When I first started writing, my aim was to write full-length novels. But I’d also have smaller ideas and write short stories now and then. Once I subscribed to a writing magazine, I realised that there was a whole world of short story and poetry competitions out there. They’re good because give you the opportunity to hone your craft as a writer, get your work published and maybe even get a bit of money as well.
Here are five tips if you’re thinking of trying out some writing competitions:
- Plan well – choose competitions you want to enter and make a note of when they close. Writing magazines are a good source for competitions, but one of my favourite websites was www.prizemagic.co.uk. It’s pretty comprehensive, frequently updated and includes all the important information you need to know such as word counts and theme. Once you’ve entered a competition, keep a record of it. competition’s rarely get in touch unless you’ve won, even if you’re shortlisted, so you’ll need to check them.
- Stick to word counts – a few words over is fine but more than that and you’re going on the ‘no’ pile. If a competition has a massive amount of entries, culling those who don’t follow the rules is an easy way to cut down the stack.Submit via hard copy and you may feel you can fudge the word count but I wouldn’t advise it. In any case, many competitions only take online submissions now so it’s easy for them to check the count.
- Research previous winners – chances are a competition has run before and it’s possible that previous winners work is available to read online. Take the opportunity to see what the judges have gone for in previous years. It’s not set in stone and judges can vary but it gives you a broad idea of the style and theme of writing the competition is open to.
- Expect an entry fee – competitions will usually ask for an entry fee to help cover costs. It could be anything from a couple of pounds to double figures, with popular competitions tending to be the more expensive. It’s up to you how much you want to pay, but always check and double check the validity of a competition before your part with your money. A couple of pounds may not seem much, but imagine that coming from a few thousand people and it’s enough to make a tempting scam. So be careful.
- Be picky, but not too picky – I chose competitions based on my preferred areas of interest and experience. But I also stepped out of my comfort zone from time to time. I got into poetry, tried a bit of non-fiction and even attempted romance! All of this helped me develop my writing style. It’s the perfect opportunity to give something you’ve not tried a go.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions? Please share your experiences and advice below.