7 Tips For Writing Competitions

7 Tips For Writing Competitions

In this post, Writers Write explores seven tips for writing competitions.

Contests are great opportunities.

Publication and prizes go to good fiction. Contests crack open a world of writing possibilities.

Competitions can be a debut, but seasoned writers enter them, too.

Here’s why more writers should enter contests.

Why Writing Competitions? 

Contests are good practice. Judges give honest feedback, while still being kind critics.

A writing contest could be a great debut. Seasoned writers enter competitions, too. Experience doesn’t matter as much as great stories.

Legitimate contests can have prizes, like publication (or cash prizes) for winners. 

Contests also connect, as you’ll get to meet readers, writers, and publishers.

Enter a writing contest. You’ll probably enjoy it! 

7 Tips For Writing Competitions 

Want to enter a contest or two?

Here’s how to be a strong competitor (and a damn good writer):

1. Go Short (Or Long)


There are excellent novel writers, and authors who do better with short fiction. Great news, there are writing contests for both. The same tips will count.

One difference is that novel contests give writers more time. Most novel competitions are announced weeks (or months) ahead. Are novels harder, or short stories? That’s up to you.

2. Find Contests & Competitions

Contests launch every day. Be in the know, and Google ‘writing competitions’ often. Add a year or genre for more results.

There are regular contests, usually yearly. Writing contests can also come from publishers, by announcement. Prefer reputable markets you can verify.

Selected writing contests are available here:

  1. SA Writers College
  2. Reedsy
  3. The Write Life
  4. Smart Blogger
  5. Writer’s Digest

3. Verify Legitimate Contests

Yes, there are scams. A contest scam can charge exorbitant ‘entry fees’, or result in stolen work.

If you want to enter, ask for more info.

Prefer publishers (or markets) with a track record. Legitimate contests can ask entry fees, though most don’t. Vague (or badly written) rules are another bad sign.

If nobody has heard of the contest, think twice. Most legitimate contests have history you can read about.

If you find a scam, report it. The right procedure is to approach the country’s Competition Commission or Contests Authority.

4. Read The Rules

The first step is to read the rules, then read them again.

Rules reveal the subject, word count, and format.

Contest prizes will also be there, and rules will usually give a contest deadline.

Judges discard entries that go against the rules. Like the publication slush pile, these stories just don’t get read. The rules are a guideline of what judges expect.

Many contests have a theme, but some also don’t.

5. Don’t Get Disqualified

Entries can get disqualified for many reasons. Rules vary, but there are general things that writers shouldn’t do.

1. No plagiarism.
2. Stick to the word count.
3. Don’t ignore the rules.
4. Submit only one story.
5. Don’t submit that story somewhere else.
6. Don’t enter published work.

Contests will ban the same things most writing markets will. No gratuitous violence, no pointless abuse, no exorbitant torture. Even for horror, the focus is still a good story.

Generally, just play nice with other writers, and you’re fine.

6. Write Your Best

Write your best. It’s something writers should always strive for, but especially focus on for contests.

Contests are like any competition. While athletes train hard, they always compete even harder. Be unique.

Winners stand out from thousands of entries by using correct spelling and grammar.

Being a competition judge is difficult. Let me say this, you always appreciate something fresh or new or well-written.

7. Read The T&Cs

Terms & Conditions are important, too.

Treat it like any contract: it’s the red tape of writing contests.

If you’ve won, the T&Cs stipulate the prize (and/or publication) details.

Read these carefully. It says what you’ll get, but also what the market gets out of it. Prizes, royalties, rates, and all else? Right in the terms & conditions.

Contest entries are usually exclusive for a certain period, but not always. Once published, rights (might) revert back to the writer after, say, five years… But might also stay theirs.

You’ll only know by reading it.

The Last Word

In this post, we gave you seven tips for writing competitions.

We hope you are inspired to compete in one!

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a short story, sign up for our online course.

By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.

If you enjoyed this, read other posts by Alex:

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  2. Writing Advice From Twitter
  3. 9 Tips For The Artful Interview
  4. 8 Elements Of Great Gothic Fiction
  5. 7 Bits Of Editing Advice From Famous Writers
  6. 8 Bits Of Writing Advice From Eudora Welty
  7. 6 Bits Of Writing Advice From Louis L’Amour
  8. 7 Bits Of Writing Advice From John Irving
  9. 6 Writing Lessons From The World’s Top Websites

Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.

Posted on: 27th June 2022
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