This is Why your Story Didn’t Win.

How to improve your chances

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Last weekend I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop focussing on why stories win or don’t win competitions.  Experienced short story writer and author of You Belong Here Laurie Steed was the presenter.

He began with the basic and obvious pointers.

Follow the rules. If they ask for a 2,000-word short story don’t send one word over that limit.

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Read all the terms and conditions. It would be awful to be disqualified on a technicality. Some contests are open to anyone, some to residents of certain areas, or age groups. Some stipulate no one who has earned money from their writing is eligible.

What a judge hopes to see.  

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A strong opening to the story, with an engaging or relatable character, strong stakes, and some sort of closure. Not necessarily a ‘happily ever after’ but an ending that satisfies the reader.

Laurie Steed made that point that people now have so many other choices to entertain themselves, so if they devote their time to reading it had better be good. Everything matters in your story-there is no space for a digression, your reader has chosen to be with you, it’s your job to keep them.

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Writing on Topic:  If a picture or story prompt is given-try to avoid the obvious approach. Strive for an unusual or unique perspective with good details.

Pacing. Keep an eye on the pacing and sentence length strive for balance neither too slow or too fast. Appropriate to the story that you are telling.

Don’t try telling a story too complex for the word length or with too much back story or irrelevant details.

The next post will summarise further advice relating to creating strong and weak titles, and story topics.

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From 500 entries submitted to one contest, he estimated that about 10% were serious contenders. Learn how to make yours one of them.