Illustration by Fanginhoon
Writing contests are part of every writer’s journey. Contests can be nerve wracking as you launch your baby out there in the world for everyone to judge. Yet, there is much to be said for outside feedback.
Naturally when entering a writing contest you want to put your best foot forward. Your voice must come through and grab the judges to final or win.
First and foremost, recognize that you enter a contest for the feedback, not just the win. Focusing all of the energy toward winning can lead to discouragement, especially early in your journey.
Make a list of all of the reasons you are entering before submitting to keep expectations realistic and to avoid discouragement. Once you’ve done this, then you are ready for a Contest Entry Checklist For Writers to brush up your manuscript.
I’ve added links to blog posts that show you how to do the required step. This will help if you need extra help.
Contest Entry Checklist For Writers:
*Point of View. Entries should maintain one Point of View per scene. Check to make sure there are no point of view slips, like a character describing how they look from an outsiders point of view.
*Compelling hook for each scene. Does the first sentence and paragraph of each scene grab the reader’s attention and pull them in? Check that it starts right in the middle of the action and not with too much lead.
*Character Like-ability. Check that characters are like-able. Either we can relate to them in some way, or we are concerned for them. Show them doing something admirable, or having a problem we relate to.
*Eliminate -ly words. Usually -ly words tell instead of show what is happening. Eliminate them and challenge yourself to show the actions or emotions of the scene.
*Deepen Sensory Elements. Include each of the senses in the scene to create a deeper experience for your reader.
*Eliminate Repetitive Words. Look for word favorites that you use too frequently. If you can’t see them, often someone else can. We all have favorite words we overuse.
*Strengthen Verb Choices. Read through and eliminate weak verb choices like passive verbs or helping verbs.
*Clear Character Goals / Obstacles / Stakes. Make sure that your point of view character has clear goals, obstacles and stakes for each scene. The absence of these results in no conflict or tension in the scene.
*Emotion is shown not told. Your entry should show the character’s emotion with the actions and thoughts they have, not through telling the reader how they feel. Dig deep to illustrate it with physical action.
*Cliffhanger or Suspense At the End of Each Scene. Keep the reader wanting more at the end of each scene by adding a cliffhanger or suspenseful moment.
Have you entered a writing contest? What do you find helps in preparing?