The Biggest Mistakes Competition Writers Make

Annette Young - Author, Editor, Writerby Author/Editor Annette Young

Competition writers take note. It’s sad but true that  quite a few great submissions have to be  discarded from our competitions when we get to the judging stage because many people have not adhered to the rules. Although it pains us to do so, we have to adhere to our own rules and not let these great submissions get through. Why?

Well, we like a level playing field. We are not swayed by the name of the writer, former publishing credits or how friendly and enthusiastic the writer is. We are only swayed by great writing that shows the writer has not just checked out the rules but listened to them otherwise what is the point in having rules?

Common mistakes:

Entering but not paying the relevant fees – Over the years we have seen quite a few people trying to sneak their submissions in, even stating they have paid by PayPal when they have not. We wish we could give you all free entry but prizes have to be covered and the better the prizes, the higher the entry fee. We also get people entering twice but only paying once. This costs us time and effort in checking and then contacting the writer.

Ignoring the word count – if we say 600 words including the title, we do not mean 601 words. Yes, that sounds harsh but if other writers have managed it, then so can all. If we say less than 40 lines in a poetry competition, guess what? We mean less than 40 lines.

Receiving an entry that is nothing to do with the theme – we love it when you get creative and are inspired by our themes or the images published, but, your submission has to be connected to the theme in some way. Just because your brain has taken a gigantic leap from reading the rules to an amazing, alternate story-line, does not mean that we can connect the dots in some way. It depends what we have said within the rules. For example, if a photo shows a woman looking into a mirror, we would hope that there be some reference to the woman and the mirror even in a tiny way. It could be a current or sub story-line, be used in a flashback, a dream, or referenced in a secret and long forgotten journal. The tiniest reference would be sufficient and let’s be honest, sometimes there is a leap of faith. But you get my drift – become imaginatively inspired by all means but let us see that you have linked the rules with your submission. This of course only applies if we state that you must be inspired by the photo. Sometimes we add a photo only for aesthetic reasons – so yes, read the rules.

Sending after the closing date – sorry, but we do have to have a cut-off point. We know that life can be manic and with so many demands on your time, it is hard to keep up with day to day pressures let alone creative writing ones but, if you want to enter and win, get your submission in on time. We inevitably receive submissions a day or two later but have even had submissions turn up a month later! Get smart – make a note of the closing date and link to the website page. Download the PDF list version of our competitions, at least you have a reference point.

We don’t like to play tough. We do try to keep the rules as simple as possible and we love reading your submissions and helping the winners to receive money for their troubles and publication. But help us to help you, and this way, you can also increase your chances of winning. Don’t let your creativity go to waste, simply because you didn’t check out those all-important rules.

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