Writing Contests: Understand What Editors Want
Increase Your Chances of Publication
Writers who regularly get published and win writing contests have something in common besides talent. They are aware of what editors want and expect in a good story. They use this information and win regularly. Their stories are fresh, with strong characterization and voice, and surprising in some simple way that invites editors to read on.
Just the other day I learned that 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. She is now one of the contenders in that contest. She won $500 in our contest and if she wins the Howard O'Hagan award, she will win another $700. That's not bad for a single story.
Lee kick started her novel-writing career with short story prizes, and I know many other writers like her who consistently publish and win contests.
Yet more than ninety percent of manuscripts are rejected or eliminated before the 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 sent this article to her list, and she added a personal note: "Fiona is being discreet: editors rarely get beyond the first page."
Most authors who submit poorly written manuscripts make mistakes that could have been easily corrected. Maybe they rushed the manuscript, maybe they're too close to it to see the problems, or maybe they're not yet aware of what editors expect. Whatever the reason, you can make yourself aware of any issues by investing in some inexpensive feedback. It doesn't have to be your text that editors and jurors set aside after the first page. And there is no better time than right now to find out if you're on the winning track with your writing.
It used to be difficult for writers to obtain professional feedback, but that's no longer the case. An expert opinion can be had in 24 hours or less. Submitting work that will be rejected immediately just doesn't make sense and can cost hundreds of dollars as contest fees accumulate.
Many hopeful writers have no chance of winning and don't even know it. You don't have to be one of them.
I've read hundreds of submissions and contest entries. I often know in the first couple of paragraphs if the writing has what it takes. For starters, I look for a strong voice. Does this story sound original, as if this writer and no other could write it? Is the voice interesting and engaging? If it's not, editors won't keep reading for long.
Lorian Hemingway, 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."
How close are you to achieving this necessary connection to readers? If you're close, don't allow easily corrected mistakes to disqualify you.
There is nothing that will raise an editor's heart rate faster than a great opening. Successful writers know how to hook readers immediately. Their voices are sure. They know how to divulge information so that it raises a story question. They win prestigious writing contests and get published because they know how to create and increase tension and interest, which virtually guarantees that editors will keep reading.
My Flash Assessment allows you to see your opening pages through the eyes of an editor, and helps you revise to create the effect you wantone that gives editors the thrill of discovery at finding new talent. The assessment is fast and helpful. It will help you put your stories in the running with other exceptional writers.
If your opening doesn't already generate excitement in the first paragraph, I offer suggestions for how you might change that. I discuss how to create a compelling hook, and how to ensure a distinctive voice.
Does your opening immediately set up a strong story question? If not, I can help there, as well, by suggesting ways to generate killer ideas and by showing you how to encapsulate the essence of your story into a single, early paragraph.
The people who take advantage of this creative writing feedback regularly express surprise at how much useful feedback they receive. And that's my goal, to help you as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
Never have there been so many opportunities for new writers to be noticed and win prizes. But too many writers have no idea what editors want.
Act now and eliminate a good portion of the competition.
Because a page or two of writing provides sample enough, I can keep the price of this service very low and still provide you with the important information you need. Submit your
manuscript now, and I will return it within 24 hours.
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.
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