glimmer of hope. YOU CAN WIN a contest, if you know the secret. Your confidence will soar to new heights and you can take your writing to the next level. And remember what Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Types of Writing Contests
The most common type of writing contest is one that you pay for. For example, Writer’s Digest offers an annual “Show Us Your Shorts” short story contest. The early bird entry fee is $20 per manuscript. You may wonder, “Why should I pay to enter a contest?” Good question.
When a contest is from a reputable publisher such as Writer’s Digest, you can trust they won’t take your money and run. You’ll receive the prize (cash, trip to a writer’s conference and publication of your writing) for your entry. Read all guidelines before you submit your prose because one misstep could disqualify you if you don’t.
Genres for writing contests include:
● Short Story
You can enter no fee writing contests, but you want to make sure they’re from reputable publishers (Writer’s Digest, Publishers Weekly and others) and companies. Read the guidelines, twice, before you submit your entry.
Why Enter a Writing Contest
Winning a contest adds credibility to your freelance writing career – you can soar to the next level.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a writing career for 2 years or 20 years, clients and readers, potential and current, will take a second when they visit your website.
They’ll fill out your contact form or pick up the phone and call you for writing services. They’ll also sign up for your newsletter (if you have one) and purchase your books.
You can also use winning to launch a speaking career, if you want one. You have the potential to speak in front of hundreds and thousands of people each year, teaching and encouraging them. Before you know it, well known authors and business professionals will ask you to appear with them at conferences and other events where you can reach even more people.
The marketing and PR opportunities are endless. For example, you can proudly display a badge on your website for everyone to see that you won a particular contest. Also, you can show off your entry that was published in a magazine and/or book. Sometimes, you receive a percentage from book sales.
Bloggers, if you have a book idea, blog it, transfer your material to a Word document, edit and submit your manuscript to writing contest. Even if you don’t win, the experience gives you the opportunity to hone your writing skills.
Remember, as a blogger or writer, you want to take advantage of every opportunity to grow and strengthen your writing skills. You’ll become better at your craft.
Where to Find Writing Contests
You can find writing contests online.
For example, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest opened on February 16th and ended on March 2nd. ThePensters Essay Writing Contest will award $1000 scholarship for Your Essay!
You needed to create a pitch of 300 words and an excerpt of 3,000 to 5,000 words. Manuscripts were between 50,000 to 125,000 words. “One Grand Prize winner will receive a publishing contract with a $50,000 advance, and four First Prize winners will each receive a publishing contract with an advance of $15,000.” If you entered, good luck! If not, don’t worry. Enter next year.
Romance writers can enter Harlequin’s 2014 So You Think You Can Write. The grand prize winner receives a publishing contract with Harlequin, which is associated with Mills & Boon. The second place winner receives an editorial consultation on their manuscript. The third place winner receives a year’s subscription to a Harlequin series.
But you could receive a bonus.
Entrants for the 2013 So You Think You Can Write contest received phone calls from editors to either revise or submit their full manuscript. See that. Even if you don’t win, you may receive valuable feedback from an editor.
Here’s a list of sites that publish information on various writing contests:
● The Writer
● Funds for Writers
● Poets and Writers
● Gotham Writers
● Writers Weekly
● Winning Writers
Again, read the guidelines before you enter. Follow the instructions, even if they don’t make sense to you. If you have questions, contact the organizer. It’s better to err on the side of caution versus entering a contest only to find out you didn’t follow the rules aren’t eligible.
Finally, don’t assume all writing contests are legit. Some are scams, which is why you should only enter ones from reputable organizations. When in doubt, perform a Google search and reviews, reach out on social media and listen to your intuition. If something sounds too good to be true it usually is.
3 Secrets to Win a Writing Contest
How do I know the secrets to winning a writing contest?
I know the secrets because I’ve entered poem and short story contests since 2006. One of those contests was a poetry contest from the Ohio Writer Newsletter. I had to write a poem based on the cover/theme of their newsletter: war.
My poem “Welcome to Hell,” was selected as one of the poems to be featured in an issue of the Ohio Writer Newsletter. I was excited! Whenever I need inspiration, I look at the newsletter from time-to-time to remind me that I can win writing contests. And so can you!
Give the Judges What They Want
The November/December 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest the article “Inside the Creative Processes of Real Writers” featured five writers who shared their tips and tricks. Joanne Castle Miller was one of those authors. She wrote about how failure is a writer’s best friend.
Ms. Miller also wrote about how she won a national writing contest when she was 10 years old. Would you like to know how Joanne won?
She “wrote a tug-at-your-heartstrings story about a homeless man living in family’s attic. She knew the judges would eat that crap up.”
Research writing contests and judges and review previous winning entries. Give the judges what they want and you’ll win!
There is a catch.
You may not like the writing style that judges seem to favor. But if you want to win a writing contest, gain exposure and boost or jump start your writing career, give them what they want.
Go Against the Conventional
Write a blog, short story or poem with a theme that goes against conventional wisdom. For example, if a blog contest’s topic is “inspiring posts about people who quit their jobs to become entrepreneurs,” write about how your boss and co-workers begged you to stay. Go beyond yourself and write the post from their perspective instead of yours.
Don’t enter the same piece of writing as everyone as one else because some judges get tired of reading the same posts, stories and poems over and over again. Open with a BANG and hook them immediately. Make them stick to your entry like glue.
Write an Eye-Catching, Error Free Piece
Have someone read your entry before you submit it. Why? Because you want to make sure you’ve written a piece that grabs the judges’ attention and that’s it free of errors.
Start with a strong title and use strong verbs and delete fluffy adjectives, adverbs and filler words. Format your writing according to the rules. For example, you may have to use 12 point Times New Roman instead of 11 Point Arial.
Your entry should be clean. Don’t add a note to the judges thanking them for reading your entry. Treat a writing contest as if you’re submitting your writing to a publisher.
Go Ahead and Enter Writing Contests!
Don’t hesitate to enter writing contests. Even if you don’t win, you can still use your entry as a portfolio piece. It’s another way to show potential and current freelance writing clients your depth of writing.
If you win a contest, mention it in your query letter or proposal to a literary agent or publisher. They’re interested in your writing credentials and winning a writing competition can move you to the top of the pile, if your book idea is marketable and sellable.
Here’s a bit of advice: don’t tell anyone you’ve entered contests. Why? Because they could say something like, “Do you know what you’re odds are for winning?” You don’t want any ‘stinking thinking’ around your submissions. If you must share your news, tell only the people who support you. And when you win, tell everyone!
Over to You–
Do you enter writing contests? Would you pay to enter them? Have you won any writing contest? What advice can you offer writers who want to win writing contests? Share your tips in the comments.
Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos
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