Competitions are rough on writers. If we enter and don’t win, it’s very hard to shake off the feeling that our writing isn’t any good. Sometimes, the ‘winning’ aspect of the event overshadows the joy of participation and getting acknowledged as a good writer. To the people who are wondering whether their writing is not good enough to win a contest, here is a small truth bomb:

Your writing alone doesn’t win you writing contests.

Sounds odd, but it’s true. There is little difference in writing quality of the story which won the event and the ones which didn’t. In some cases, the later were better. However, the people who decide the winner are not reading the stories as stand-alone. For them, the stories are entries to a particular event written specifically for a writing prompt.

During my interactions with various Artoons/Admins, I tend to ask a particular question:

What is the first thing you notice when you read a story?

Most of the people reply with terms like ‘Language’, ’Narration’, ’Sentence structure’, ’Characterization’, ’Plot’, ’Beautiful use of prompt’ and so on. I bet that most of you would agree with the order. However, when a judge sits down to review and select a winner, the order is reversed. A story which doesn’t adhere to a prompt is the last thing a judge wants to read. Uneven narration, by comparison, is merely an annoyance, as are incorrect usage of words, grammar, and punctuation.

Adhering to a prompt is the most important thing you should take into consideration while writing for a prompt. We know, writing is not a chore which is done with a bunch of instructions thrown at you. But, you shouldn’t try to twist a prompt to fit your writing style (Which you obviously love). Stepping out of your comfort zone will help fast-track your journey (Remember that journey which we talk about and bore you guys to death?). I don’t want to share names, but there are a couple of writers in our group who are consistently churning out stories on varied topics. No story is similar to the other. Each takes you to a different world. Most importantly, they do it while sticking to the given prompt. Isn’t it time to take a cue from them?

Out of the box thinking is good, but not when you are so far away from the box that the box is a dot to you (Any F.R.I.E.N.D.S fan here?). I have observed that some writers want to write a ‘different’ story just for the sake of it. Do not twist the prompt in such a way that it’s unrecognizable.

Write a great opening paragraph. An average reader reads at a speed of 200 words per minute. A reader spends barely 3 minutes on your Five00, 10 minutes on your Artale. Here is a tip, good opening paragraph speeds up this process. Since the reading time is short, a good opening paragraph will also give him/her an impression that the whole story is good.

Do not treat your story like a Social Media post. You are allowed an informal style of writing when you are posting something on Facebook or answering a question on Quora. But, NOT when you are writing for a short story competition. Whether readers are looking for it or not, try to submit the best possible version of your story. Just because readers are not looking for “great writing” doesn’t mean that writers shouldn’t be expected to produce good writing. Even Hrithik Roshan looks bad in shabby clothes.

Many times, during the judging process, when the judges are stuck with two stories which are equally good, the final result comes down to a single grammatical mistake, maybe a missing comma. Before you ask, Yes, ArtoonsInn judges have done this too!

Not everyone is Tony Stark, You can’t run before you walk (Any MCU fans here?). And the art of writing is like riding a bicycle, which is much much tougher than running (Hope the metaphor sticks around until I make my point). Please treat these events as training grounds for honing your skills.

Falling and getting back up is common. The prompts which are provided for each event are your training wheels. At times, some of you (Experienced Artoons) are bound to feel that these training wheels are slowing you down. It’s okay to feel so, just remember that at one point of time, these training wheels will be taken away from you. By then, you should be as good as Lance Armstrong.

All the best for upcoming events!

Shankar Hosagoudar

Written by Shankar Hosagoudar

Shankar Hosagoudar describes himself as a Jack of all trades mastering network infra.; a part-time engineer, part-time writer, and a full-time potterhead.