Contests - again ...

It must be contest season - I'm judging/reading for or have judged/read for three in the past two months. Some things bear repeating:

  1. Theme contests require you to submit a story that RELATES to the set theme - not one that you wrote a year ago and haven't placed
  2. Everywhere I've read for allows the judges to reject a story with substantial spelling errors -so if you're British and submitting for an American contest, please let the readers know that or you might get bumped because they didn't realise. Equally though, what's wrong with using your spellchecker, people? I am very fed up with basic spelling errors ruining my reading and your story
  3. Reject your first two or three ideas for theme contests. Everybody else will have had them too. If the theme is pirates, I can guarantee that half the stories will feature the Kraken, Davy Jones's Locker and the Caribbean (a la Pirates of the Caribbean), a quarter will have a terrifying pirate who turns out to be a girl (duh!) and at least half the tiny remaining proportion will be about space pirates. If you want to place in a contest, make a list of all the obvious ideas that come to you when you reflect on the theme and avoid writing about them. Freshness helps you impress the judge, believe me!
  4. Follow the rules - orange paper does not impress the reader, and funny fonts simply make it difficult for anybody to get to the end of the story.
That apart, it's a privilege and a pleasure to be a contest judge or reader. I enjoy sorting through stories and championing my favourites, and I learn a huge amount about writing every time I take on the task, so if somebody gives you the chance to read competition entries, accept with enthusiasm.

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