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(Would you believe that, three years after the event, I received a Commended Certificate for an entry in a poetry contest. So make that "short-listed 30 times!")
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John Howard Reid
John Howard Reid (a well-known author with over 40 years experience in writing and publishing) is Chief Judge of the annual Tom Howard Short Story, Essay and Prose Contest, the annual Tom Howard Poetry Contest, and the annual Margaret Reid Prize for Traditional Verse. Each of these well-established, prestigious writing contests currently offer cash prizes of $5,350.
In WRITE WAYS TO WIN WRITING CONTESTS, I attempt to reveal all the secrets you need to know to achieve success.
To research this book, I entered no less than 80 writing contests myself. My entries won prizes or were short-listed 29 times. That’s better than a one-in-three success rate.
“I could easily have achieved a one-in-two success rate, if I had only entered the RIGHT contests,” I remarked in an interview, when the book was first published. “I entered some contests merely to prove my theories or simply to obtain Judges’ Reports.”
Originally published in 2002, this book was re-issued with minor up-dates in 2003. A revised third edition was published in March, 2004.
This present completely revised, expanded and enlarged fourth edition was generally released in May, 2009.
This New Edition of Write Ways to WIN WRITING CONTESTS: How To Enter the Winners' Circle for Prose and Poetry Awards not only offers more pages, more information and more up-to-date help -- but at a more pleasing price!
And even better still, the book is now available in a Kindle edition for only $2.99, while Barnes & Noble and other retailers now have a slightly revised edition for $3.99.
Winning Favor with the Judges of Literary Contests
First of all, it's important to abide by the relevant rules applying to the Contest. If the essay, short story or poem is required to center on a set theme, entries that wander too far from that theme will immediately be disregarded. Around thirty per cent digressive material is the absolute maximum that will normally be tolerated, although many organizers will insist on a much stricter adherence.
For wordage requirements, a leeway of five per cent is usually granted unless the organizers insist that minimum and maximum counts be strictly adhered to. Even here, however, some leeway is possible. Hyphenated words, for example, can be counted as either single or multiple units.
If technical rules apply, itís best to follow rigid conditions such as double spacing, page numbering, binding, etc., rather than simply ignore them.
As most contests are judged anonymously, take care that neither deliberately nor accidentally have you revealed your real name.
Generally, judges are given a free hand as to the methods employed in selecting winners. Some judges prefer to read entries as they are received. Others elect to wait until the competition closes. The first option, of course, becomes obligatory if only a small period of time, say three months or less, occurs between closing date and "winners announced".
Some judges will scrupulously read every word of every entry from first to last. Most judges, however, will totally disregard untidy or difficult-to-read manuscripts. Some judges will read only opening paragraphs, first stanzas or the initial pages. If that material seems unpromising, that entry will almost certainly be relegated to the reject basket.
Many judges harbor personal prejudices and predilections undreamed of by contest organizers. Some judges favor stories that employ a great deal of dialogue. Others regard dialogue as a liability. Many judges feel that poetry must be reserved for serious subjects, such as illnesses and death. Others opine that innovative language and imagery are more important than theme.
When two or more judges are employed, it is customary for all judges to read all the entries. Usually submissions are given a point score of one to five, or simply marked "A", "B" or "C". "A" entries are considered worth further reading; "B" are judged passable; "C" are the rejects.
To save time, only entries that receive "A" marks from all the judges are considered for prize awards, unless a judge feels so strongly about a particular entry that he will champion it against all comers. This actually happens more frequently than you would expect. It either leads to a process of horse-trading among the judges or, worse, to a situation where a rank outsider emerges as the only entry with a unanimous "A" mark or five-point score.
As a successful competitor, I maintain a high average of achieving a sizable cash reward in around twenty per cent of all the contests I enter by adhering to the following guidelines:
1. I submit as many entries as are allowed. I donít send them all in a batch, but I enter them at various times during the course of the contest.
2. I only enter contests where there is one Chief Judge, rather than a panel of judges. Of course, in a large contest, the Chief Judge will undoubtedly receive assistance from an associate or even a panel. That is okay, but I will avoid contests where the Chief Judge is not a fellow writer, but a critic or an academic. Naturally, I also give the flick to competitions where the judge is some unknown or has not even been announced.
3. I study the work of the judge. If necessary, I even buy a copy of one of his or her books. Having a copy in the hand is far more preferable than trying to read work on the net. I not only need to know what subjects and themes interest him or her, but I need to get a firm grasp on his/her "style". Itís said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In writing contests, itís a sure and certain way to forge ahead of the pack.