How To Win Writing Contests
Briefly -- How to Win: Please the judge. How to lose: Please yourself!
Generally speaking, writing is all about pleasing people. I'm speaking of course about professional writing. The professional's first aim should be to please readers and hopefully critics as well.
For writing contests, however, both the pro and the beginner need to cater exclusively to judges.
When I was writing "Write Ways To Win Writing Contests", I particularly focused on Contests in which the judges gave some hints in their Reports as to the types of poetry or stories they admired – or even wrote themselves. Winning a cash prize in these contests is comparatively easy, because few contestants bother to read judges' website comments, let alone cater to their tastes.
How else do you find out what judges are actually seeking? Take a look at previous winners. For instance, if there are no baseball, tennis, football or other sporting stories in previous winning line-ups, the judges are never going to make an exception -- not even for the greatest baseball yarn of all time!
In their reports, judges are usually not backward in letting contestants know exactly what genres and styles of prose and poetry take their fancy. Many will even specify particular genres they despise, and even "errors" in style and grammar that will earn instant rejection. And many of these so-called "errors" will not be "errors" in the accepted sense at all. They will just be these particular judges' hang-ups.
For example, I know judges who openly admit to a strong dislike for "too much dialogue." Others, however, will tell you in their website reports how much they enjoyed the winner's "many sparkling dialogue exchanges."
In my handbook, Write Ways to WIN WRITING CONTESTS: How To Join the Winners' Circle for Prose and Poetry Awards, [Clicking this next link will take you to the $2.99 Kindle edition: Write Ways to WIN WRITING CONTESTS ] in addition to all the advice (including the above) that I gained at first hand by entering contests myself, I also provide a Jerome K. Jerome piece (is it a story or an essay?) I regard as the finest example of short prose in the English language. Submit an entry with a theme as fine and writing as brilliant, and you can immediately start spending that $3,000 First Prize.
Of course, I don't focus solely on prose contests in the above book. For poetry, I provide a translation of "The Bells" by Rosalia de Castro (a very short poem, but a masterpiece!), plus "The Miner" by James Russell Lowell (many religious poems cross my desk, but obviously none of the entrants have ever read Lowell, even though they could do so for the piffling cost of "Write Ways..." or even read it free of charge on the net), plus "The Jackdaw of Rheims" by the Reverend Richard Harris Barham, one of the funniest poems ever written!
If you submit a poem as bitingly hilarious as "The Jackdaw of Rheims" (children fall in love with the little jackdaw, while adults relish the satire), you can start spending that $3,000 First Prize straightaway.