Writing contests can be intimidating. Some writers think, “I’ll never win,” and ignore contests completely. But—surprise!—some writing contests are easier to win than others, but only if you know how to put the odds in your favor. Writer’s Relief manages our clients’ submissions to writing contests, and guess what? They regularly place or even win.
Here Are Some Strategies Our Clients Use To Win Creative Writing Contests In All Genres!
Exploit your niche. There’s a specialized creative writing contest out there for just about every writer and every subject. And the more specialized, the better! When you enter a contest that has a limited number of entrants due to restrictions, you increase your odds of scoring a win. The key is knowing which contests are open to your particular type of writing (and that’s where Writer’s Relief’s submission management comes in handy!). Hint: You can find a fantastic list of creative writing contests here.
Choose an emotional topic. Judges get bleary-eyed reading page after page of the “same old, same old” work that’s typically submitted to writing contests. So make your readers’ hearts race. Make them laugh or weep with misery. Keep in mind: Sometimes, the most deeply emotional moments of our lives are subtle and quiet…but sometimes they’re as noisy as an 18-wheeler full of sea lions crashing into a gong shop! Whatever tactic you choose, go for the judge’s emotional jugular.
Proofread. You’d think this tip goes without saying, yet here we are saying it—again! At Writer’s Relief, we’re very selective about our client list. All applicants must submit a writing sample prior to admission, which means we read a LOT of submissions. Believe us when we say, a little proofreading will go a LONG way toward impressing the right people. You’d be surprised how many writers overlook this step.
Follow the submission guidelines. Again, this tip should be a no-brainer. But because writing contests tend to have submission guidelines that are a bit persnickety, some writers deliberately overlook the “little things” when it comes to following the rules. Keep in mind: Submissions that DON’T follow the guidelines are usually disqualified right from the start. If your writing contest submission meets the guidelines, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. The odds are in your favor!
Enter a wide range of writing contests. While it would be great to win a “big name” writing contest, smart writers know not to ignore contests that are less well-known. Winning a small contest could mean big things for your writing career—exposure, connections, and of course, prize money! Submitting to a range of contests maximizes the likelihood that you’ll win one of them.
Enter writing that is appropriate for the contest. While there are many no-fee writing contests out there, most contests require writers to pay an entry fee. So it doesn’t make sense to enter a contest that isn’t a very good fit for your particular submission. But—but!—there’s a caveat to avoiding contests that don’t seem like a “perfect” fit. If you’re on the fence, submit anyway (after all, you can’t intimately know the judges’ tastes!). Just be realistic: Don’t submit a poem about dogs to a writing contest about cats.
Surprise your readers. Take risks. Go out on a limb. Do something unexpected and refreshing. When it comes to creative writing submissions, editors have “seen it all.” Show them something new and you’ll be ahead of the pack.
Remember: Submissions Are a Numbers Game
If you don’t win the first few writing contests that you submit to, don’t lose hope. Judges base their decisions on subjective responses—so keep sending submissions! The only way to win a creative writing contest is to enter. And if you follow our tips, you’ll be ahead of the game.
QUESTION: Do you have a tip that could help another writer? Post it in our comments section!
I’ve read somewhere that it’s important to get as close to the max word count without going over. I’ve won several awards and I always do that.
Thanks for your help.
I’ve run small writing contest in the past and the one thing I can tell you is a lot of skilled writers play it too safe. If you want your writing to stand out over 100 other entries you need to take risk. Even if you don’t win, your entry will stand out. Trust me!
What risk do you really mean?