There are many opportunities open to aspiring writers today that were rare privileges years ago. The traditional publishing system has taken a back step to the rage of self-publishers and that has brought about a whole new era of book marketing and publishing.
Today, literally anyone can write anything and have it published. No censors. No standards. No one to say it’s loaded with typos and format errors. This seems like a great reprieve for new authors who are desperate to get their work out there without any restrictions, but it’s not necessarily a good thing if they want to produce quality material.
Ideally, every person who wants to become a writer should take some kind of literacy course so they know how to plot a story, how to use correct grammar and spelling, and how to properly insert dialogue to make the story really dynamic. If you’re creative and have the gift to write, then why not perfect it and make it worth reading?
However, few new aspiring writers take any writing courses, and even fewer give any attention to the market or what is in demand. But for those writers who want to improve their writing skills but who don’t have the finances for any courses, a great training tool may be to enter writing contests.
These contests are more than just added venues to display written work. They have guidelines and restrictions that will train aspiring writers to adhere to specifics, which in turn will polish their writing skills. These competitions not only challenge the writer, but they teach them some great lessons.
Contests often have selected outlines to write to, and this encourages the writers to create a title that not only applies to their story, but draws in the reading audience. Poor titles turn away readers and good titles invite them.
They usually have a specific word count to write within and this trains the aspiring writer to write the story with as much packed information as possible into a specific number of words. When a story has too many words to describe something that could be done in few words, readers are often put off – confused – bored with reading. A shorter, well worded description will captivate readers and keep them reading.
Spelling typos and grammar errors are something that editors check for in writing contests, and knowing this the aspiring writers will take the time to edit their submission for these before they enter their work. This puts them in the habit of editing before publishing.
Most writing contests have a specific story line that is to be used and this is a great strategy for writers to realize that they are at the mercy of the reader. When the book rage was werewolves every new aspiring writer had a story to write, but as that rage left the books kept coming anyway and they got wasted because no one wanted to read about that anymore. The time was over and a new rage was on. Aspiring writers need to pay attention to what is in demand if they want their stories to be appreciated.
Dialogue is necessary in many stories, but a submission that is all dialogue won’t even make it to the judge’s desk because it can get too confusing to follow, and too many of “he said” and “she said” makes the story boring. Readers want to read some background and some description so they can use their own imaginations and become part of the plot.
Guidelines are necessary for every competition and are essential for the aspiring writer to read and to follow. When the writer decides to enter the contest and disregards some of the guidelines – or all of them – they show that they have no respect for the competition and in turn, they lose out because their story is tossed out. If you want your story to earn respect, then you need to begin by giving respect.
This author runs a monthly writing competition on LinkedIn and the winners are collected into a yearly anthology that is published each spring. The purpose of these competitions is to give writers an opportunity to write according to the selected title and within the designated guidelines, and to get the best ones published – for free!
Many of the earlier aspiring authors no longer enter the competitions because they’ve learned how to write and are on to bigger and more rewarding challenges. But lately, many of the new aspiring authors submit their stories without reading any of the guidelines, and instead of having their work read and even published their stories are discarded immediately because they did not follow the guidelines.
Following guidelines are crucial when entering writing contests, so if you want to be part of a winning challenge then you must stop putting yourself above the others and start writing what is being asked.
Writing competitions are opportunities for aspiring writers to get their work out there and read. You may enter many times before you win, but if you learn from each rejection then you’ll continue to improve your skills and move closer to writing a winning story. When the reward is publication, it’s a sure feather in your hat that shows other editors who are waiting in the shadows that you know how to write.
If you’re serious about writing and don’t have an opportunity to enrol in courses to improve your skills, then take advantage of writing competitions and learn from them how to become a winner.