NOTE: Some rules for contests are different from those for publication, so we have shown rules for both , to help guide you through that maze. Remember, though, a lot of publications and contests have a few details that are exclusive to them — so always read the rules and guidelines of the contest or publication you are checking out.

CONTEST TIPS

1. Follow Guidelines. A submission that doesn’t follow the rules is the first to be discarded. Don’t submit handwriting on legal paper if typewritten work is specified. If the short story has a 1500 maximum word limit, less is fine, but 1510 will get your piece thrown out. MORE is NOT better.

2. Edit your work. Second into the discard pile is work full of misspellings, bad grammar, and terrible punctuation. If you miss that double period at the end of the 12th line on the third page, the judge will probably be forgiving. But if you spell writer without the ‘w’, he will notice. A word of advice. Spellchecker is nice, but doesn’t know that Tree Blind Mice is not what you meant.

3. Don’t try to be fancy. Colored paper, fancy fonts, marginal comments and decorations are no-no’s when submitting any work. Judges and editors are considering your writing skills, not your design sense.

4. Pay attention to detail. If the contest is for an essay about war, don’t feature your cat unless it is a veteran. Make sure your Eiffel Tower is located in Paris. If a word is misspelled on purpose, make sure the reader can tell it is intentional. Watch for characters changing names in the middle of the story.

5. Don’t use pen names. Judges don’t see the names of entrants, and when prizes are awarded, officials don’t know what name to put on the check. The time for this is when the piece is printed – then you can work it out with your publisher.

6. Keep cliches and dialect to a minimum. Your writing should be fresh and original. Dialect is difficult to read, and you don’t want your judge to pass your work in disgust because he can’t decipher it.

7. Catch the judges attention. Try to find an off-the-wall approach; a meaning not normally associated with the required key word or subject. Keep a touch of humor in your work. If you treat it like a dry term paper, it is not likely to be considered outstanding. You CAN be different and still follow the rules.

8. READ your final piece ALOUD. You will catch errors you missed before.

Formatting for Contests

1. Use a simple type style like Times Roman or Courier, 12 point preferred, on a letter quality printer. DO NOT use fancy type faces or script styles. The goal is to make the manuscript look professional and pleasant to read.

2. Use white bond paper, 20 pound or better, 8-1/2 x 11 inches. NO onionskin, lined or colored stock.

3. Follow contest rules for identification of manuscripts. Name and address are usually not to appear on judges copy.

4. Double space all prose manuscripts. Poetry may be single-spaced. DO NOT justify right-hand margins. Allow 1 to 1-1/2 inch margins all around.

5. Drop down about half-way on the first page, then center your title. Do Not put your name below the title, unless the contest rules call for it.

6. Start your text below the title indenting each paragraph 5 spaces. DO NOT add extra space between paragraphs.

7. Follow the header requirements. Contests can vary on header requirements, but usually require the name of the contest to be placed in the upper left corner and the page number and word count should be placed in the upper right corner. Check the rules for any specific instructions on this issue. The text should begin 3 or 4 spaces below this header.

8. Type on one side of paper only. Paper clip the finished pages together – do not staple unless instructed to do so – and do not put the manuscript in a folder.

For further instructions on submitting for publication, check out the Writers’ Market, or simply search ‘Formatting’ on the internet.

Formatting for Submission for Publication

1. Use a simple type style like Times Roman or Courier, 12 point preferred, on a letter quality printer. DO NOT use fancy type faces or script styles. The goal is to make the manuscript look professional and pleasant to read.

2. Use white bond paper, 20 pound or better, 8-1/2 x 11 inches. NO onionskin, lined or colored stock.

3. On the first page, type your name, complete address, phone number and e-mail address in the upper left corner, single spaced. In the upper right corner, type approximate word count of the manuscript (line count for poetry) and what rights are available.

4. Double space all prose manuscripts. Poetry may be single-spaced. DO NOT justify right-hand margins. Allow 1 to 1-1/2 inch margins all around.

5. Drop down about half-way on the first page, then center your title. List your byline (author’s name) underneath the title.

6. Start your text below the byline. Do Not Double-Double space! Indent each paragraph 5 spaces. DO NOT add extra space between paragraphs.

7. Follow the header rules. On page two and subsequent pages, type the title or a key word in the upper left corner of the header, followed by a dash and your last name. Place the page number in upper right. The text should begin 3 or 4 spaces below this header.

8. Type on one side of paper only. Paper clip the finished pages together – do not staple unless instructed to do so – and do not put the manuscript in a folder.

GUIDELINES FOR CRITIQUING

1. Read the entire piece through before critiquing.

2. Acknowledge there is a difference in critiquing and criticizing. Be a critic!

3. Start out on a positive note. Find something GOOD to say about the piece.

4. When critiquing,  find that balance of checking content vs. form and mechanics.

5. Keep in mind that editing is different than critiquing.

RECEIVING A CRITIQUE

1. Don’t take it personally. Remember, the purpose is to help you become a better writer.

2. Remember the critique is a suggestion. You don’t have to make any changes you don’t feel are necessary.

3. Give it time. Sometimes it helps to set down the critique and go back through it after the initial emotion passes.