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Making Sure Your Competition Entries Are Original

January 25th, 2021

First, thanks to Simon for last week’s brilliant post. I agree absolutely with what he has to say and I suspect that most of us have got better  at using  our phone  cameras to record daily life and keep those we love updated over the past few months.  I know that I certainly have!

In addition to the video calls, our family have been taking snaps on our daily exercise walks and sharing them with those we love. My son tends to send pics of the children; my daughter-in-law sends pics of the family, but because she’s a keen photographer, she also sends ‘artistic’ pics of frosty grasses, unusual fungi and stunning sunsets. I try to reciprocate and it’s certainly made me think more about how I use my phone as a tool. So, if you’ve been honing your skills, why not take it a stage further and have the confidence to use what you’ve learned to illustrate your articles and earn more money from them!

We’ve now announced the winners of our 2020 Flash Fiction competition and you can read them here. We had a great shortlist and I think you’ll enjoy the winning entries – read and learn! Congratulations to the worthy winners: Gail Anderson, Denny Jace and Hilary Austin.

But after saying this, each competition throws up a number of things that make me want to have serious words with the entrants. Some of them are the same for each competition but others tend to be ‘topical’. I’m  going to touch briefly on these now so that if you’re considering entering one of our competitions in the future you can avoid putting yourself at a disadvantage.

First, make sure you give your entry – whether it’s a story or a poem – a title. Not providing a title makes the judge think you just can’t be bothered. Titles are important.

Next, try to avoid themes that lots of other people might write about. This year it was suicide – particularly by drowning. I suspect this may have been triggered by the depressing things that have been going on all over the world for the past 12 months. But your entry would have had to really stand out from the crowd to be chosen as a winner.

Next there are two themes that we see in every competition: elderly relatives suffering from dementia and coercive control. They are very real and important themes but too many people write about them and bring nothing  fresh to the telling.

Whatever length the competition demands, make sure you actually tell a story. You can write the most beautiful, descriptive prose  but if it doesn’t take the reader anywhere and make them sigh with satisfaction at the end, then it isn’t going  to win.

And  finally, one that I have to mention every time. Stop telling stories from a pet’s point of view. You may think it’s cute and original but I groan inwardly every time I see one as the ‘twist in the tail’ (forgive the pun) is hardly ever a surprise!

With those words of advice ringing in your ears, it’s time to start planning your entries for our next competition. Our 2021 Short Story Competition is now open for entries. As usual there are prizes of £300, £200, £100 and £50 – plus every winner receives a Writers Bureau Course of their choice. The closing date is 31st March, so you’ve plenty of time to get your thinking caps on.

My guest next week is Sharon Harvey, and she’ll be taking a look at how to keep your writing fresh – not always as easy as it sounds.

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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