How to win a short story contest


Although it is impossible to hope for victory in a writers’ contest, there are several ideas that can be managed to increase the chances of success. Editing the history, making innovative changes.


Selecting a contest


Choose the contest that best fits your writing style


When choosing a contest, follow your writing style.

Most of the competitions are related to print media, so it’s better to read previous issues of newspapers to determine which is the most suitable writing style.

In addition, you can read the stories of previous winners who will tell you what the judges want.


Make inquiries about the judges


Most competitions have their own regular judges who choose winners each year. Many of them are writers themselves. Find out what they write, and if possible, which writers they like. Do the same with the interim judges. Find out what they like and how they write.


Do not try to write a pattern


Don’t worry if the story you plan to submit to the contest is not the same as the stories of previous winners. Judges will want something similar in style or mood, but in your story there must be an element of innovation. You do not have to rewrite stories again and again every year.


Compare with the rules


In all competitions there are rules for receiving stories. This will give you some ideas about which styles are acceptable, as well as how many words should be in the story and in what format it should be written.


Explore your story


Whatever you write, you need to explore the topic of your story. To do this, you need to read a lot.

Read the writers that you like, and those that you do not really like. Choose writers from a variety of genres.

Read the collections of short stories and short stories. Read information articles and literary magazines. All this will help you become a good writer.


Planning your own story


Make a story plan


Take the time to sketch the theme of the work. The plan does not have to be complete; Just write down ideas about where your story is going. What happens in it? Why should the reader be interested?


Work on the heroes of the story


Spend a little time writing ideas about the uniqueness of the characters. You should make the story’s heroes as diverse as possible. You can do this by asking yourself a few questions, such as:

What does a hero look like? What does he like to do in his spare time? What are his secret desires? What motivates him? What role does he play in the story?

You will not use every detail, but these details will help you create a more holistic story hero. If the hero becomes real for you, he or she must become real for the reader.


Choose a point of view


Will the story be written from the third or first person? Does the reader know more than the hero? You need to decide which point of view you would stick to, at least you can go back to that and change it as necessary.


Writing your own story


Write a string plot


In the first paragraph you should draw the reader’s attention. Never underestimate the importance of a good plotting.

Remember, at large contests, judges read hundreds and thousands of entries. Even in minor contests, judges can read more than a hundred introductions.

Therefore, if you don’t interest judges with the first paragraph, it is quite possible that they will exclude work at this stage. The judges want to read all the entries in a short time, so they will not spend much time on each individual story.

Follow the plan, but also follow the interaction. If you tell the story wrong, leave it at that. Sometimes, through chance, the best stories are obtained.


Tell about everything in detail


This advice is important. In other words, do not tell the reader about specific emotions, for example, “Kate was sad.” Provide the reader with details of how sad Kate was, and how she felt. For example:

“Kate reached out and rubbed the back of her neck. She lowered her head for a second, and then wiped her tears before they fell from her face.”

This enriches the story and gives the reader the opportunity to interpret the events in their own way.


Do not write too much


Use enough words to reveal the essence. Many judges prefer to read short, but well-written stories, rather than long opuses.


Effectively use the dialogues


Don’t use dialogs just to fill the story. Instead, lead the story around the dialogues.


Do not forget about the conflict


There must be a conflict in history so that it is interesting. It can be an internal conflict or events in the life of heroes, but the conflict must be the central part of the story.


Describe the climax


In the story there should be a tension around the description of events that reaches the highest point at the end of the story. In other words, your story should reach a climax.


Revision of the story


Reread the story again and again


Look for grammatical and other errors. Read the story aloud and listen to strange-sounding sentences. Revise the story as necessary.

Remove any unnecessary parts of the story. If some line (or even a paragraph) interferes with the flow of the story, it is not needed. This is very important when editing.

Make sure that the story is written according to the instructions. Format it according to the requirements of the competition.


Let someone else read the story


This can be done in the community of writers and editors in the studio. Everyone should read the story of another writer and provide constructive criticism, as well as give advice.

Look for a community of writers in your area. You can ask about it in the local library. You can also find such communities on the Internet.

If you print your story on the Internet, you should do it in a private community, otherwise there may be copyright problems if you want to print a story elsewhere


Do not get discouraged if you don’t win


This is already a big step. You can always participate in other competitions and literary magazines. Also, do not be afraid to revise your story and, if necessary, modify it, especially if the judges have provided criticism of your story
Contests of short stories will cost you not cheap. Some of them are free (but they involve a large number of people). Others require a fee


How to win a short story contest