Thursday 26 March 2009

How to win short story competitions

“The submission should not be obscene, racist, boring or present ideas in the fields of Political or Religious Correctness.”
-Paul Amphlett, editor of Peer Poetry International
  1. Don't write especially for the contest, write when you think of a story, so that you've got a nicely filled portfolio to chose from.

  2. Come up with a clever, original and relevant title.

  3. Keep to the maximum length (preferably 30 words less).

  4. When rereading your story, think of the Greek unities: time, place and theme.

  5. There has to be a conflict and it has to be clear from the outset.

  6. Entertain. The jury has to read a lot of stories. In order to keep their attention, your story should be more action driven than revolving around description and characterization.

  7. Make a logical, satisfying ending and don't rely on surprise endings. If your story is good enough, they'll read it several times and the surprise effect will wear off.

  8. Handing it in by snail mail is less likely to go wrong then on-line submission.

  9. If there is a set theme, stick to it and make it the main thing in your story, not background, and be imaginative in doing so. If you can't come up with a story about the theme, don't submit to that contest.

  10. If there is no set theme, research the jury's preferences. Read their own work, hobbies, previous jury reports, etc. and adapt your submission to it. Rules of thumb:

    1. Your theme must appeal to the judge (even think of gender);

    2. Steer well clear of X-rated language and Adults Only themes;

    3. Be careful with political or religious themes;

    4. Avoid drug abuse, accounts of college or student activities, adolescents coming to grips with peer pressure, vengeful wives who get back at an unfaithful or abusive husband and eagerly anticipated excursions that went terribly wrong;

    5. Avoid being too topical, news items will soon be forgotten;

    6. Don't plagiarise or copy the style of your idol;

    7. Don't re-work famous stories, plays and folk tales.

  11. Be C L E A R !!


  1. 30 words! That is short! Your right though, good guidelines. But don't get too attached. Don't box in the muse too much!

  2. haha, you silly, 30 words less than the maximum length mentioned in the guidelines of the competition you're entering, not "30 words or less"!

  3. I like your tip of having a portfolio built up! Writing for the comp killed organic creativity!!

  4. Yeah, and though there is the word 'art' in artificial, forced stories usually don't read that well, do they?