Friday, December 16, 2011

Deja Vu Blogfest

This week's Musical Stories will be posted tonight, but today you get an extra post. This is my contribution to the Deja Vu blogfest. Click here for details.

I chose this post because I've decided that I might start entering competitions next year. This is my reminder of what not to do. Yes, this post is absolutely true. It's the story of my one and only entry to a writing comptetion :-)

First posted 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 even read it back once it's 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 know what you did.

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. Ouch! Sounds like self-torture!
    Thanks for sharing these words of wisdom.
    Nice to meet you *waves*

  2. Terrific! And it's so true. Competitions and entering them can halt your writing and throw you into chaotic to get everything done. That's why id on't do them anymore!

  3. 3 and 4 made me laugh. Even when I'm not rushing, I seem to read rules wrong. I think I get anxiety when I read rules, so the info swirls funny in my head.

    20 is the most important.

    Happy writing!

  4. A great reference post ... Fun advice here ;)

  5. Have an awesome Christmas and new year xxxx

  6. Hi, Sarah! I'm here from the Déjá Vu blogfest. :) I'm sure there are plenty of authors out there who've done all these steps, haha! Great post for today. Hope you have a terrific weekend!

  7. Oh Sarah - thank you for this. I giggled all the way through - and yes, I've done it too. I suspect most of us have, though few are honest enough to admit it.

  8. My toes are curling! At least you can be sure that you'll never do that again... will you?

    (Have blogged about what we discussed and included your link)

  9. Oh no! Sounds like a bad few days. Wishing you lots of luck and success for next year!

  10. Ha ha! This is great. That's why I don't write short stories. ;)

  11. All I can say is GOOD LUCK and for sure Merry Christmas :)

  12. sorry but that was GREAT! loved it... I did this once. I was CONVINCED I would win. When I didn't (and there were many winners) I decided I couldn't write for shit and that I would never write again. That lasted almost two months!

    you are very brave and I am so glad you reposted this!

  13. Bah! Michael asked my question, so Im going with that.

  14. Competitions seriously intimidate me. I can't imagine doing one last minute.

  15. Every time I enter a contest, I immediately panic that I've made some stupid oversight or missed one of the rules. I was nervous just reading this!

  16. Hahahaha!

    ...sounds a little what I went through last January when an online writing buddy convinced me to enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel competition. On the day I decided to go for it, I had 1/2 a story and 10 days. In those 10 days, I wrote 35,000 words (of Simon's Oath) and submitted it basically unedited and KNEW the whole first chapter needed to be re-written.

    The best part of competitions is it can motivate you to get off your butt and get writing :)

  17. A perfect how NOT to post...and the sad part is its true. It is a valuable lesson though, and one definitely worthy of a re-post!

    Thank you for taking part in the blogfest and helping to make today so special! :)

  18. Definitely made me laugh. I'm definitely one of those writers who thinks I can break all the rules, and still be wonderful nonetheless. But on this road to publication, I'm finding it just doesn't always work that way...

    Nice to meet you via Deja Vu blogfest! I'm #33!

  19. LOL. I've never entered a writing competition--part of it is fear of something like #2 or #4. :P

  20. OMG, really? Did this happen this way? I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry!

    Thanks so much for joining the Blogfest!

  21. I have been soooo tempted to enter a writing competition a week or two before the deadline--not because I'm a procrastinator (well, maybe a little), but because I only just found out about it. Thanks for reminding me why this is SUCH a BAAAD idea. :)

  22. Bwahaha--this sounds like a very effective plan. Excellent choice for a re-post, Sarah!

  23. Hahahaha! Thanks for sharing this repost with us, Sarah. I've been tempted to do this, too, and I'm so glad I didn't, but many of my writer friends have had very similar experiences. It's a big shocker when you've written a story, think the word count is good, and then realize you read it wrong and need to cut so much that it seems impossible. The things we put ourselves through, huh? Great blogfest!

  24. I did something very similar to this that involved a SCBWI grant and a fifty dollar UPS charge to speed post it down to California. I was so mad at myself. I think once we dive into TRYING, it's difficult to give up. Maybe we have the same insanely perseverant personality! :) Good for you for trying!

  25. Mahahahaha - sorry but that sounds pretty much the same as my attempts at competitions!!

    Good luck if you're going for them again next year, just make sure you leave enough time to write them (I I am the queen of last minute so take it from me) :)


  26. I give you credit for trying something new and working your butt off trying to make it work! I have never entered a competition because the minute anyone gives me a prompt or theme I freeze up.

  27. Haha! I have enough stress writing my novels, querying for an agent, and finding interesting blog topics to enter writing competitions. But more power to ya!

    I'm a new follower via the Deja Vu blogfest.

  28. LOL! So...all this is hypothetical, riiight?

  29. I entered competitions years ago and I relate to many of these. In my haste my entries must have been very poor. I should've taken my time on them and saved them for other contests.

  30. MISH - Good to meet you too. I've finally had a chance to come over and follow your blog :-)

    Laura P - This was my first and, so far, only contest :-)

    Theresa M - I nearly cried when I re-read the word count. I agree, number 20 is definitely the one that counts :-)

    Linda G - At least I can - finally - laugh about it :-)

    Vic - I screw up, so you don't have to :-)

    Joanne - Glad it made you smile :-)

    Christine D - Thank you very much :-)

    Eve E - You too, honey :-)

    Laura M - Hi there Laura. I finally managed to get over and read your post. I love the idea of a Personal Universe Deck :-)

    Jo - I'm so glad you enjoyed it :-)

    Rosalind - Hopefully, the next mistakes I make will be completely different ones :-)

    Rebecca B - Right back atcha :-)

  31. Chantele - I have the utmost admiration for anyone who does :-)

    Claudia - Thank you, and have a wonderful Christmas yourself.

    Green Monkey - Oh Shannon, you sound so much like me. This is why, so far, that was my one and only competition :-)

    Michael - It was a crime story for the Alibi TV channel's annual competition. I'd never written a crime story in my life before.

    Andrew - See above :-)

    Donna W - Very sensible. Last minute definitely not advised :-)

    Gina - Almost 8 months later, and I still can't bring myself to re-read my entry :-)

    1000th Monkey - I think I would have had a nervous breakdown! On the plus side, as you say, at least you got it finished :-)

    DL Hammons - Thank you for organising it. I've found some great new blogs, I'm just sorry it's taken me so long to visit them !

    Heather - Welcome Heather. Sorry it's taken me all week, but I'm finally following your blog :-)

    Golden Eagle - And I didn't think you were afraid of anything :-)

    LD Masterson - That sounds as though you know exactly what I'm talking about :-)

  32. Lydia - I promise you, every word of this is true!

    Margo - Yep, I really was that dumb! I've learnt since then, thank goodness :-)

    Colin S - It really really is :-)

    Sarah - I'm great with the 'how-not-to' plans :-)

    Lynn K - I'm fairly sure my story didn't actually make sense once I'd finished cutting :-)

    Amy S - Ouch! You're right, it takes a long time for me to decide to do something but once I do, I can't bear to give up the idea :-)

    Xandra - Indeed. If I can't give it a few weeks breathing time, I'm not entering :-)

    Vicki - I must admit, if an idea doesn't come to me immediately from a prompt, then it's probably not coming :-)

    Nancy - Welcome to you. I know what you mean. This was back when I had no real thoughts about publication, and a brand new blog :-)

    Sorry for the delay, but I've finally had the chance to visit and follow your blog :-)

    Coleen - And I didn't need to exaggerate a single thing for comedic effect. It really was this bad :-)

    Botanist - Argh! You got me :-) Thankfully I've learned a few things since then.

    Medeia - That's exactly it. I feel like I wasted a great idea with a very poor entry.


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