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On the other side of the coin, I am the Chief Judge for three of America's richest literary competitions: The Tom Howard Short Story, Essay and Prose Contest; The Margaret Reid Prize for Traditional Verse; and the Tom Howard Poetry Contest.
Although this book is still available, I'd like to recommend the revised 2009 edition, titled "Write Ways to WIN WRITING CONTESTS: How to Join the Winners' Circle for Prose and Poetry Awards NEW EXPANDED EDITION." Unlike most new editions, this one is actually less expensive, even though it contains more pages and even more essential information.
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Write Ways To Win Writing Contests
Many successful authors started their careers by entering writing competitions. This handbook, written by an expert on both sides of the equation (he is both an award-winning competitor and a judge), provides sure strategies to achieve success in top literary contests.
This book is not aimed at authors who merely wish to improve their writing skills. Nor is it of great value to writers who just want to do their own thing. This is a book for writers who wish to achieve success.
To research this book and to put my ideas into practice and refine them accordingly, I entered 80 writing contests over an 18-month period, winning a string of prizes and awards, including First Prize of $500 in the prestigious Southern Cross Literary Competition 2002; First Prize for a Screenplay in the Gold Coast Awards 2003; the Hills Library Prize 2002; Second Prize, Central Coast Writer's festival 2003; Third Prize, Sun City Poetry Awards 2003; plus a large number of Very Highly Commended and Commended certificates.
Ten Sure-Fire Rejection Stratagems
1. Don't bother to read any of the Contest's previous prize-winning entries.
2. Ignore the Contest's requirements, particularly those relating to length and entry fees.
3. Pay no regard to those stupid old fuddy-duddy rules about punctuation and spelling.
4. If writing in the first person, make sure the judge knows it by using the pronoun "I" as often as possible.
5. Keep your writing flat as a board. Make sure it has no tone or color.
6. Use at least one cliche in every sentence,
7. Avoid originality at all costs.
8. Endeavor to spread your opening paragraph over the entire first page.
9. Consistently employ one inverted comma (') for dialog instead of two (").
10. Always send a rough draft of your work, never a polished, thoroughly checked manuscript.
Among many other essential words of advice, I explain the hidden restrictions behind invitingly catch-all phrases used in many competitions, such as "all genres and subjects welcome" and "open theme". In many cases, these phrases simply do not mean what they say. In my book, I publish a number of judges' reports in which they make such admissions as their reluctance to award prizes to humorous entries (in both verse and prose); and that some of them object to stories that "use too much dialog" or "deal with crime or drugs". Often the objection to "too much dialog" comes from adjudicators attached to contests sponsored by schools and universities or literary magazines. It is no longer fashionable in these circles to tell a story primarily through dialog. For such a contest, I once submitted a story with no dialog at all. I was not surprised to find it Highly Commended and duly published in the university's literary magazine. (The story was called "Wright and Wrong". You can read it in my book, "Micaela Morris in Jo's Heaven and Other Stories").
It is often not easy to obtain Judges' Reports. Usually the only way you can determine what taboos apply to subject matter and what genres are unlikely to win awards, is through a careful study of past winning entries. If, for example, you can find no award-winning humorous verse or detective fiction, it's a sure bet that these genres are not welcome.