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How to Win a Contest

The North Carolina Writers’ Network officially launches our “contest season” tomorrow, when we open up submissions to the first of our four annual contests.

Literary magazines and publishers everywhere are swamped with submissions this time of year, and writers are keeping busy by sending stuff out and tracking the replies.

Sarah Backer, author of American Fuji and the first American and first woman to serve as Visiting Professor of English at Shizuoka University, in Japan, offered some contest advice on The Review Review. Specifically, how to make the first cut.

Among her tips:

  • Timing matters
  • Format predicts quality
  • Grammar counts
  • Titles are important
  • Avoid common themes
  • Avoid gimmicky structures

The full article is definitely worth the read. Some great tips, and things writers really need to be aware of when sending their work out on submission.

Her conclusion is heartening:

Of course, many factors are in play in a contest, among them are luck. This contest had a large judging panel. Anything that got three no votes in a row was ruled out. Since our tastes were diverse, many pieces I admired were gone before I had a chance to defend their merit. (Be of good cheer! Quick rejections don’t necessarily mean your writing sucks or won’t win a different contest.)

The first of the NCWN annual contests, The Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition, opens for submissions tomorrow, Saturday, November 15, and runs through January 17. And of course our Opportunities section, available to members, lists hundreds of contest and submission opportunities in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and playwriting.