How to Win Short Story Competitions

Posted on: 2nd July 2014

For increased chances of winning short story competitions, the best advice you can get is just write better stories. Short and simple. But competitions are always in part lotteries and there are ways of improving the odds. These tips are mere guidelines and are not cast in stone. Choose whatever you think will help you create a more polished story. After all, you’re still the author.


  • A good title is necessary. So choose carefully; otherwise, your excellent writing cannot make up for a lousy title.
  • Use active tense of verbs. It moves the story faster, making the story more dynamic and interesting.
  • Make sure you know what you are talking about. Publishers and critics are turned off and can become unforgiving when you don’t have accurate information.
  • Always write with the reader in mind. But if you don’t care what they think about, make sure you can offer something that will get them hooked until the last page.
  • Allow plenty of time to edit the thing until you get sick of it. Walk away from your story for a few weeks. When you come back, the awkward bits will stand out.
  • Read the story aloud, so you can hear the mistakes. Take out any word or sentence that does not move the story along.
  • Put all your fervent passion into action. Whether it is a simple one or a complicated storyline, as long as you love doing it, it cannot be hidden at the end.
  • Submit as many as you can. While some writer would argue to the quality of work, take advantage of the competition to energise you to write faster and better.
  • Do everything you can to enter. Do not use lack of money as an excuse. If you want to be a writer and gain respect for being a talented one, find ways to submit your entry.
  • Know whom you are dealing with. What kind of strategy the competition prefers? If the judges are published authors, where are they coming from? If meeting their criteria won’t ruin you, then plunge in deep because that can be your ticket to the finals.


  • Do not use more than five characters. But if you must, make sure each has a captivating story on its own.
  • Never give the best lines to anyone other than the protagonist. Or if you wish to do otherwise, make sure you create as equally compelling lines for both protagonist and antagonist.
  • Don’t let your ego get in the way of the story. Or your presence. Reads are clever enough to know what you are talking about.
  • Don’t use words ending in ly, because these adverbs slow the action. Don't forget to go easy on the use of adjectives as well.
  • If your story is rejected or an editor rips it to pieces, don’t email the organizers of the competition and go off on them. Don't get mad at your editor if he or she seems abrupt and overly critical.
  • Never argue back at people whose job is to help you improve your story.
  • Don’t enter competitions at the last minute. Give the judges a breather. Don’t make them read you in the crush.
  • Don’t go digging out old stuff. It might be a gem of a story but newer, fresher, more current ideas are better.
  • Don’t write to impress. All that you need are honesty and passion. It is tempting to please the readers or aim to be a best seller of a particular genre, but if it will distort the real you, then it is not worth it.
  • Don’t stay with the herd. Most entries, even if deemed good enough to make it to the top, tend to merge into one another, which can induce gags from judges. But if they see something that is above mediocre yet fresh in a pile of stories, then it might actually stand out and emerge victorious.

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