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5 Top Tips For Entering A Writing Competition

Are you wondering why your writing competition pieces never make it to the top? Do you despair every time you submit a story to no avail? Here are 5 top tips to make your submissions the best they can  be.

Article by Caitlin W.

There’s nothing better than the thrill of being shortlisted for a writing competition. It’s a feeling that will send you happy-dancing across the room. Unfortunately, a lot of us never make it that far because of secret unwritten rules for short story writing competitions.

So let’s give you the best chance at getting shortlisted for, or even winning, one of these bad boys. Let’s take a look at five top tips for entering writing competitions.

Brush Up On Your Skills

You’re a writer, and that means you’ve got to have the necessary skills to write. Good grammar, sentence structure and spelling are required if you want to get anywhere near the top of the judges’ list. You’re aiming to tell a story that will captivate the reader and entice them to continue reading until the very end. If your grammar skills aren’t up to scratch, a lot of what you say won’t come across in the way you intended.

Theme It, Theme It Good!

Here’s the thing: writing competitions usually have a theme. Take, for example, the theme of this year’s GKBCinc Short Story Competition: crime. This doesn’t mean you have to write a crime thriller, it means your story’s core element must be crime. You can write romance, literary, fantasy or just about anything you want, just as long as your theme stays true to that requested by the judging panel.

This is very important. Stick to the theme. If you don’t stick to the theme, they’re likely to disregard your story entirely. A theme isn’t a restriction on your writing, but a good way to guide you to new ideas for your story.

Be Quirky

The idea behind entering a competition is to draw attention to your skills and to tell a good story. This is why being quirky is so important. You can tell an earth-shattering tale of war and betrayal, but it will end up as boring as a green salad if you don’t add spice.

Mix it up with different points of view and use dialogue which is true to your character’s… well, character. If you’re writing about an urban gangster with an attitude problem, he’s unlikely to spout perfectly structured sentences, right? So, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries when it comes to developing characters.

PG 13 It

This is the general ruling for most competitions: no gratuitous sex or violence. That’s actually a pretty difficult thing to achieve when you’re writing a theme which often incorporates these elements but it’s not impossible.

Gratuitous doesn’t mean no sex or violence at all – unless that’s specified – but rather, that you may include elements of these things. You can hint at them rather than describe them in detail.

It’s also a good idea to keep your writing relatively clean of bad language. Go easy on the F-bombs, not everyone appreciates it and you don’t want to put people off our writing!

Bow Before The Masters!

If you don’t obey the entry rules of a writing competition, you will be disqualified. Period. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your story was; if you don’t obey their rules, you’re out.

This means taking the time to read exactly what they want. This includes page formatting, font size, margins, font type and everything else. You might think huge font in OCR Extended is the cat’s pyjamas, but they definitely won’t. This is exactly what happened in the first phase of the GKBCinc Competition. But never fear, the second phase is in motion and waiting for your submissions.

Have any tales of success and failure to share? Leave them in the comment box below.


Caitlin W loves entering writing competitions. When she isn’t plotting her next short story, she’s busy planning her next blog post to write.

Featured Image by: Matt Holland

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