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Posts tagged ‘contests’

Be your own writing judge: Six tips to help you win contests and attract agents

One of the hardest things to do as a writer is see your own work objectively.

The past few weeks, I’ve been reading entries in a writing contest. It’s always a great learning experience to analyze other writers’ work, which is one reason I always recommend writers join critique groups.

It’s interesting to see how many issues are common among the manuscripts I read. See if these ideas and tips can help you judge your own work more objectively.

1. Create mystery. Every story should have questions that will spark readers to turn the page so they can find the answers. What does the protagonist desperately want? Make the stakes big so readers absolutely must keep reading to find out how on earth the protagonist will succeed. And while you’re at it, deprive readers of the answer as long as possible.

2. Create active protagonists. I frequently see protagonists who are living in their heads too much or being the victims of the action instead of the ones acting.

3. Don’t put too much backstory up front. You’ve probably heard this advice before, but it still remains one of the most common manuscript problems. Don’t risk rejection. Readers and agents want to see action and trouble from the beginning. They really will keep reading to find out more and will be happy if you weave the backstory in as you go.

4. Pace your story. Alternate dramatic scenes with calmer narrative to give the readers breathing space.

5. Create characters that readers can identify with. Not every character has to be a hit with readers but you don’t want readers to finish your book — or worse — stop part way through and say, “Actually, I don’t like any of these characters!”

6. Don’t overdo description. Description is an art. It’s an opportunity to be creative and use sensory images that put the reader in the grip of the story. But make sure you weave it in so that it doesn’t bog down your story.

Want to get published? Take over the TV station

Have you ever noticed that one of the first things revolutionaries do when they start a coup is take over the TV station? That’s because controlling communication is key to attracting attention, managing the message, and sparking change.

If you’re trying to get published, maybe you don’t want to go that far, but it doesn’t hurt to think like a revolutionary. If you want to get noticed you have to get your work out there.

Besides sending out queries, try these tactics as part of a plan to communicate and share your writing with the world.

1. Submit excerpts of your project for publication in magazines or literary journals. It could lead to a book deal from an agent who sees it and wants more. Read more