3 Tips To Polish A Contest Entry – Mr. Clean Editor Meets Your Pages

Photo by veke

Photo by veke

Our Super Sleuth Challenge Answer That Was Weirdly False From Last Week was:

#2 Charmin Lady

Stay tuned this Wednesday for another March Super Sleuth Challenge.


Contest season is upon us again and with it all of the jitters that come with submitting your “baby” or novel to enter a contest. You take the risk that judges may or may not like your story, characters, or writing voice.

What could be even more disastrous to your contest entry is lack of polish. That special craft expertise that sets you above the average entry. And, let’s face it, you have to be way above average to get published.

How can you get that Mr. Clean squeaky glow to your manuscript?

 3 Tips To Polish A Contest Entry:

1. Pick A Scene Emotion To Weave Into Your Scene. This tip I learned from Susan May Warren and My Book Therapy. Identify your character’s emotion in the scene. After writing, go through and look at your verbs and the setting the POV character is describing to see if they match the emotion. If not, pick stronger words and images to convey deeper meaning.

2. Read It Out Loud. This makes a huge difference in how the rhythm of the words feel. It can bring to light words that feel awkward, repetitive words (like ‘that’, ‘just’, ‘was’, ect.), or even words that don’t paint the picture you thought they would.

3. Dialogue Tune Up. We often hear about vanilla characters and boring dialogue. It comes about many different ways, but if our characters say very little of content, or all sound the same, we will have lost the opportunity to make them stand out. Try reading only the dialogue and ask yourself the following questions:

*Does each line add value to the conversation? (If not, delete or ramp up the content of dialogue.)

*Can you tell who is speaking without reading the descriptors or action beats? (If not, considering tweaking the lines to better fit each character’s personality.)

*Do you see yourself, or a real live person talking like your dialogue in a play or on TV? (If not, watch a show or read a book with great dialogue. Study the way the writer makes it humorous or emotional.)

*Do you see long sections of text with no dialogue? (If so, consider adding in more. The story is more vibrant shared by characters instead of self-narrated.)

*Do you have talking heads on the page when you add back in the rest of the words surrounding the dialogue? In other words, does the setting disappear and we forget where we are? (If so, anchor your dialogue with actions of the characters, “action beats,” or setting tags.)

What are some things you wish someone would talk more about in polishing a contest entry?

(I will try to cover some of these in a Question and Answer Format later this week. So, have a question…leave it in the comments.)



About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

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