Saturday, 11 August 2012

6 of the best... winning a story contest

How do you gain the top cash prize in a major story competition? 

Dr John Yeoman, PhD Creative Writing, asks, How well does your story reflect the theme, genre, author or other requirements of the contest rules? It’s foolish to enter a contest for female Canadian writers if you’re, undisguisably, a male Australian. Yet folk do it, and worse. Read the rules!

Here are six more rules John uses when judging the Writers’ Village contest which has attracted 3500+ entries over the past three years.

  • Does the story engage the reader emotionally throughout? Wordplay is fun but you have to make the reader care about your characters.
  • Is the story original in its concept? No plot is original but you can always add a radically new twist.
  • Does the first paragraph encourage the reader to read on? A shock opening is a cliché. But you must lay in a mystery, question or note of intrigue to tempt the reader to proceed.
  • Does your story have a strong sense of form and a satisfying close? A reader should feel... nothing could be added or removed. It’s a ‘whole’.
  • Is your story fresh in its use of language? It doesn’t need to dance with metaphor - the greatest tales have been told in the most prosaic words - but a story that’s sloppy in its expressions will be marked down.
  • Is your story competently presented in terms of layout, punctuation and grammar? First impressions do count. Cute fonts, graphics on the cover page and a consistent disregard for punctuation are the signs of an amateur.

Get all those points right and you’ll be well on your way to winning a top prize - provided your story grips the reader from start to finish! You can enjoy a wealth of further tips for winning story contests in the free mini-course at:

1 comment:

David Vernon said...

These are spot on. Some of the more basic errors that come across the desk of Stringybark Stories include: sending in 1800 word stories when the word limit is 1500 words; writing explicit erotica when the theme is Australian history; and posting hard copies when the only acceptable submission method is email. And its not as though the rules aren't explained in multiple places on our website!
Best wishes,
David Vernon
Judge, Stringybark Stories