Friday, January 20, 2012

Make your entries sparkle

Some contest are spontaneous - you will only know the topic the day the competition begins.  Most, however, publish the topic well in advance.   The expectation here is that you use the time allotted to refine and revise your work.  Let's face it, the guy who rushes something in has less chance of winning than someone who has taken time to look over their work.  Amidst hundreds of submissions, the well polished ones will shine through.

What does that mean exactly?   My rule of thumb is one draft per week of competition.  I'll share my process, and feel free to find your own balance.

  • Draft 1 -  Just get ideas down.   Complete the story.  Disregard any stipulations for word count.
  • Draft 2 - Heavy editing.  Cut unnecessary stuff, change verbiage to be more powerful, axe passive voice.
  • Draft 3- Monitor content.  Answer any open questions the writing presents. Rework sections that are confusing, awkward, or seem off for an unknown reason.
  • Drafts 4+- Fine Tuning.   Get down to word count limit if there is one. Pay close attention to the details.

If at all possible, have your work reviewed by peers.

Then submit, have a beverage, and move on to the next one.

Obviously this article focuses on pieces that you start from scratch.  If you have something in your portfolio that has already been buffed you can save yourself a lot of agony.  Just remember, there is always room for improvement.

How many drafts do you generally do before you submit a work?

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