Wait! I know you’re excited to submit that short story you’ve been working on to the Short Story Contest Mission 3000, and the due date is only days away.
But before you do, make sure you follow these six easy tips.
1. Cover the Basics
Submissions riddled with spelling and grammatical errors will be thrown away post-haste, and possibly even set on fire.
Any short story that displays a total disregard for the fundamental aspects of composition will have zero chance of success. So brush up on the fundamentals and proofread your work.
2. Don’t Try to Impress Anyone
While you should always do your best, don’t be an exhibitionist.
Don’t pander to your audience. It’s so easy to see through, and a story written not to be a great story but rather to “impress” people invariably ends up feeling insincere.
Like a lie.
The best thing you can do as a writer is be true to your story and yourself. Don’t let the fact that you’re writing to win a competition influence your narrative. Don’t get too fancy.
3. Avoid Cliches?
If a submission contains cliched plot elements or characters, the chances that it will succeed are severely limited. Try to be original. And if you can’t be original, at least use your own voice.
Oh, and don’t lift plots from already existing works, and don’t plagiarize.
No, I’m serious.
4. Follow the Rules
Every contest has its rules. Its guidelines.
Minimum requirements for length, formatting, genre. And don’t forget the occasional fee.
Following the rules and format guidelines of the competition should be your first order of business. That’s why they’re called rules.
5. Avoid Cardboard Characters
Think about the worst stories you’ve ever read. They probably had characters that were either static or incredibly unrealistic, characters that you simply couldn’t relate to.
Be sure that your character arcs are believable, and that your characters themselves are, if not well-rounded, at the very least interesting or engaging or relatable.
6. Just go for it
Even if you don’t think your submission is very good, or you’re unsure about its chances, submit it anyway.
You have nothing to lose (and if you do, it’s usually just a matter of a few bucks).
There’s no reason not to submit your work, and you’re only hurting yourself — and maybe even the judges — by not giving it a shot.
Worse case scenario: you cut your finger while clicking the send button. On second thought, that does sound pretty bad.
So, go out there, submit your work into some competitions, keep these tips in mind, and be sure to treat any cuts you might acquire with aloe vera. It heals and it smells good.