- Word count too high. Story competitions can be quite strict on this matter, and a simple word count will expose story entries that go over. A short story competition that demands no more than 2000 words means that words in excess of this may take your entry out of the running.
- The wrong genre. If the competition is looking for captivating children’s stories, don’t submit an erotic yarn. Similarly, if the competition is searching for a crime story, don’t submit a sci-fi story.
- Submission too late. Make sure the story arrives before the closing date. Late entries will not be considered.
- No contact details enclosed. Don’t forget to include your name and contact details when submitting your short story.
- No fees enclosed. Make sure a cheque is enclosed to the correct amount and to the correct payee.
- Take a familiar story and set it against a different background. For example, a detective story could be set in a monastery; a tale about a beauty contest could be set at a prison.
- Make the protagonist different to the expected. Make a nightclub bouncer female; or a sensational guitar player three-fingered.
- Look for every opportunity to pull a twist on the reader. A story told in the first person may relate on a hero’s day keeping watch against snipers in the Middle East. Only at the end do we learn the hero is a twelve-year-old boy.
- Write about something you know about and project it onto the character or the story to add authenticity. A writer’s experience at a children’s home could be projected upon a story about a girl who has been evacuated during the war. The feeling of displacement and possible alienation could be made more convincing by the writer’s empathy.
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