Writing Competitions – the way to win

In my quest for success I’ve started reading ‘Writing Competitions – the way to win’ by Iain Pattison and AlisonWriting Competitions - the way to win Chisholm. It covers short story, poetry and article writing contests. 

Chapter 2 deals with targeting the right sort of competitions to increase your chances of success. Iain and Alison advise a few ways of doing this:

  •  Forget the big internationals and concentrate on small competitions that will attract fewer entrants. Not many of us are likely to get anywhere in something like the Bridport but we might stand a chance of being placed in a local writing competition. I would much rather win a book token in a small competition than see my entry  disappear into the black hole of well-publicised literary contest.    
  • Choose a competition with a difficult theme – this will put many entrants off because it’s too much of a challenge and a previously written story can’t be recycled to fit the subject. Competitions with an open theme attract the most entrants.
  • Try competitions where entry is limited by the rules – for example competitions restricted to unpublished writers or to writers of a certain age or to those living in a specified area

Iain and Alison also advise targeting contests where the entry fee is high compared to the prize fund. This is because we are all naturally mean and therefore the number of entrants will be low. I’m afraid my own natural meanness won’t let me endorse this advice but I can see that there is logic in this method of choosing where to send your work. So if you’re not as tight with money as me, you might want to try it.

And speaking of relatively small competitions (& I don’t mean that in a derogatory way), Bev Morley is running a short story competition on the theme of ‘Christmas’ via her blog. First, second and third prizes are £50, £25 and £10 respectively plus publication in a Kindle anthology, up to 12 further stories will also be included in the anthology. The word limit is 3,000 and closing date 30th September. Entry by email only and the fee is £3. Full details are here.

‘Writing Competitions – the way to win’ is worth a read if you want to increase your chances of success in competitions.

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  1. #1 by blogaboutwriting on September 19, 2011 - 11:07 am

    Thanks Sally, that’s interesting stuff. Know what you mean about not wanting to pay a high entry fee when the prize is low!! And I’ll be having a go at the christmas short story competition, so thanks for that!

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on September 19, 2011 - 12:07 pm

      Best of luck with the competition, Helen. I’m hoping to send something too, if I get time before the 30th!

  2. #3 by susanjanejones on September 19, 2011 - 4:44 pm

    Thanks for this information Sally, I’m getting a bit of a competition addict. Also, middle of the Summer is a good time to enter comps. as people are on holiday, I would say around Christmas may be when people are busy as well. I say that because I tend to get on the long or short list around Christmas, and that amazes me. I prefer free to enter competitions, so I’m a real mean bean. Talk soon.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on September 19, 2011 - 7:11 pm

      That’s a good point, Susan, about entering comps around the holiday period when lots of people are doing other things. I like free competitions too but I imagine they get loads of entries – at least there’s nothing to lose by entering them.

  3. #5 by nataliebowers on September 19, 2011 - 5:40 pm

    Hi! Thanks for this info. Really useful. Do you happen to know what the email address is for the Bev Morley comp is? I can’t seem to find it on her blog. Thanks. x

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on September 19, 2011 - 7:20 pm

      Hi Natalie – I’ve just had a closer look myself & you’re right, there is no email address given. I suggest you use the ‘contact’ page on her blog to ask her for it. Apologies for not noticing the omission myself!

  4. #7 by Bev Morley on September 20, 2011 - 9:18 am

    Hi Sally :o)

    Just wanted to say thanks for the mention!

    I have re-established the links on the Short Story Competition post – I’m not really sure what happened there? Just in case they cease working again, I have added my email address seperately.

    Bev x

  5. #8 by Patsy Collins (@PatsyCollins) on September 20, 2011 - 2:40 pm

    I agree it’s a good idea to try small competitions, but I’m less sure about forgetting the bigger ones. Someone has to win these.

    Going for those with difficult themes sounds a very good plan.

    I prefer free to enter competitions and PLUG ALERT! post details of them here http://patsy-collins.blogspot.com/

    • #9 by Sally Jenkins on September 21, 2011 - 7:08 am

      Bev – thanks, I can see the email address now on your blog post about the competition. Hope you get lots of entries!
      Patsy – thanks for bringing your blog to everyone’s attention, it’s a fantastic place for dicovering all sorts of free comps.
      Everyone – do let Patsy know about any free to enter competitions that you come across.

  6. #10 by Helen on September 21, 2011 - 5:34 pm

    I have to say I wouldn’t be that keen about paying a high price to enter a competition either – especially if the prize money wasn’t very generous. I understand the thing about there being less competition, but I’m not sure how satisfying it would be winning something when there were only a handful of entrants. Plus, I’m naturally wary about competitions which charge a lot of money with little return – I always wonder where the money goes.

    The book sounds like an interesting read – I’d be curious to know how many people have read it and gone on to win competitions though. I always find the judging quite subjective – sometimes, I’ve read winning entries and wondered what was so special about them (that’s not just sour grapes, by the way – I’m talking mainly about comps I’ve not entered!).

    • #11 by Sally Jenkins on September 21, 2011 - 8:47 pm

      Helen – Thanks for dropping by. I too wonder where the money goes in some competitions – although I’m quite happy to pay to enter comps for charity. And I think judging will always be subjective – there’s no way round the fact that different people like different things.

  7. #12 by Patsy Collins (@PatsyCollins) on September 23, 2011 - 4:35 pm

    Congrats on your Morley lit fest competition win!

  8. #14 by Patsy Collins (@PatsyCollins) on September 24, 2011 - 10:25 am

    I know everything! (cue maniacal laughter)

  9. #15 by Helen Moat on October 7, 2011 - 6:44 pm

    Hi Sally
    I’m not a professional writer (just a two-a-penny teacher!) but I’ve become quite obsessive about writing competitions since I won two travel writing competitions earlier this year.
    The first was The (weekly) Telegraph competition – which is a great one, not least because the prize money is £200 worth of foreign currency. The Telegraph competition attracts about 200 entries a week now, so I was really chuffed to win.
    I have to say it took me 7 goes before I won. I would have given up after one try, but my husband pointed out; ‘the more you enter, the higher your chances are of winning’.
    Even more important to me than the prize money, was having my piece published in a national paper.
    The second comp was with the British Guild of Travel Writers. (I came second and won two flight tickets with city jet). I think they had less than 200 entries this year, so you have a reasonable chance with them.
    I’m trying to win The Telegraph for a second time. I thought I had cracked what they are looking for, but I have to say the standard of writing with them has been impressively high recently.
    I’m trying to develop ‘humour’ in my writing (not something I do well naturely) because this is often what judges go for.
    I’m entering 5 of the Guardian categories. We’ll see!
    I’ve submitted to a few (glossy) travel magazine and one of the broadsheets a couple of times, and I’m wondering how often (if ever) they take commissions from someone who isn’t ‘in house’ or well established as a freelancer.
    My only rule for competitions is: I don’t enter any that aren’t free (Says a lot about me!). My logic is I want to gain, not be out of pocket!
    Find your blog very interesting.

    • #16 by Sally Jenkins on October 7, 2011 - 7:28 pm

      Wow, Helen – you win the prize for the longest comment on this blog so far! But what you say is really interesting. I’ve tried the Telegraph comp. a couple of times but got nowhere – now I know why if they get 200 entries a week (& I agree the standard is high)! I have got another piece drafted for them which I am letting ‘rest’ before I polish it up and I’m going to do the UK section of the Guardian comp.
      Very well done on your previous successes and Good Luck with your future entries!

  10. #17 by Helen Moat on October 9, 2011 - 7:47 pm

    Likewise. Good luck with the competitions.

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