Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How not to win a writing competition

20 easy steps to guarantee failure.

1. Find out about a competition ten days before the closing date and convince yourself that you can produce something of a high enough standard to enter, even though you rarely write short stories because you have trouble with the 'short' part.

2. Spend the next five days writing your story, even though you're not one hundred percent sure that you've managed to interpret one of the required elements correctly. Edit and re-edit until you've made it as tight as you possibly can.

3. Congratulate yourself on being 1000 words below the required maximum word length.

4. Re-read the rules and discover that you're 1500 words over the maximum word length.

5. Spend four days trying to reduce the word-count without destroying the original story.

6. Read the finished story immediately because you don't have time to let it sit like you'd planned. Realise that you now have something so flat that it reads like an example on a 'how not to write' blog.

7. Read it to your beloved partner, even though he has a history of sending you back to the drawing board, because you need another opinion and he's the only one around.

8. Listen to, and agree with, his suggestions which involve you going back to the drawing board.

9. Struggle with writing a new opening. Write a rubbish one for now just so you can continue. Realise 1000 words into your new effort that you're boring yourself. Screw up latest effort and throw it across the room.

10. Go to bed.

11. Wake up the day before the competition deadline determined to get this right. Spend the day making some progress, realise that you're going to be working late into the night.

12. Spend the evening watching DVDs with your daughters because they came home a day early after being away for a week and they want to spend time with you. Go to bed late.

13. Set your alarm clock for 9am. Dream that your competition entry should have been posted instead of submitted online so that when your alarm goes off you think you've missed the deadline. Go back to sleep.

14. Jump out of bed in a panic at 10.30am, realise that you have no time to finish your rewrite.

15. Have a quick read through of your original entry. Decide that it would sound better in present tense. Rewrite and do a quick spell check. Realise you have 15 minutes to deadline, so submit story without even a read through.

16. Be too ashamed to read it back even after it has been been submitted as you know there are formatting errors, and probably a ton of typos, and it's too late to do anything about it.

17. Resolve never ever to submit anything to a competition again that you are not proud of, and thank the writing deity of your choice that no-one, except the judges, will ever read what you wrote.

18. Hope that the judges of a competition for a TV station will never judge any other writing competitions and be glad that you don't have an unusual name that would stick in a judge's mind.

19. Make a note to check the competition website on June 1st to read the three that did actually make the short-list.

20. Go and work on your novel.


  1. This made me smile.

    Luckily I don't enter too many competitions :)

    Good to have found you
    warm wishes

  2. Thank you so much for visiting, and for your kind comments Debbie. I left you a message on your blog but I forgot to mention how much I loved the 'Mother's Love' sample. I can't wait to pick it up in a bookshop somewhere :)

  3. Oh dear....your blog post summed up why I never enter writing comps!

  4. Indeed D.J, and why I suspect I am unlikely to enter another.

    I'm chalking this one up to 'more enthusiasm than expertise' as my needlework teacher...and my cookery teacher...used to say!


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