by Annette Young
So far in this series on how to win writing competitions, or, at least, how to improve your potential for doing so, I have covered the importance of generating a good idea and developing it, turning this basic concept into something original and unique. I’ve also mentioned the importance of characterisation so that any judge reading your submission will become hooked by the events and circumstances surrounding the characters and will connect with them on deeper level.
Today, I want to discuss the importance of creating a super-strong opening. I read a great many submissions and, although I admit, sometimes, the ideas are great and, the writing good, often, the writer starts at the wrong point and the opening is weak and less than powerful because of it. Usually this happens because the writer has not prepared the idea fully before starting. A writer may also be inexperienced when it comes to developing a story within the confines of a set word count.
Think about it, do you really need to start a story at point A and finish at C, when you can throw the reader straight into the plot at point B where the action takes place and the story is dramatic and compelling? Your role as the writer is to hook the attention of those reading your fiction and to have them dangling on a hook throughout. We look for stories that entertain and that make us want to read on. These are the things you need to consider when writing any work of fiction but especially when the word count is minimal.
So, how can you improve your opening section? By carefully considering the best starting point and eliminating those that lead the story along a winding route which eventually gets to the heart of the story. Do this and your ability to pull the reader straight into the story becomes much stronger.
If you have plenty of words at your disposal, then, your starting point is likely to be different and that’s fine. Just remember, you need to hook the attention of the reader and the writing competition judges if you want to stand a chance of delivering a successful and prize-winning submission.
Tip: Write down 2 or 3 potential starting points and write opening paragraphs for all of them, just to test them out. Which one incites more attention? Which paragraph is stronger? If you are not sure, let family and friends read them and find out why they like it.
In this second article in the Writing Competitions – Want to Win series, I am going to discuss repetition in story ideas. While it’s absolutely fine to reinvent an idea, it should only be considered a starting point. I see a great many stories when judging writing competitions which have not been evolved sufficiently. It’s as if the writer has become stuck in the moment and has not known where to take the story so that it develops, extends and even, diversifies. Instead of the creative process leading the way to something quite unique, the process is stopped short, cut off in its prime.
This can occur through a lack of time or, a lack of creativity at that time.
Sometimes, submissions are beautifully written but even well-written stories cannot compete against those that are well-thought out, read well and show much originality. When we review submissions, we look for creativity and technique of course, but it is a joy to see work from a writer who is capable of extending boundaries, taking an idea and developing it to its full potential.
Don’t be too keen to rush a story. Think it through. What could you do that would make an ordinary story shine?
Tip: Begin with your basic idea but then, craft a story that is powerful and compelling by making it an unpredictable read. Think of alternative endings. Throw in a few obstacles. This alone could make you be in with a chance of winning.
Missed Part One? Read it HERE
Want to have a go at entering a writing competition? Click HERE
1st Prize; £100.00
2nd Prize: £75.00
3rd Prize: £50.00
Closing date; March 15th 2012
Entry fee: £3.00 or free if you are a Creative Competitor Premier1 member
Using the photo for inspiration, create a compelling story that make us hang onto every word.
You can be completely creative with your interpretation but you must include all three characters in some way. Entries must be completely original and previously unpublished.
You have a maximum of 500 words including the title so make sure that you use each word wisely.
We prefer submissions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
We publish the winning story only allowing the other prize winners to re-use their entry if they so wish.
Note: It can take us some time to judge our writing contests as we read and review each and every one, so we appreciate your patience in this matter. Entry into this competition implies acceptance to these terms.
1st Prize: £150.00
2nd Prize: £100.00
4th Prize: £50.00
5th Prize: 3 months Creative Competitor Premier1 Membership
Closing date: February 10th 2012
Entry fee: £3.50 or free to Creative Competitor Premier1 members
Become inspired by the photo and create a compelling story in 1200 words or less. (Excluding the title).
Submissions must be original and previously unpublished.
Please write the name of the competition in the email subject line.
Note: It can take some time to review all of the submissions and to make a final decision. Entry to this competition implies acceptance to this and to all of our rules.
We only publish the overall winning entry which means that those who do not scoop the top prize are able to submit to other competitions.
1st Prize: £100.00 Alistair Lewis
2nd Prize: £75.00 M. Penny
3rd Prize: £50.00 Susan Smith
By Alistair Lewis
The man that lay in the hospital bed slipped in and out of being her Grandfather, there were glimpses of recognition when he opened his bright blue eyes, now cloudy with dementia and the illness had wiped much of his memories of her. He talked incessantly about life as a young boy, his words fuzzy from the recent stroke, but she had listened to his faltering account of life before and after the war, her heart aching. The pocket watch was mentioned many times and he would turn his sad eyes to hers, reminding her that his health had demised after the watch had been stolen.
He opened his eyes suddenly and recognition dawned but before he could speak, she placed the gold ornate pocket watch in his gnarled hands and he sighed with pleasure and gratitude. Death came quickly and quietly, peacefully slipping away. As the nurses closed the curtains around him, Kerry walked away, regret tinged with satisfaction. She wondered if he knew that it had been her that had stolen his watch. She had been desperate for cash and had pawned it when she had lost her job without warning. She would forever have it on her conscience that she had caused him such emotional pain but at least now, she had righted the wrong and had held his hand tightly as he made his way from this world to the next.