WHAT IS THE SECRET TO WINNING ONLINE ESSAY WRITING CONTESTS?
WHY NOT ENTER A WRITING CONTEST?
I still remember my excitement at winning second place in the Young Writer's Outdoor News Story Writing Contest. I submitted a story called "Going Fishing With My Dad." I wrote the piece as though it was happening right at that moment...with all the sights, sounds, smells and feelings I could conjure up from memory. I received fifty dollars as a prize, along with a plaque with my name on it. I was thrilled!
Do you love to write?
Do you enjoy making extra money?
Would you like to "get discovered" as a writer?
How would you feel about including a PRIZE WINNING ESSAY on your writing resume?
If you answered YES to all the above questions, then you should enter an online essay writing contest.
Maybe you've thought about entering a writing contest in passing, but you never quite got around to it. The reason might have been that you were too busy. Or at least that's what you told yourself.
But the truth is, you experienced a sudden bout of insecurity at the thought of entering a contest, convinced everyone else's entry would be better than yours.
Or maybe you feel you don't write the kind of essays "they" are looking for. After all, you don't want to waste your time, when you're so sure some one else is going to win..... someone who already knows the "secret" to winning these things.
Well....that person could be YOU!
So why not put aside a little time (that's the joy of writing a short story - it doesn't take long. Instant gratification!) gather up your confidence.....and don't worry. There are ALL SORTS of writing contests online - for every kind of writing you can think of!
Some essay contests are themed - some are not. There are also contests that involve children's stories, young adult (or there are contests aimed strictly at teens...some even with scholarship prizes), Christian writing, poetry, parenting stories, animal tales.....hey, you can even find erotica, if that's what you're into!
And the good thing about a writing contest as opposed to other types of contests, is that you don't need to depend on LUCK to win. A writing contest is a genuine and fun way to have your skill, talent, and creativity get recognized.... and be rewarded!
In addition, entering a writing contest is great for us writers who tend to get distracted easily - and us procrastinators who start things but never finish- to actually FINISH!
Having a deadline FORCES you to complete your manuscript; edit it; and send it out. This not only prepares you for the real world of writing deadlines, it also provides you with the satisfaction of actually producing a complete and polished manuscript! And that's a great feeling - whether you win the contest, or not.
So take a big brave breath. Now be prepared to have some fun, get those creative juices flowing,and just do it.
ENTER A WRITING CONTEST!
Because once you start, you'll be hooked.
Follow these important tips, so you can have fun AND be a winner, both at the same time.
1). FOLLOW ALL THE RULES!
Following the rules is important. If the contest has a theme, you must stick with that as your topic. If the contest has a "word count," try to get as close to that word count as possible without going over it.
2). STUDY OTHER WINNING ESSAYS!
This is a great way to get an idea of what the judges are looking for when it comes to theme and style.
3). HAVE A GOOD "HOOK"!
Make sure you have a dynamic first sentence. Suck your reader in right away! Often it's in the first few sentences of a story, that a reader (or a judge!) will form his opinion, good or bad. (Hint: you want it to be good)!
4). DOUBLE AND TRIPLE CHECK YOUR SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION!
Remember; this isn't some spur of the minute E-mail you're jotting off to your sister! If you aren't sure how to spell a word, don't be lazy! Find out! Poor spelling and punctuation will turn the judges off - which is a shame, if you have a great piece of writing hiding underneath.
5. EDIT - BUT DON'T GO OVERBOARD!
If the deadline allows, let your essay "sit" when you are done - then go back to it after a little while and read it again. Chances are, you will find some things you want to change. (Remember, once you submit your essay, it may be too late). Just don't get so bogged down with fiddling and changing and tweaking that you miss the deadline altogether!
6). BE CONFIDENT WITH YOUR WRITING, NOT "WISHY WASHY"!
Comb through your work and look for wishy-washy expressions such as "I think that maybe I...." or "I wasn't sure, but I thought"....JUST GET RID OF THEM! They weigh down your writing and make it far less dynamic than it should be.
7). DON'T GIVE UP!
Chances are you won't win the very first contest you enter. Just keep trying! Perserverence; that's what it's all about. The world would be missing out on many fantastic and famous authors if they had given up too soon. Don't take it personally! The judge may have favored a different piece of writing because he or she could relate to it better (judges are human too, you know)! Maybe a piece on sailboat racing won because the judge loves sailboats. The more contests you enter, the more chance you will have of winning.
8). DON'T LET YOURSELF BECOME INTIMIDATED!
Sometimes you will read other contest entries that make you think, Wow, that's good! That's such excellent writing! I can't possibly complete with that! Well, just banish that last thought out of your brain. Yes you CAN complete with "that" because your writing is just that...YOUR WRITING...unique....not everyone's writing is everyone's cup of tea (sorry for the lame cliché....) but maybe YOUR writing will be the judge's cup of tea. So, don't allow intimidation to create an obstacle. The fun and the challenge is in the actual writing, itself. You'll find that once you get started, your own ideas and creative adrenaline will take over, banishing all insecurities.
So there you have it. You're all set to go out there and beat the competition. Although you can't do that without the most important ingredient of all....A GREAT PIECE OF WRITING. And that can only come from you!
It all starts inside your own head....with a great idea. Then it's up to you to give that great idea life.....and make it shine.
Remember the basic elements of writing an essay that you learned way back in elementary school English class: Beginning, middle, end. Mindless rambling is not a good way to go. Not to thwart your creativity or anything, but you do need some organization. Remember, others like to know what's going on in your story.
By all means, BE MOTIVATED! Don't just enter a contest to "win the money." You should feel EXCITEMENT about your idea. It must MOVE you in some way so you feel that SPARK; that DESIRE to get it out of your head and onto the computer!
Get that ENERGY FLOWING....make sure your writing sucks your reader in, and keeps him engaged throughout. Your reader just MUST keep reading to find out what happens next! You know when your writing is like that...you can just FEEL it.
Even if your piece doesn't win the contest,you are still a winner every time you write, because you are creating something unique. Besides, if you have fun writing your essay, plus experience the added benefit of honing your writing skills....then entering writing contests can never be considered "a waste of time."
Following, are some current online contests that are going on. (Obviously I will need to update this section on a regular basis)! Just pick the one (or ones) that interest you the most, and GO FOR IT.
Personally, I never pick competitions with an "entrance fee." There are enough free competitions online, so there is no need to! But if you choose to, that is up to you. Just make sure the competition is being run by a reputable source, such as Writer's Digest.com.
(Currently has a writing competion with the theme CELEBRATION. Deadline is July 31).
(Has a whole LIST of writing contests)
This site does indeed offer contests - however, there are no monetary prizes. Nonetheless, the site offers a great community environment, interactive features, the ability for you to create your own portfolio, etc...
This is a great site out of the UK....tons of contests and cash prizes....
This site is loaded with contests that have fun prompts, such as: Pretend you are a real estate agent selling a haunted house.....then you have to write your "sales pitch." The only "caveat?" (Well, in my opinion, there are two). You need to "upgrade" your membership to enter most contests. It only costs a few dollars a month, but still.....AND....they actually REVIEW your REVIEWS of other people's writing. That's a bit much....anyway, some of their prizes include cash, gift cards, or "writing bucks" you use to be able to "do more stuff" on the site.
Writer's Digest/writing competions:
(Writer's Digest currently has a GREAT short story (1500 words) contest going on! First prize is $3000.00 and a trip to a Writer's Digest convention; second prize is $1500, third prize is $500. The only catch? There is a $20.00 entrance fee)!
Teen Ink/writing contests;
This site offers oodles of contests for teen writers...they have a "point of view" contest going on right now with a $200 prize.
This is a site dedicated to stories that make people laugh. They offer a contest every month - with a $500 prize! Not bad; you'll be giggling all the way to the bank if you win this one!
Prizes are up to $250....currently, there is a "novella" contest going on..hurry, though..deadline is end of June!
Poetry for Millions:
They now have a poetry contest running with a $1000 prize....any style of poetry is accepted. This is a chance to get your poetry published in a giant anthem of poetry that is available at Barnes and Noble (I, personally, have a poem in the book right now). All those who are chosen for publication, are automatically entered into the cash prize contest.
Stage Of Life:
This site offers essay contests for both parents and teens - and even grandparents and empty-nesters (hence, the name of the web-site)! Currently, they have a lot of "blog type" contests going on for new parents, with question prompts such as: What product do you depend on the most as a new parent, and could not live without? For teens, they might have a contest such as this: In 500 words or less, write about a song that has inspired you at one point in your life. Prizes include gift card and various swag (i.e. cool merchandise)!
Boxing With Pencils:
You will write a flash fiction piece of 100 words or less in their comment line. You must incorporate the three words that they provide (this makes it challenging when the words are something like fungus, love, and sunshine, for instance). But it is a FUN challenge, that's the point! (Plus, the winner gets 5 Paypal bucks)! New contest each week!
This site allows you to turn your writing into a "virtual book" with an actual cover, and pages you can "flip." This can be a real eye-opener, as it allows you to view your writing in "book form." Bookrix also has ongoing writing contests that are free to enter with cash and gift cards as prizes. In addition, they have a young writer's group with "sponsors" available. Currently, the site has a "Young Writer's" contest going on, and a "Drabble Contest" - a drabble is defined as a complete story written in 100 words or less. Anyone is eligible - no entry fee - check it out!
Chicken Soup for the Soul Contest for Teens::
Chicken Soup for the Soul is a series of books of inspirational stories and motivational essays. The series hosts a teen writing contest, accepting stories that teenagers will read "again and again."
Contest participants can submit stories written about issues that concern teens the most; including school,life,relationships, friendships, and of course, parents (or should I say, the various ways parents can drive you crazy)? The prize is publication in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. The deadline in usually December 31. Check out their website for more details.
NextStepU $100 Teen Writing Contest:
NextStepU offers contest winners not just a $100 prize, but the chance to get their work published in the Next Step Magazine, which is a publication founded in 1995 that helps students plan for college, career and life. The competition is open to students all over the world, and accepts short stories on all subjects. Simply submit all stories online.
Seventeen Fiction Contest:
Seventeen is a widely-known and respected magazine for teenagers that holds an annual contest for fiction writing. The magazine begins accepting applications in the fall, with a deadline of late December or early January. In 2010, the winner received a $5,000 cash prize, had her story published in an issue of Seventeen, and received a phone call from bestselling author Meg Cabot and her editor. Check out their website for deadlines.
Adventure Write Kids:
Adventure Write Kids offers a yearly writing contest for kids and teens up to 18 years old. Criteria for judging includes how well the story will fit on the Adventure Write website, along with creativity, spelling, grammar and punctuation. Entrants must also complete the Totem Head's Tutorial on the site. All stories must be 1500 words or less, and must incorporate a different phrase or idea determined each year.
(A word of caution: Unfortunately, not all contests are on the up-and-up.....you weren't born yesterday, though, so this is probably no surprise. Check out the site Editors and Predators to confirm that a contest is legit.).
So what are you waiting for? Get writing! (And... GOOD LUCK)!