How to WIN a short-story contest

Remember that time in school when they would provide us with an outline and expect us to construct a story on the same? We’ve all done it since childhood. Yet, writing a contest-winning short story is not child’s play.

Firstly, it’s got a time limit. Reading about the contest deadline itself sometimes makes it a difficult goal to achieve. We tend to procrastinate over that first draft for so long that we end up scribbling something definitely not at par with our actual calibre. Oh! By scribbling, we mean just that! Stuff unworthy of being read.

So what’s that X factor that could help your story stand out from the rest? Here are a few things we thought of listing down for you:

Read through the submission guidelines.

Nothing is more important to the event organiser and the jury than a writer who has followed all the guidelines that were painstakingly written for your story. Also, nothing is more repelling than a writer who has submitted a microtale of 100 words when the submission guidelines have clearly called out for it to be of a minimum word count of 1000 words or more.

Most creative writing contests have a theme or a topic. The organisers or the jury are expecting a story to be written on that theme. Nobody wants to invest their time reading stuff from a writer who hasn’t given enough time to read through the contest requirements.

Don’t procrastinate!

Perhaps the contest deadline is a month away and you think there’s ample time for you to develop your plot. You’re stuck at the first line because you know that’s what is going to impress your jury and make them read your story further. Weeks fly by and in no time you realise you’re left with just two days and the whole story to write! Hurry!

No! Don’t keep dwelling on that first line. Write your rough draft and edit it multiple times if you’re required to. Once you’re satisfied with the story at hand, just submit it. Don’t wait till the last date.

There’s a very high probability that the contest has received multiple entries and the winners have already been chosen in those early bird entries. Sure your story deserves a read, but no event organisers or jury owe you any explanation about why yours didn’t make it or whether your story was even read! (Unless there was any agreement or declaration that you’d receive feedback on it)

Proofread, proofread, proofread and edit, edit, edit!

Clearly expect to be blacklisted if you end up sending a story that lacks quality when it comes to language errors. The smallest of typographical errors or grammatical ones do not stand any chance if the contest has received multiple deserving entries. Trust us – your story is not being read after that first mistake you did not correct!

After all, if you didn’t take the time to read your own story; how do you expect anyone else will?

If you think you’ve got what it takes to write a winning short-story by now, don’t forget to participate in our premier league short-story contest PenFluenza

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