1. Writing competitions usually result in a great many applications that must be reviewed by a selection committee, often by a preliminary group of judges first who determine possible winners, and then by another group that determines the final recipient of the prize. Judging the writing sample can become a huge task. Therefore, judges are often directed to first scan the application to determine whether the applicant adhered to all the guidelines. If even one guideline was not followed correctly, the judge must disqualify the application without further reading.
Therefore, my first tip on winning a writing competition is this: follow the guidelines explicitly. For example, if the guidelines call for 15 pages of writing, do not send 16 pages because you believe the judges just won’t understand if they don’t read the last page of that chapter. Instead, your application would be disqualified.
2. Judges look for originality in your writing. But, do not be confused into thinking you should try to be original in your presentation by using a fancy font, a colored font, or a border. You would be considered less than professional, and your application would not survive the first round of judging.
3. When you are directed to send a blind copy of your writing sample, do not forget to also delete your name from your header. If your name appears there, it would be disqualified.
4. When writing about yourself, try to sound professional, not chatty. You want to make it to the final round of judging.
5. Unless the guidelines direct you differently, use Times New Roman font, size 12. Anything smaller than that would most likely not survive the first round of judging. Remember this tip when you send a query or proposal to an editor or agent. They must read all day and instead of struggling to read small print, your work gets tossed into the round file.
6. Ask someone who has never seen your writing sample before to read it and give you some feedback. Many writing samples leave judges wondering what the writer meant by what they wrote. You know what you meant, but did you convey it adequately to the reader?
7. Do use spellcheck, but don’t rely on it. Ask someone who has never read this work before to read it to check for typos or those words that are not the ones you meant to use.
8. Watch the deadline. I saw an application that came in via the internet at 12:00 a.m. when one minute later would have disqualified that application.
9. When determining what part of your manuscript to send as your sample, always consider the beginning of chapter one. Your first scene tells more about a writer than any other exciting scene in your work. And never send a prologue. Most editors and agents do not like prologues and neither do I. I believe that your prologue can either become chapter one or can better be filtered into your work later where it belongs.
10. Last, but not least, pray for a win if it is God’s will, knowing that it might be God’s will that someone else win, but if God wants you to win, He does also want you to ask for it.
Blessings to each of you in your writing competitions. Watch for the 2018 guidelines and application to the Minnesota Christian Writer’s Scholarship Fund to be available soon here at www.connielounsbury.com.
And remember that the fund can only continue to provide annual scholarships if people who want good inspirational books and movies are willing to donate to this tax-deductible, charitable, organizations. To donate, go to www.connielounsbury.com.
I thank you.
- Blessings for a Simpler Life
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