Writing Contests: Understand What Editors Want
Increase Your Chances of Publication
Writers who regularly get published and win writing contests are aware of what editors want and expect in a good story. Nothing will raise an editor's heart rate faster than a great opening.
Successful writers know how to hook readers immediately. Their stories surprise readers. Their voices are sure and unique. They know how to raise a story question and divulge information gradually.
They win prestigious writing contests and get published because they dramatize complex ideas and know how to create and increase tension. Tension, in an otherwise strong story, virtually guarantees that editors will keep reading.
Lee Kvern, who won our Hazel Hilles Memorial Short Fiction Award for her story "In Search of Lucinda," submitted the same story for the Howard O'Hagan Short Fiction Award and won that contest as well. For a single story, she won $500 in our contest and $700 in the other.
Lee is also a novelist, but she kickstarted her novel-writing career with short story prizes. I know many other writers like her who consistently publish their stories and win contests.
Yet, in my experience, more than 90% of stories are rejected or eliminated before an editor has finished the first page. Fiona McCrae, director and publisher of Graywolf Press recently wrote:
People often ask me how much I read of a manuscript before deciding whether or not to publish. The answer is that it variesthe more I like something, the more I read of it. However, it is certainly true that one can tell a lot from a first page.
My agent, Denise Bukowski, sent this article to her list of authors, and she added a personal note: "Fiona is being discreet: editors rarely get beyond the first page."
So how do you ensure that your story receives a thorough reading? With an above-average manuscript, polished and ready in every way!
12 Criteria for a Great Story That Will Win Writing Contests
Lorian Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway and founder of the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, wrote that editors and jurors "look for stories that provide meaningful connections with readers through wise, graceful, unforgettable prose."
I've read hundreds of submissions and contest entries. I know in the first couple of paragraphs if a piece of writing has what it takes, and my Flash Assessment for writing contests or publication provides a thorough analysis of any opening. If the writing does not meet the criteria above, I explain why and offer suggestions for improvement.
Investing in qualified feedback saves you money. As submission fees rise, premature submissions cost writers hundreds of dollars in accumulated contest fees. That money is better spent on analysis and editing. With perseverence, a single graceful, well crafted story will find a publisher. Unfinished stories will be rejected every time.
Investing in qualified feedback saves you time. Even for the writer who understands craft, it can be difficult to judge whether techniques have been executed successfully. You may know that something sounds off, but may have difficulty pinpointing the problem. I have 20 years experience pinpointing problems.
Investing in qualified feedback brings you closer to your long term goals. Good feedback not only points to issues, it teaches solutions. Personalized, one-on-one advice prepares you to spot problems faster and arms you with techniques to resolve those problems, in every story you write.
If you're unsure of the effect or readiness of your writing, my Flash Assessment below will remove doubt, teach, and provide solutions. Later, when you submit a polished,
arresting story to writing contests, you can feel certain your manuscript will receive the attention it deserves.
Because a page or two of writing provides sample enough, I can keep the price of this service low and still provide the important information you need, FAST.
If you submit your manuscript now, I will return it within 24 hours of receipt.
How to Submit
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I make your assessment a priority I match your payment to your text and return the assessment within 24 hours.