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Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – 8 Tips for Submitting to Writing Contests

January 14, 2021

There are a multitude of writing competitions available, whether locally or internationally. When submitting to a competition there are a few common ground rules to adhere to.

Tip #1: Be clear on your goals before entering any contest. Why do you want to enter in the first place?

Tip #2: Follow the rules and submission guidelines – each contest is different. This includes keeping to the submission deadline. ( A day earlier is best)

Tip #3: Proofread – this is absolutely vital. Make sure you read and re-read your entry before submitting.

Tip #4: Enter writing that is appropriate for the contests’ stated theme or topic. Familiarize yourself with the press or journal hosting the contest. Take note of their style and content.

Tip #5: Enter numerous contests to improve your chances of winning.

Tip #6: Don’t ignore lesser well-known contests, it could mean winning it gains you exposure and connections for your writing career. And of course, there is always the prize money! Not only does submitting to a range of contests maximize the likelihood that you may win, but it is a great way to improve and expand your writing skills.

Tip #7: Exploit your genre, your niche when researching the range of contests, there are always specialized creative writing contests out there that suit your style. Make the most of the opportunity to showcase your writing.

Tip #8: Create a story with an emotional impact, and topic. Make it memorable, new, fresh and focus on clarity. Choose a brilliant first line and action. Give your character a goal, a choice and ensure there is a change of personality, status or situation. And above all nail the ending.

Do you have any tips for entering contests? Care to share?

Follow the Guidelines – It’s Vital…

December 9, 2013

Guidelines – definition: an indication or outline of policy or conduct


Guidelines are important and should be adhered to when submitting your work. Whether it is for a competition, a particular genre or for freelance submissions. How we submit is almost as crucial as the work itself. Many publishing houses and agents now accept email instead of snail mail, but remember to read  carefully how they expect your work to be received. Some prefer attachments while others want everything in the body of the email.

When freelance writers are contacting potential clients the guidelines change from company to company and an incorrect submission can mean the difference between success and failure. Researching the company’s profile, any articles already published and establishing the correct person to contact enables you to refine your work and ensure the piece is received and not lost in the internal mail system of the company.

For manuscripts, submissions are more tricky. Which agent or publisher to send your novel to requires a good deal of research before you send anything to them. Find out which genre they publish. If one company publishes or represents numerous genres ensure you identify the correct agent and read up on their profile before sending. Try to make the ‘match’ as perfect as possible for the genre and the person you are contacting. Send exactly how and what they require – no less, no more.

Competitions are a great way to practice submitting your work but again who, how and where to send is still important. A horror story will not make it with a romance competition even if there is a romantic element within it. Again adhere to the instructions given.

A handy tip is to print out the guidelines and tick off each item to ensure you have crossed your T’s and dotted your i’s as per the guidelines. It may be time consuming but worth while if you want your work published.

Do you have any tips or experiences you would like to share?

Related articles

Writers Relief…

February 27, 2013

My guest post today is from Writers Relief and perfectly fits today’s word – Pander – definition: to provide gratification or satisfaction for another’s desires. In other words making our submission ‘hit all the right buttons’ for a publisher or agent.

5 Tips For Making Quality Submissions


Whether you’re new to the writing biz or a seasoned veteran, there’s no escaping the fact that your work is going to get rejected at some point by someone—or perhaps many someones.

The fact is, you can’t control whether or not a literary agent or editor accepts your work. What you can control is the quality of the work in question and how you go about sending it out. Hone your craft and submit great writing that will make it just a little bit harder for people to say no.

Here are a few tips on how to make quality submissions and turn those rejections into acceptances:

1. Write, write, and write some more.

As writers, most of us are emotionally attached to what we’ve created. It’s easy to fall in love with one particular piece and become…well, a little obsessed with trying to get it published. But you’ll quickly run out of places to submit to if you send out the same work over and over again.

If you’ve exhausted your markets with no results for a particular piece, set it aside and try sending a few other pieces out—one of them might surprise you.


2. Practice makes perfect.

Contrary to what many believe, no one is born a perfect writer. Your writing ability is like a knife—sharpen it!

The more techniques you try and the more risks you allow yourself to take with your writing, the better you’ll be able to gauge your own strengths and weaknesses.

Once you know that, you’ll be able to assess what’s worth spending your time on and what’s worth putting aside so you can grow.

3. Format and proofread everything.

Make sure it’s PERFECT! The importance of this step cannot be stressed enough.

Editors and agents have always been inundated with hundreds of submissions a day. The convenience of electronic submissions has raised that number into the thousands, so tossing submissions that are obviously sloppy into the slush pile is often an editor’s or agent’s first line of defense against a tidal wave of paperwork.

Get your hands on a grammar book and befriend your spell-checker ASAP!

Of course, if proofreading isn’t your forte, Writer’s Relief’s proofreaders can help.


4. Do your research.

Why spend hours making submissions to journals or literary agencies that aren’t even interested in your particular kind of work in the first place?

Don’t send your work out willy-nilly. Be logical about it. As you come across journals to which you’d like to submit your short prose or poetry, take a moment to read their submission guidelines and read some of the writing they’ve already published.

If you’re querying agents, pay attention to what they ask for in a query packet and scope out what kinds of books they tend to represent. You wouldn’t send a novel about drug addicts to an agent specializing in romance, would you?

There will be a much higher chance of your work actually getting looked at if it’s appropriate for each market, which will ultimately help your work find a home.

(By the way, if you don’t feel like doing all of the research work on your own, or if you’d rather spend your limited free time writing, let Writer’s Relief help you with that. We’ve been helping writers successfully connect with agents and editors since 1994.)

And remember…

5. Don’t let it get to you.

It’s easy to feel downtrodden by the entire submission process, especially if you’re a new writer. Having your work rejected by a number of agents or editors doesn’t mean that they absolutely hated it and/or you. Literary agents and editors aren’t cackling with delight as they send out rejections to hundreds of authors—they’re just trying to find the most appropriate works for publication, and they have nothing against you.

So keep at it. If your writing is in the best shape it can possibly be, and if you’re making responsible, well-researched submissions, your day will come soon enough!

And if any of the above sounds daunting, remember that Writer’s Relief offers assistance in all aspects of the submission process. Our submission strategists are ready to help you stay encouraged and get your writing published!

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