Tuesday, December 04, 2007


My Not So Secret Formula for Winning Writing Contests

By Janet Paszkowski

When I called to tell a writer friend that my story had won an honorable mention in the WOW! 2007 Summer Flash Fiction Contest, she congratulated me with a yawn and a question . . . what’s your secret for winning so many writing contests?

Admittedly, I have won a number of contests, but it’s no secret http://www.writers.net/writers/40817; It’s a formula.

When it comes to entering writing contests, always submit your best work. That doesn’t guarantee you’ll win every time, but the quality of your submission is the first of the three factors in my formula for winning writing contests that you CAN control.

The second factor is also something you CAN control: Persistence. It is very important that you do not take the rejection of your work personally. Procrastinating or refusing to submit your best work because it might be rejected is NOT a winning option. Let me put it this way, as someone who has judged, as well as entered, a number of writing contests, I strongly suspect that the number of talented writers who never submit their finely crafted work—for fear of rejection—far outweighs the number of writers who dauntlessly submit their unpolished work.

The third factor is . . . dare I say it; Luck! Writers devoted to their craft are often reluctant to admit it, but luck occasionally does factor into winning writing contests. Case in point . . . last year while attending a local writing conference, I was hoping to win a prize for the first chapter of my novel. Actually, I was more than hopeful, I was feeling downright smug about competing in a regional contest, because earlier in the year my novel’s first chapter had received 2nd place in a national writing magazine contest with 320 entries. But, in the regional contest, my novel’s first chapter didn't even snag an honorable mention in competition with barely two dozen entries. Instead, I came home with the 1st prize in the poetry portfolio contest. Here's the rub, I entered the poetry contest at the last minute, submitting the same portfolio of my best poems that I had submitted the previous year, but had failed to receive any honors. The same poems—different judge–resulted in 1st prize.

Trust me on this . . . if you always submit your best, and you don't give up, you CAN make it to the winner's circle, even if the third factor of winning writing contests does occasionally involve a bit of luck, which is the only factor you CAN'T control.

Attention to craft + persistence + a bit of luck = winning. That’s my not so secret formula, and it WILL work for you too.

Janet Paszkowski

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