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Tips for Writing for a Contest by Carol L. Wright

November 13, 2022 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , , , ,

It’s always exciting to enter a writing contest—at least until it comes to the actual writing.

Since I both write for submission and run the annual Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story award competition, I’ve developed a few tips for writing to a theme, keeping within the word count limits, and what to avoid. I hope these might be of help.

And we’re making a special announcement at the end!

When writing to a theme:

  • Write a new story instead of trying to wedge thematic elements into an existing story. It shows.
  • Don’t write the first thing that comes into your head. It popped into a hundred other heads, too. You don’t want to be competing with a hundred other stories similar to yours.
  • Brainstorm to find a fresh slant on the theme. Writing something from a slightly different angle will help your story stand out.
  • Be creative with your title. Too many entries will use the theme in the title. You want your title to be unique.

Staying within word limits:

  • Start with your protagonist in the middle of action. Hook readers immediately.
  • Refer to, but don’t overly explain backstory. You can imply an unhealed wound or past conflict between characters, but in a short story, the reader does not need to know the details unless they have a direct relationship to the current plot.
  • Keep descriptions pithy. A few words can paint a picture.
  • Use contractions, compound words, or hyphenated words. These count as only one word each
  • Do not use ellipses to show pauses or gaps. They are correctly typed as: space-dot-space-dot-space-dot-space. Unfortunately, each dot counts as a word! Use dashes instead. Some word counters count words connected by a dash as one word!
  • Simplify verbs. For example: she left, instead of she was gone or she had departed. You could even have a one-word sentence: Gone!
  • Use vivid verbs. It eliminates the need for adverbs or adjectives. For example: the storm raged instead of the storm was blowing strongly.
  • Use the words you need, but not one word more. Remember, the word limit is a maximum, not a minimum or a target word count. No contest judge wants to read a story that appears to be padded with extra words.
  • On the other hand, if the contest calls for stories of up to 5000 words, a very short story, e.g. 500 words, will not be competitive. You cannot do the world building or character development in a few words that you could accomplish with more words.

Contest Don’ts:

  • Don’t flatter judges in a cover letter. They know it’s just designed to butter them up and can seem annoying.
  • Don’t email the contest runner with questions that are answered in the call for submissions. Really annoying.
  • Don’t argue with the rules, break the rules, or ask for exceptions to the rules. The rules are there for a reason and have to be applied consistently to be a fair contest.
  • Don’t complain that winning stories aren’t as good as yours. All judging is subjective—and you cannot be objective about your own work.
  • And definitely don’t ask for names and email addresses of judges so you can complain to them!

Now for the announcement:

The Bethlehem Writers Roundtable announces its 2023 Short Story Award competition will be open from January 1 through March 31, 2023.

The theme is Season’s Readings. We are seeking stories of 2000 words or fewer that relate to the holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.

Cost to enter: $15

Winners receive:

  • First Place: $250 and publication in the upcoming anthology, Seasons Readings: More Sweet, Funny, and Strange Holiday Tales. Anticipated publication: Fall 2024
  • Second Place: $100 and publication in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable online literary journal
  • Third Place: $50 and publication in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable online literary journal.

Our guest judge for 2023 is multi award-winning short story writer and professional editor Barb Goffman. Be sure to read her interview in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Winter 2023 issue, coming out on January 1.

You can get all your questions answered on our website: http://bwgwritersroundtable.com/short-story-award-2/. I hope to be reading your story soon!

Good luck—and happy writing!

~ Carol L. Wright

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Mental Reset for Writers After Receiving Contest Results

May 12, 2022 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,

I always have to pause and reset after receiving contest results. Am I the only one who experiences this?

blog post title graphic with picture of a blank journal with hand ready to write and words underneath that say mental reset for writers after receiving contest results

Contests are wonderful ways to get feedback, get in front of agents or publishers, and stretch yourself as a writer. I have entered many and have grown as a writer because of the them. 

But every time when the contest results are out, I’m so afraid of opening up the email and reading the comments. And this year was no different. 

Last week I received my contest results email from the 2022 ACFW Genesis Contest. I did not semi-final like I did back in 2019. For a brief moment, that right there makes it hard. Did I go backwards? Shouldn’t I have not made the changes that were in the suggestions?

But alas, I can’t do that to myself.

Contest Results Do Not Tell The Entire Story

I’ve had many pairs of eyes look over my entry and the overall feedback has been positive. And as I look at the scores from the three judges, two loved it and had very little comments (one even scored it a 99 out of 100, which is something to celebrate). But the third judge. It was obvious, my style of book is not their cup of tea. And even though two out of the three were positive, it’s still such a hard pill to swallow.

Is this what it feels like to read reviews of your work?

It probably is, and maybe you have to have a mental reset after reading those too.

But keep in mind some things. What’s being judged is such a small snippet (for me it was 15 pages). Not everyone will have the same opinion (which is why there are so many different authors and books available).

So What Do You Do To Move Forward?

I’m still figuring that out. For me, I needed to give myself a few days. Then dive right back into my manuscript. Keep editing, keep writing, and work toward the next opportunity when it presents itself. Pay attention to the things where multiple people gave similar feedback. And remember the positive comments (and the fact I earned a 99 from someone!).

I even wore this shirt to help me get back into a good frame of mind.

T-shirt with the words write on

I think it’s also important to relook at the comments and feedback a few times over a period of time. Each time they sink in more. They are not as personal. And there’s something in there that you can use. After a little while, you are ready to figure out how to adapt the feedback you want to include into your manuscript.

If any of you are struggling, I encourage you. You are not the only one. And as a seasoned contest results receiver, it is never easy. But putting our work out there is never easy. Yet we trail on, because our stories are more than our feelings. They are our work (my word for the year!). And it takes work (lots and lots of work) to get them into the best shape possible before we release them.

Hang in there. Keep writing. Write On!

Denise

Denise M. Colby loves to write words that encourage, enrich, & engage. Every year, she chooses a word to focus on. Her 2021 word was Wisdom and her 2022 word is Work. She talks about how one turned into the other in her blog at denisemcolby.com. If you’d like to see more of Denise’s posts on this blog, you can check out her archives.

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Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2019 Short Story Award

January 7, 2019 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Contests, Events, Writing Contest tagged as , , , , ,

Stories of 2,000 words or fewer about WILD ANIMALS, PETS, or IMAGINARY BEASTS will be welcome (so long as an animal is an important character or element of the story).

The winner will receive $200 and may be offered publication in BWG’s upcoming anthology, FUR, FEATHERS, & SCALES: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Animal Tales.

For more information and instructions for entering see: Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2019 Short Story Award.

Contest opened January 1, 2019

To help you come up with some killer stories BWG has shared a few writing prompts.

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Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2018 Short Story Contest

March 13, 2018 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Contests, Writing Contest tagged as , ,

 

 

Bethlehem Writers Roundtable
2018 Short Story Award

DEADLINE
APRIL 30, 2018
 
We are looking for unpublished stories 
of 2000 words or fewer
on the theme of
 
Tales of the Paranormal
 
Send us your stories about
wizards, clairvoyants, other-worldly creatures,
vampires, werewolves, telekenetics,
ghosts, goblins, witches, mediums,
poltergeists, the supernatural,
and other unexplainable experiences.

For more information or to enter please see Bethlehem Writers Roundtable

 

Winning stories from past contests appear in the following BWG anthologies

Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales
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Got Magic? Enter Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2018 Short Story Award

February 18, 2018 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley tagged as , ,

Got Magic | A Slice of Orange

Got Magic?

Enter Bethlehem Writers Roundtable

2018 Short Story Award

Sweet, Funny and Strange Tales of the Paranormal

Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2018 Short Story Award is accepting entries. Send us your stories about wizards, clairvoyants, other-worldly creatures, vampires, werewolves, telekenetics, hosts, goblins, witches, mediums, poltergeists, the supernatural, and other unexplainable experiences.

The First Place winner will receive a $200 cash award and publication of the winning story either in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s upcoming anthology of paranormal stories, Untethered: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of the Paranormal, or as a featured story in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. (Publication anticipated in late 2018).
For more information and to enter please got to Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 

 

The 2018 Guest Judge 
Kimberly Brower of
Brower Literary & Management, Inc.
 
2018 Short Story Award
Kimberly fell in love with reading when she picked up her first Babysitter’s Club book at the age of seven and hasn’t been able to get her nose out of a book since. She holds a BS in Business Administration from California State University, Northridge, and received her JD from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. Although she loves all things romance, she is also searching for books that are different and will surprise her, with empathetic characters and compelling stories. She takes great pride in her client list, from the debut authors to #1 NY Times bestsellers, and likes to consider them all her favorite authors. Connect on Twitter:  @KimberlyBroweror on their website: http://browerliterary.com 
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