In Part 1 we looked at what judges look for in a winning short story. This post deals with how to send your stories to competitions to give yourself the best chance of success.
1. Identify your market. If you’re submitting your story to a magazine competition, check out the stories the magazine publishes. What kind of writing are they looking for? You have a better chance of making the short list if you send your romance story to a magazine that publishes romance rather than one that prefers crime fiction.
2. Read and analyse past winners. Often these are put on the competition website. What do these winning stories have that make them stand out from the rest?
3. Find out who is judging the competition. Listen to interviews with the judge, read articles about them, read their work; look for clues about what kind of writing they like. A good judge will be as objective as possible but if he or she likes your sort of writing you are giving yourself a better chance.
4. Follow the guidelines meticulously. There are always reasons why organisers set guideline terms. Ease of reading or formatting for publication are two. Don’t use comic sans font if they ask for Times New Roman. In fact, never use comic sans if you want to be taken seriously.
5. Present your story professionally. A clean, accurate and easy to read manuscript is always well received by the judges. That includes correct spelling and punctuation.
6. Keep to the word count. Even if your story is only slightly more and gets past the registrar, with 300 stories to read the judge is not going to thank you for the extra words.
7. Send your work in before the closing date. There’s a possibility it might be read at leisure, before the rush of others clamouring for attention.