CONTEST ADVICE (longwinded advice)

Okay, I promised a section about contests … and this is the first of many (since I continue to enter contests, and I can’t post those stories until I lose! Cool how I figured out how to make these things a win/win for me, huh?). Below are a couple sources, and if anyone has any other ones, please feel free to post them. I have a couple things to say about contests. First off (and I think this is the first thing that everyone should know about writing in general) … KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! Do a little research. I’m not going to do a constant rant about how awful and insensitive the publishing industry is (at times), when there are writers (who read my blog) who are just as insensitive about the stuff they turn into contests. Don’t turn in a satire piece when the contest clearly says it’s supposed to be a mystery.

So here’s Kael’s list of things to do when entering a contest. First (and this is the most important thing ever) know who judges these contests. There is no money in literary fiction, no matter what you’re thinking. Your little story, and this contest isn’t going to make or break anyone. With that said, the people who judge these contests are in it for one of two reasons … first they just love to read the mostly crappy submissions they get (and although this sounds kind of doubtful, it’s probably a fair portion of them), or second, they are people with an undying need to judge other people to make themselves feel better about themselves. I’m pretty sure that the latter is more reasonable. I wrote earlier about the chick in my senior writing class, and how she would just sit there and judge other people’s work, and so harshly that sometimes it would seem like she was on a mission. Well she’s probably judging contests now. You know who else is? Those skinny little angry guys who smoke too much, or the girls who wear their hairs in ponytails out to the side. I also said something in my first podcast that is worth repeating. Genius is always appreciated, but it is hardly ever recognized. You need to remember that people only think things that are good that other people have told them are good. You can be a complete visionary, but trust me it will get lost if it’s not derivative. Now I’m not saying not to be visionary, because nothing could be further from the truth. I want vision. I want creativity, and originality, but I’m not judging contests (yet).

That’s the second point … if you want to win a contest, or get published at all … be derivative! I don’t do this, and if you read my last submission to a contest, you know I probably don’t win a lot of them. I will say this much for my work, however, it’s cool to read, so I don’t feel too badly about submitting anything. I just went to a writer’s conference a couple weeks ago, and if I summed writing (according to them, as they jammed it down my throat) in one sentence, it would be … A story of any kind is equal to the number ten … the beginning, middle, and end should always add up to that number … or it’s wrong. I know, bad sentence structure, but it’s pretty much what they told me. This writer’s conference was a bunch of people who probably failed math, trying to turn a story into a math problem, not realizing that people like me write because they honestly think that sometimes you can get two plus two to equal six, and that’s why writing is art, and not science. But let me tell you something about writing: to them it is science. They want to see something that they’ve seen before, but done a little different so it doesn’t look like plagiarism. I don’t write like that. I write stories that people smile at, but then feel guilty about afterwards. I write stories that make people wonder what their thoughts are, and believe me when I tell you, readers don’t contemplate the origins of their navels, writers do.

The third thing, and this point I can’t stress enough, don’t submit a piece of shit! Have friends read it, and not friends who depend on you for money or sex, but friends who have experience editing or writing, and don’t give a crap about hurting your feelings. And don’t take those friends for granted either … even if they tear apart your stuff, and make you feel like you’re less than a worm, bake them cookies, send them a starbucks card … say thanks! In your life you need friends who are willing to be honest regardless of the consequences. Now don’t mistake being honest for being a dick. No one needs a bunch of dicks in their lives, do don’t tolerate them. I know it’s a line that’s hard to draw, but draw it … don’t put up with someone who gains pleasure in hurting your feelings (ever).

I said it earlier, but it bears repeating … KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! Go online and try to find out who the judges of the contest are, and what kind of stuff they like. Like I said, you’re not going to win a contest that Brett Easton Ellis judges with a story about elves and fairies (unless they’re making snuff films while smoking crack). Read the stories that have one in the past. They will be a good indicator of what works.

So here are a couple links I think will be useful. As always the current Writer’s Market. I found contests in the back, but you should always go online and check out the contest and rules for yourself. I found their information to be outdated sometimes. As I was looking up this book I also found one for Novels and Short Stories … maybe worth checking it out as well.

A couple months ago I picked up this book Write Ways to Win Writing Contests: How to Join the Winners’ Circle for Short Story Awards, Poetry Prizes, etc. Although the online parts were outdated, they were useful.

Good luck with everything, and hopefully someone will post some other contests to enter.

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