Reading winners

Mad Hatter Tea Party Paper Cutting от CutsByDeborah на EtsyEntering writing competitions is always going to have an element of lottery about it.  You may have submitted a perfectly edited and finely balanced piece of writing, and still not get placed.  Of course, if you’ve done all that polishing you stand a better chance of making it to the long or even short list, and that’s nice.

The thing to remember is, taste.  You like coffee, they prefer tea, and I don’t care for either, and we can all be right.  You’re thinking, can she take this metaphor further, aren’t you?

I could digress, and tell you about my journey to becoming an up-front and proud-of-it social drinker of tap-water.  It’s had it’s moments, believe me. On a small scale, I’ve had battles.  But what’s that to do with competitions?

Once-upon-a-time people travelled miles to drink various spa waters.  Claims were made for the properties of each site, and those afflicted chose their destination accordingly.  The hot springs at Bath cured leprosy; the waters at Harrogate were good for gout and rheumatism; those at Tunbridge Wells cured infertility… and the list goes on. You downed your glass, took the treatments then hoped for the best.

You see where I’m going with this?

There are hundreds of competitions on the internet and in writing magazines.  I have a lot less stories than that, and I’m not a fast writer.  So to give myself the best chance, I need to be picky.  It takes time to check them all out, and most of them have an entry fee, so I don’t just scan the rules and the theme, I do a little research.

Sometimes, besides listing the judges, there will be advice about what they’re looking for.  That’s useful, but the best hints come from seeing what kinds of story have been successful.

This might mean I have to buy an anthology, and you might remember that I’ve just been complaining about costs.  Well, I think of this type of spending as an investment. Primarily, it seems better to spend on reading winning short stories, than on sending stories to places that are looking for what I don’t write.

Let’s not forget the other benefits though:

  • The pleasure factor: who knows what I’m going to discover in these brand-new stories…
  • I’ll have the short-listed stories, as well as those that got the big prizes, so I get a better idea of style.
  • I widen my story horizons.  There will be authors I haven’t discovered before, and approaches to story that expand my ideas about content and form.
  • And let’s not forget that buying these anthologies plays a part in supporting those writers, and the competitions that are producing them.

Of course, you don’t have to buy an anthology yourself.  It’s coming up to that time when many of us will be sending our letters to Father Christmas.  I’ll probably be putting one of these anthologies at the top of my list.

* Image:  Mad Hatter Tea Party Paper Cutting от CutsByDeborah на Etsy

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7 thoughts on “Reading winners

  1. Great article, Cath. Love the metaphor. I have a selection of anthologies with winning stories and plowing ahead with my onw. But in the final analysis, it is subjective, as you pointed out. I am going to post this on my Facebook writers page, and the Oldcastle Writers page. Thanks for posting it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are so right to stress the part personal taste plays in judging competitions and if a panal of judges is involved then the winner can be the compromise candidate. That though is not a reason for not entering (ugh sorry about the ugly double negative) but it is a reason for feeling validated if you reach the long list/short list. That proves you’ve reached a certain – publishable standard – and the story that comes no where in one competition may go on to win somewhere else. It happened to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well done of your win, and thanks for the additional thoughts – I agree, the validation of getting onto the list is immeasurable, and when I had a similar experience to yours I was one big explanation mark.

      Like

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