Back in the Summer I entered The Write Place short story competition, which was judged by Linda Lewis. Every entrant had to include a stamped addressed envelope, so that the results could be sent to them – which I think is a nice way of doing it (remember, not finding out competition results is one of my pet hates?!) and I got my letter last week.
No, I didn’t win – or come anywhere – but it was heartening (a little bit!) to discover that my story had made it to ‘the long list’ of 20 stories.
I read the 2 judges’ reports which are now on The Write Place website, with interest. Although the winning stories aren’t published, there’s an interesting resume of the plots.
Then, I re-read my entry, in the light of the judges’ comments and decided that the line, “A few started well, but fizzled out before the end. Other stories had a basically good idea, but there wasn’t enough substance,” definitely applied to my story. It did fizzle out. When I got to the end, I thought, ‘Oh, is that it?’ – and I WROTE IT! So, it needs beefing up a bit and I’ll send it out to another competition at some point.
Talking of results, Yorkshire Ridings Magazine have now, finally, printed the results of their competition on their website here and the judge’s report is in the latest magazine (living nowhere near Yorkshire, I’m not going to be able to get hold of that but never mind, at least the top 3 stories are printed on the site). I must admit, I can see why the winning story won.
Someone in my class the other day asked me if I thought it was worth entering writing competitions and I said yes, for the following reasons:
1. It gives you a goal and a deadline to work towards.(I like deadlines!)
2. Winning, or even being shortlisted in, a competition is a great confidence booster and it’s how many published writers started out. It also looks good on your ‘Writer’s CV’ and when you’re approaching publishers or agents.
3. It helps you to hone your writing skills IF you bother to read the judges’ reports and the winning entries (and try to work out why they were better than yours) and/or pay extra for a critique, which some competitions offer.
BUT – and all this does come with a ‘but’, of course – I think it’s only worth entering competitions (and, let’s face it, spending your hard-earned money to do so), if you take them seriously.
1. Read the rules carefully. If they ask for 2000 word (maximum) stories and you send 2,100, you’ll be disqualified, no matter how good your story is. If you miss the closing date, even by just one day (or 1 minute, if it’s an email-able competition), your entry will also end up in the bin – but they may well still cash your cheque. If the theme’s ‘Clocks’ and you don’t mention a clock or anything connected to one, then you won’t make it to the second round of judging. You get the idea.
2. You need to spend time on your entry. Don’t be slapdash and send any old thing – or a first draft. Unless you’re a genius, you’ll just be wasting your time and money. If there’s a theme, it’s best to write a story specifically for that competition: the judges will see through anything that’s just been ‘tweaked’ to make it fit.
3. There are plenty of free competitions out there but the prizes tend to be smaller. You might be better – if you’ve got a good story that you’ve worked hard on – paying £5 and sending it to a competition where you’ve got a chance of winning a decent prize – rather than zipping it off to a freebie and just getting a book for your troubles. (Bear in mind that most competitions will not allow you to enter anything that’s already won or been placed in another competition). I speak from bitter experience as some of you may remember and I wrote about it here!
So, yes, enter writing competitions but think carefully about which ones you enter and only send the very best work you can. Competition is fierce- there are some good writers out there – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do well. Good luck!
PS: Good Housekeeping magazine will be announcing news of a novel-writing competition in their January issue! I’ll be telling you about it here but I just wanted to give you some advance warning.