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Win A Writing Contest Easily

Winning a writing contest can feel like a crap shoot. You never know what the contest judges are looking for. One of the most frequent questions we’re asked at Write and Publish Your Book is, “How do I win a writing contest?”

There’s no perfect answer to the question. Sure, if you write a book that is fabulous, interesting, provocative, and profound, you stand a better chance. But, how can you know if you’ve got the next Harry Potter, or nothing more than something for the recycle bin? Many manuscripts in a writing contest will be rejected after the first page. And, since this often happens with editors and literary agents, you’ll want to know how to get past the first step. Here are a few clues:

Edit the heck out of your writing

Perhaps the first thing we’ll look for is whether or not you’ve bothered to edit the book. Misspelled words and grammatical errors will get your manuscript tossed without a moment’s hesitation. The only exception to this rule is if the book actually calls for poor grammar, such as a dialogue between a few uneducated folks. Go through your manuscript carefully, especially the first few pages.

Grab us from the start

Spend more time on your opening two pages than on any other part of your book. It doesn’t matter if your book is fiction, fantasy, erotica, science fiction, or non-fiction. Even a book on the sex life of lizards has to be interesting from the start, or you won’t get past step one in a writing contest or with a literary agent or book editor. You’ve got to do your best to grab us right away, or we’ll yawn, put the manuscript down, and go on to the next. Winning means standing out from the crowd. You’ve got to look better and read better, or you won’t be seen.

Create a good reason to read the whole book

Is your book relevant? Is it important? Do you have a clear niche for your book? We look for more than just good writing and an interesting story. We want to know that your book has some relevance. In other words, we want your book to sell. An agent or editor will want to know the same thing, and if you can’t immediately demonstrate that your book will be a hit, it will be ignored, and probably won’t win the contest


A writing contest should be fun. Sure, you’re submitting your baby – your pride and joy – to the whims of some unseen and probably ignorant reviewer. All the more reason to have some fun with your writing. If you’re enjoying yourself, your reader will be more likely to enjoy him or herself as well. I love reading anything that’s been written with heart, passion, and soul. If it’s flat, dull, or reads like an English literature assignment, I’ll drop it faster than you can say, “Ouch. That hurt.”

The truth is that you’ll never know what the reviewers are looking for in a writing contest. But, if you write well, create something that is interesting, provocative, intriguing, or just fun to read, then you’ll have a much better shot at winning than if you write a sloppy and poorly constructed piece.

Really, the best advice I can give you is to relax, have fun, and do the best you can. You might not win this writing contest, but if your work is good, you’ll feel that much better for having submitted it. You can’t – and shouldn’t – hold on to your writing. It is meant to be read, and quite often rejected. So, send it out. Enter contests. Then, move on to your next project and keep writing. That’s how you’ll improve, grow, and make it as a writer.

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