It’s a bit nerve-wracking, I know, but it doesn’t have to be.
Make a cup of tea and sit down (with a biscuit!) and read through the rules for the competition website. Most stories have a laundry list of rules about what to write about and how to present and submit your story. It can be overwhelming. Why are there many rules? Why can’t I just write a story?
You can! Absolutely you can.
There are always dozens of writing competitions going on all across Australia and the big wide world, so if the competition you’re looking at doesn’t suit your style, find one that does. Some competitions have themes, and some don’t. Some, Like Furious Fiction (Australian Writers Centre), have strict prompts.
Consider the June 2022 Furious Fiction: The first line must be 6 words long. Someone should be ‘served’ something, and you need to use the words Log, Wire and Bake. Others have a general vibe they’re going for. For example, the Northern Territory Writers Festival competition theme is Into the Light.
Why should you enter writing competitions?
Pushing yourself outside your genre and your writing comfort zone can bring far more benefits than a first prize or a short listing. Winning or placing is fantastic, but the benefits don’t end there.
Here are some of the amazing pluses of entering a themed short story competition or submitting to an anthology.
Writing prompted short stories helps build new writing muscle.
If you’re used to writing long-form fiction (novels and novellas) in your favourite genre or not accustomed to writing to a word-limit, the idea of crafting a fully formed 500-word story on an unfamiliar subject can be daunting. But this is a very learnable skill. It comes down to ensuring each word is pulling its weight, and this is a skill worth honing because even 80,000-word novels need to tell their story without waffle and fillers.
To get to the guts of the action without all those words in the way; to reveal a character’s inner conflicts in just a sentence or two; to move the narrative forward without losing reader engagement–this is what every good story, not just short, should do.Writers Edit
You might find a new passion!
Writing in a different genre or working with a theme you would normally shy away from can help you find a new favourite genre. If you’re a Romance writer, you can push yourself by entering a Thriller contest, but most themes can be interpreted to fit your usual genre.
Some new characters may waltz in and take up residence!
In 2021, I wrote a short story for the Scarlet Stiletto Awards. I had never written crime before. In the process, I ‘met’ some new characters who now live in a novel that is currently at 98k words. I have had a full manuscript request for this novel from Allen and Unwin and, after receiving their valuable feedback, I have rewritten it and submitted it to both the Banjo Prize and the Richell Emerging Writers Prize. Writing short stories is a wonderful way to develop new characters and stories without having to go all in and write a novel.
Short stories can work as a tester, giving you an audition with readers.Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper Short Stories: 6 reasons you should write them
Writing short stories based on your current works in progress can be beneficial in lots of ways. It can help clarify the direction of the larger story. Entering the story in a competition or sharing it in other ways (on your blog, on a platform like Medium or even Facebook) and asking readers for their feedback. This can also help you gauge reader interest in the story. If the story garners interest from the judges or readers, you’ll know that a longer form story has a chance of finding an audience.
Build your author bio.
Getting your work out there can get your name in front of the right people, or even up in lights if you’re lucky! You can list the competitions you have entered or placed in on your bio. Even if you don’t win a prize, attending the awards ceremony or festival where the prize is announced or launched can be a great networking opportunity, but then I am an extrovert, so maybe that’s just me…
The best reason to enter short story competitions is that it gives you an excuse to write! Writing should be fun, so make sure you are doing it in a way that brings you joy.
You can find information here about the 2023 Gold Coast Writers’ Association short story competition.
Here is the link to the Queensland Writers Centre monthly prompted short-story competition, Right Left Write. Have a go! https://queenslandwriters.org.au/right-left-write-guidelines