The end of May (and all those competitions I was going to enter…!) seems to have passed me by.
And on the subject of writing competitions, you know how they always have loads of rules, (designed, I’m sure, to eliminate most of the entries before they even reach the judging stage! tee hee), well , I’ve put together my own list of Rules for Competition Organisers.
Please feel free to add some more in the comments box, if you feel I’ve forgotten any!
1.Tell us who the judges are and how you’re going to choose and notify the winners. (A recent Birmingham-based poetry competition was very vague on the subject of notification and allocation of the prize money. And they didn’t acknowledge my entry. It made me suspicious. To the extent that I actually contacted one of the named judges and asked her to confirm it was all ‘bona fide’!)
2. Keep it simple. One competition turned me (and probably lots of other would-be entrants) off with their unbelievably complicated entry system. You had to print off and post them your entry form, with a cheque for the £5 entry fee. On receipt, they would then send you a number to put on your story, which should also then be posted to them. Nooo, too complicated.
3. Remember it’s the 21st Century. Please allow entries by email and payment by Paypal/credit card! (it’s amazing how many comps still expect you to use snail mail. As I’m a seats–of-my-pantser I almost always avoid these comps).
4. Keep the entry fees reasonable. £10 for a £100 first prize (I’ve seen this recently – more than once), seems a little steep!
5. And in the same vein, while it’s great if you can offer critiques, please keep the costs reasonable. I’ve seen two short story competitions recently offering critiques for around £50 which seems excessive.
6. Be clear about who can and can’t enter. (eg: if you say ‘only open to ‘unpublished writers’ you need to explain what you mean by ‘unpublished’).
7. Publish a short list and, if you can, a long list. It’s encouraging to be on a list! Any list!
8. Put the results – and winners’ stories – on a website, so we can all see who we lost to.
9. Or, if you wish to raise money by producing an anthology containing all the winners’ stories, then at least have the decency to send everyone who has an entry in the anthology, a copy free of charge (I know some competition organisers who even make the winners buy their own copy)
10. Publish the winners when you say you will (and don’t get narky when, after the promised date, people contact you and ask, politely, about the winners’ list). That happened to me with a competition ‘up North’ which I now boycott (bet they’re losing sleep over that).
11. And finally, to paraphrase Yeats, oh competition organisers, tread softly, because you’re treading on our dreams.