Dear Contest Enterer:
Congrats on making that big step to put your work out there. It can be really scary for a writer to send her work out into the big bad world for others to see and I applaud you.
Contests can be a great tool. They can give you feedback from people who don’t know and love you. You can win prizes like reads by agents and editors. They can be fun. Also, judging contests is a good way to help your own craft.
As someone who sees contest judging as a civic duty for authors, and judges a lot of contests, I would like to pass on a few things:
• Contests are great for feedback, but no substitute for beta readers. Please, please, please have someone beta (read over) your entry before you submit it. Even published authors have betas, it’s hard to catch your own mistakes sometimes.
• Pay close attention to contest guidelines. Every contest is a little different. If they say save it as an RTF, not Word, or put it in 12 pt Courier New instead of Times New Roman, make sure you do it.
• Spell check, grammar check, and comma check your submission. It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget.
• If your story has POV changes, make sure this is clear, preferably using scene breaks. Also, while we’re on the subject of POV, make sure we know whose POV we’re in, whose story it is, and for the love of Pete, please don’t head hop.
• Be sure you’re entering your story in the right category. Your story should fit the parameters of the category/genre. I’ve read all too many YAs lately that are really adult stories with teen protags -- which is just fine, they don’t fit in the YA category in a contest.
• Make sure your ms fits the contest. If it’s a romance contest, there should be romance in your story and we should at least get a whiff of it in the contest submission.
• Don’t format your ms like a blog post. Please.