How to Win a Short Story Contest

 

Secrets of Winning a Writing Contest
by Bob Bruggemann

If you want to win a contest, the first thing you must do is follow the guidelines. Many submissions are disqualified because they don’t meet all the requirements. If the rules state a maximum of 1,000 words, a 1,025-word story, however brilliant, will hit the trash. (Do not include the title or byline in the word count.)

If the contest calls for G-rated material (which means no swearing, vulgarities, or erotica) and your entry contains just one swear word, it will be discarded. If you are in question as to whether a word will be considered a swear word, don’t use it or write to ms.jo@cwinst.com and ask.

Assuming you follow the guidelines, the judges will look at the following four elements.

  • Originality
  • Creativity
  • Style
  • Technique

Originality

Some contests give you a theme, such as, “Wedding Day.” What’s the first story idea that comes to mind? Whatever it is, forget it. You can bet everyone else will have thought of it, too. A large percentage of submissions will be so similar that the competition will be fierce, but if you use an original angle, the judges will love it.

Creativity

Don’t wrack your brain for an idea. Relax. Get your conscious, critical mind out of the way and allow ideas to bubble up from your subconscious. In other words, daydream.

Ask yourself who, what, when, where, why, how, and ‘what if?’ Let your train of thought go where it will. Before long, you’ll have an idea for a unique story.

Style

In short story contests, you’ll never wrong with the KISS method: (Keep It Simple, Sweetie.)
Don’t try to impress the judges with $3 words. Like any other reader, they want a story that is easy to read.

Every sentence must move the story forward. The reader doesn’t want flowery descriptions of a rose garden in the moonlight. He/she wants to know what the girl is doing there at two in the morning and what will happen next. Stick to the point.

Technique

A short story contest calls for three distinct parts: the beginning, middle, and end. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The beginning introduces the main character and the action and what the story is about. The middle develops the theme and keeps the reader hooked. The ending must be believable, resolve the problems, and leave the reader satisfied.

Above all, don’t overlook simple formatting rules.

  • Make a new paragraph for every new speaker
    · Single space your short story and indent paragraphs
    · Run the spellchecker!
    · Watch your punctuation

Last, but not least: write an original story specifically for the contest – but assuming you don’t follow that good advice, at least rewrite your story to fit the guidelines.

Creative Writing Institute’s annual short story contest is now in session and accepting entries until September 15, 2016. This is a small contest and your chances of winning are good. Invest in yourself and get your entry ready! For details and submission instructions, visit http://CreativeWritingInstitute.submittable.com/.

Prizes: First prize is $100, a first place eMedal and publication in the 2016 anthology.

Second prize is $50, a second place eMedal and publication in the 2016 anthology.

Third place is $25, a third place eMedal and publication in the 2016 anthology.

*We will also recognize honorable mentions and several “Judge’s Picks,” which means the story didn’t place, but at least one judge really liked it and it will be published in our anthology. Judge’s Pick winners will receive a Judge’s Pick ribbon.

Above all, have fun! Hey! Wait a minute! “Like” us before you go, will you?

See guidelines at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

Don’t Read This!

Warning!

Don’t Read This

You Might Learn Something

by Deborah Owen

If you are a writer, it means you have courage! Every time you write, you’re revealing your deepest innermost feelings and attitude toward life. Not only that, you’re risking public judgment. Anyone who can face those odds can go the rest of the way and be published, but publication isn’t the end of your learning experience. It’s just the beginning.

Everything in life is a story that needs to be told. You still carry that small notebook, don’t you? The one you used to tell about the deer carcass on the road, the flashing ambulance and fire truck on their way to a wreck, the motorcycle club that held you up forever at an intersection, and the idiot with road rage. All of these are bits of a story yet to be told. Note them.

Learn from your “failed stories.” You know. The ones that didn’t sell. There is something to be learned from all of them. Reread them and ask yourself what is wrong with them. Are they wordy? Did you write yourself into a corner? Too many characters for the length of your story? (Two main characters and one or two more for flavor is all a 2,000 word story will comfortably hold.) Did your characters lack development? Did you force them to do something that went against their grain? Did you describe them so the reader could identify with them? Were your scenes in chronological order? Did you have enough conflict? Did the plot climax at least 2/3 of the way through? Did the middle sag? Spice those old stories up with alliteration, asyndeton, polysyndeton, similes, idioms, metaphors, and other advanced techniques. Don’t know what they are? Stay tuned. That’s what we’re going to study next.

When you hit a dead end, ask yourself two questions: what is the message of my story? How can I complicate the plot?

Don’t let your characters take the reins and write their own story. They will lead you places you don’t want to go. When that happens, stop and recapitulate. Roughly re-outline the story (you DID make an outline… right?) and follow it.

Remember your early writing days when you tried to decide whether ‘this sentence’ should go in ‘this’ paragraph or the next one? When you looked up the rules for ‘laying and lying,’ ‘further and farther,’ ellipses, quotations, italics, etc.? Remember your first story? Your first publication? Remember thinking how you would like to go to school, but it cost over $400 for a six-week course?

Now you can take that course. Creative Writing Institute offers eight-week courses with a private tutor for only $260. No money? We have a payment plan with no interest. And… well… we would do your homework for you, too, but it would be best if you put forth a little effort.  🙂

Creative Writing Institute’s Short Story Contest

Creative Writing Institute’s Annual Short Story Contest

No Entry Fee

First place: a FREE writing course with a personal tutor, valued at $260 USD.

Second place: $50 Amazon gift card or a credit of $150 USD toward a writing course with a personal tutor, valued at $260 USD.

Third place: $25 Amazon gift card or a credit of $100 USD toward a writing course with a personal tutor, valued at $260 USD.

*Plus, two honorable mentions and TEN additional Judge’s Choice stories will receive publication in our 2015 anthology and Ebook.

This is a themed contest and this exact sentence must appear in the story:

“I got more than I bargained for!”

We would like to encourage mystery stories, but the genre is open. (See http://www.cwinst.com/   for definitions and complete rules.)

  • Story must be 1000 – 2000 words.
  • No swearing, profanity, explicit sexual scenes, graphic violence, etc.
  • Entry must not have been published before.
  • ONE submission per person, please
  • Accepting submissions internationally from July 15, 2015 until August 15, 2015, midnight, USA Eastern Standard Time.
  • All entries must be in English

SEE MORE DETAILS at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com

The Job that Made me… and Broke Me. My Personal Story of Success and Humiliation.

PERSISTENCE in WRITING

Win-Win Propositions

by Deborah Owen

Persistence in writing DOES pay off! Win-win propositions pay off, too. Editors love the phrase “win-win,” which means you have a deal whereby both ends have something to gain. I remember the first time I used that term.

The American Legion’s upcoming 75th Anniversary Edition was in preparation and their national office was in my back door. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that soon enough and when I called to ask about a job, the kind editor, Mr. Greenwald, said he had filled all positions.

Somewhere on the path of life, I had heard not to take no for an answer so I called again the next day and said, “This is Deborah Owen again. I called yesterday to ask about a position… “ and the not so kind editor cut me off mid-sentence with, “As I said yesterday, I have no positions available. Thank you for calling.” *click

I didn’t sleep much that night. Instead, I laid in bed and devised a plan whereby Mr. Greenwald would have to hire me. By morning, I was ready. With a dry mouth, I called him a third time and literally read from a written script, faking a voice of bravado and excitement:

“Hello, Mr. Greenwald. This is Deborah Owen again. I understand you don’t have any openings, but I have a win-win proposition you won’t want to pass up. I’d like to treat you to lunch one day this week to discuss it.”

He tried every way in the world to finagle the proposition out of me, but I knew it would be good-bye for the last time if I told him, so I said, “It’s too complicated to discuss on the phone. You choose the time and place and I’ll tell you in person.” He hesitated. [Never get in a hurry when waiting for an answer.] But, sensing he was about to say no, I added, “I promise to be brief.”

I was beginning to feel like I had leprosy when he finally agreed.

We met at his office Friday and walked two blocks to the diner. All the way there he wanted to know about my proposition but I played for time. “For now, let’s just get to know each other.”

I asked how long he had been editor at The American Legion, where he worked before and what his goals were in life. I kept him talking about himself – which is always a great strategy. At the end of the meal he asked about the great win-win proposition. I knew it was now or never, so I waded in and tried to look confident and enthusiastic (best done with a smile on one’s face).

“I’m a published freelance writer but I have yet to work inside a magazine. I understand the importance of a deadline and I’m never late. I’m meticulous in researching, and I was once a secretary for five men so I have good office skills. I’m a touch typist and a quick learner. Here’s my proposition: I’ll work for you free of charge. I’ll research, write, edit, or sweep floors if you’ll just let me work on the 75th Edition with you. Teach me. I want to learn. I’ll be the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. No matter what job you give me, you can count on it being done well. Now if that’s not a win-win proposition, I don’t know what is.”

With a smile, he answered, “Let me give you some advice, Mrs. Owen. Never offer your services for nothing. Someone may think they aren’t worth anything, and everyone is worth something. I’ll see you Monday morning at 8 am… and I will pay you a salary. I met you because I was curious, and I hired you because you were persistent. Persistence is a good quality. You’ll intern directly beneath me and you can have the desk right outside my office.”

I earned over $400 as I researched original WWI history and drafted 37 articles. No other job taught me so much in such a short amount of time. This is where the story should end on a high note, but there’s more.

One day Mr. Greenwald sent me to see a woman who was a higher up in the American Legion Auxiliary. In front of a third party, she lied to me to my face and I called her on it. I told Mr. Greenwald about it immediately (to build some insurance, in case he heard about it later). Three weeks came and went and I forgot about the incident, but the lying shrew didn’t. Mr. Greenwald called me in and said orders came down from way over his head. He had to fire me, as she was calling for my job and nothing less would please her.

“But I told you what happened,” I said. He lectured me on the urgency of good politics. So there I was. Out of the best job in the world.

The highs of digging through authentic files as direct intern beneath the American Legion’s National Headquarter’s editor was too high, and the low of losing that job was too low. I didn’t even know how much of my work went into the edition until it came out. ALL of it went in, and the “I Remember” section was completely my work, including the idea for it. Still, I couldn’t pull out of the depression, so I did the worst thing possible. I dropped completely out of writing for ten years. I let go of writing, but writing wouldn’t let go of me, so here’s the lesson:

When the doors don’t open easily, take a crowbar! Know what you are going to say. Practice saying it out loud (in front of a mirror), and then go for it! What do you have to lose? Groom yourself properly. Dress for success. Greet the editor with a strong handshake and take him out for lunch. And by the way, don’t leave your wallet at home (like I did) and… lastly… learn when to button your lip.

Editors want to hire writers who practice tactfulness, not brazen personnel that casts their magazine in a bad light. Writing persistence and “win-win propositions” will take you far but in the end, it depends on how much guts you have.

Mr. Greenwald was one of the main stepping stones in my writing life. If not for him, I wouldn’t have founded two writing schools later. The future is exciting!! If you could only see it. Every single day, you are affecting your future… so go after it, and swing by http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com on the way.

While you’re there, check the guidelines for the writing contest now in progress!

Continue reading The Job that Made me… and Broke Me. My Personal Story of Success and Humiliation.

CEO, Deborah Owen’s First Story

Here is my personal Christmas gift to you… a cherished memory, complete with glaring errors… the first story I ever wrote, at age 15. Believe it or not, it won third place in the high school writing contest and was printed on the front page of our school newspaper. Sharing it now for the first time makes me feel like I’m naked in Times Square. Little did I know I would become a writing tutor and found a writing school as a nonprofit charity. By the way, the setting for this story was a Quonset hut that sat behind our property.

There’s a place for comments at the end. Be kind. lol


Poverty Stricken Children Keep Belief in Santa Claus

by Deborah Owen

At night, I always take a walk, no matter what the weather. Sometimes I walk a mile and sometimes more. I often take a friend along. Tonight I would like to take you with me.

Last week I found a little house, more like a hut, in the woods. As I drew nearer, my eyes pierced the broken pattern of the frosty window. I saw a family of seven huddled around a small, pot-bellied stove. The children were shabbily dressed.

One boy, about the age of nine, wore pants almost up to his knees. The little girl was about six. She wore a short dress far above her knees. She was shivering, and her small, frail arms were bare as was most of her body. The other, youngest child, about one, lay contented on his mother’s lap. The other children were girl twins about three, with long, blonde hair. They wore different colored sleeveless dresses with no buttons on them. They shivered from the cold, cutting winds that bypassed the sagging door.

The room itself was bare of furniture. The only furniture in sight was the pot-bellied stove and a single table and chair.

No Christmas Tree

So far as I could see, there was only one other room but there was no way for me to see into it. There was no Christmas tree as you might expect to see, this being the night before Christmas Eve.

Needless to say, these people are poor and can’t even clothe themselves and their children, let alone buy a Christmas tree and gifts for the children.

At one time, these children knew as happy a Christmas as anyone until their father fell seriously ill and lost his job. Then they were put out of their home and by chance, found the little hut where they now live.

This would be the first Christmas without Santa Claus. Their mother had tried to explain to them that he had so many children to visit that he might forget some. Since they lived so far back in the woods, he might not see them. But even then, the children had faith in Santa Claus and five stockings hung on the wall for him to fill.

It broke the parents’ hearts to know the children would be so cruelly disappointed. But Ann, the six-year-old, kept saying, “Don’t worry, mommy, Santa Claus never forgets.” Anne had even given up her slight supper for him, explaining that she didn’t want Santa to be as hungry as she was.

Christmas Eve came and went as normal as any other day, in most respects. They never had anymore than canned beans and some leftover meat – no milk and no coffee.

Parents Dread Christmas

The parents were dreading the coming Christmas, dreading to witness the first real heartbreak of their children’s young lives, not knowing how to prevent it, but never ceasing in their efforts to lessen their coming grief.

It was Christmas Eve when all the children said their prayers. There was no need to pray that Santa Claus might not forget, for they sincerely believed that he wouldn’t. The coming Christmas would be one of sorrow. It would be one in which all faith and confidence would be shattered.

It was getting late, and the children were asleep. There wouldn’t be any chicken dinner for them. It would be the same canned beans they ate every day.

Then I started home, for it was getting late. As I prepared for bed, the peace and contentment that surrounded me gave way to the horizon of a new thought! The night was a busy one.

In the morning I returned to see the results of my surprise. I woke early on Christmas Day. My first thought was the poor family I encountered on Christmas Eve.

A White Christmas

Silently, I dressed and slipped out of the house. As I left, I noticed it had snowed during the night. It would be a white Christmas. I made my way to the house in the woods some two miles away.

As I neared, I saw the children jumping and laughing through the window. Ann was holding a doll in her arms, not new, but in good condition. Her big brother had a used glove and a baseball.

The twins had twin dolls, and the baby held a teddy bear. Their mother was admiring a plump chicken ready to be cooked which had a red ribbon around it and a note reading, “Merry Christmas,” and as she read the note, Ann said, “See, Mommy, I told you Santa wouldn’t forget.”

And her parents agreed with her, as they knelt to thank the Lord for another MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Short Story Contest Winners Announced!

SHORT STORY WINNERS ANNOUNCED

A hearty congratulations to the winners, finalists, honorable mentions, guests and staff who contributed to Creative Writing Institute’s 2nd Annual Anthology, which will be on sale in December. Thank you for becoming part of our history. You will notice some of the winners have an asterisk by them. That indicates their story was chosen by a judge as a “judge’s pick,” which is a high honor. And now – our list of winners!

You can read the top three winning stories  here:

1st place winner: The Devil and Mrs. Morgan by Marsha Porter: https://deborahowen.wordpress.com/the-devil-and-mrs-morgan-by-marsha-porter-1st-prize-winner/

2nd place winner: This Woman’s Right by Brian Staff: https://deborahowen.wordpress.com/this-womans-right-by-brian-staff/

 Reading the Leaves by Gargi Mehra: https://deborahowen.wordpress.com/reading-the-leaves-by-gargi-mehra-3rd-place-winner/

1st place: The Devil and Mrs. Morgan by Marsha Porter

2nd place: This Woman’s Right by Brian Staff

3rd place: Reading the Leaves by Gargi Mehra

4th place: * Yogatta be Kidding Me by Sue Nickerson

5th place: * Pages of You by Tricia Seabolt  

Honorable Mentions

*You – Ivadell Brower

*Egot and the Trident of the Pond King by J. Lenni Dorner

By any other Name by M. Bulechek

Read to Me by Joan Bassington-French

Lana’s Sister by Diane Maciejewski

Revelation by Summer Jones

*Mad Artist by Robert Marazas

Aftermath by Mark Trudel

Striking Out by Brenda Anderson

The Truth in Names by Sarah Dayan

____________________

Sponsored by http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com, YOUR place to find writing fulfillment with a private tutor. No need to wait. Sign up today and start tonight!

Edgar Allan Poe, the Man

A Short Biography

by Sodiq Yusuf

You probably know Edgar Allan Poe was a renowned American author, poet, short story writer and literary critic, but what else do you know about him?

Born the second of three children on January 19, 1809, to Elizabeth and David Poe, Jr., Poe was orphaned at the age of three, and adopted by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia.

Edgar showed interest in writing at an early age. When he attended the University of Virginia, John Allan refused to pay his fees because of Poe’s gambling habit. Edgar left the school, angry, and found his first love, Elmira Royster, in Richmond.

He enlisted in the Army in 1827 under the name of Edgar A. Perry. John Allan later helped him enroll in the U.S. Military Academy. There he published Tamerlane and Other Poems. Shuffling between Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, he continued to write, winning literary prizes and becoming the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger. As the editor, Poe brought fame to the magazine and became a fearless critic of popular writers, including Rufus Griswold.

Although Poe was already famous after publishing The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), The Fall of the House of Usher (1839), and “Raven” (1845), he was poor. After the death of his wife, Virginia Clemm, Poe returned to Richmond, devastated. He and his first love, Elmira Royster, (then widowed) were reunited.

At a later date, Poe disappeared for a few days, only to be found inside a bar house. At the end of a derelict life, he died in a Baltimore hospital on October 7, 1849. The cause of his death remains a mystery, but he was remembered as a gentle man with a great sense of humor.

After Poe’s death, his literary opponent, Rufus Griswold, wrote a libelous obituary and memoir, describing Poe as a lunatic, womanizer and lonely drunkard. Ironically, that writing would later be regarded as one of the best biographies ever written about Poe.

If there is a moral to be had, let it be this: one of the greatest gifted men of all time wasted his time, his talent, and his life. Don’t let the same be said of you.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great writing tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php. Happy day!