WRITING CONTESTS BENEFITS


Writing Contests Benefits

By Rory C. Keel

It cost money; why should I enter? What benefit will a contest be for my writing and me? I’m not good enough so I’ll never win.

Those who are looking at entering writing contests frequently express these statements and questions. I know, I’ve asked most of them myself.

Having entered my share of writing contests, let me offer some positive benefits from my personal experience.

  1. Training for working with deadlines – Writing contests give a writer the opportunity to work under a deadline. Most contests will have strict dates for submitting an entry. This is good conditioning for working with agents, editors, and publishers who will place deadlines on your writing.
  2. Provides automatic platform – A platform is your audience, those who will read your writing. While your mother and “BFF” will gladly volunteer readership, contest judges can provide you with an unbiased and anonymous audience for your writing. And who knows, the judge may be an agent, editor or publisher.
  3. Gain feedback – One of the most valuable benefits of a writing contest is the critique. To have the judge’s comments noting any mistakes, suggestions for improvement and yes, even praise can help improve your writing.
  4. Build your portfolio – Writing contests are a perfect why to build your portfolio. When seeking an agent or publisher, a few writing clips, accomplishments and certificates may be the edge you need to sell the deal.
  5. Increase your confidence – Entering a contest gives a writer the opportunity to gain confidence in their writing. Have you ever written something only to tear it up or hide it in a drawer? Have you ever said, “I could never write good enough to be published!” A writing contest provides an inexpensive way to test the waters of being an author.
  6. Avoid scam contests – As with most everything, there are people who take advantage of others. Before entering a contest, research the person or organization holding the contest and make sure they are legitimate. There are a few contests that are no more than book selling scams. When your entry wins, it is accepted for publication in an anthology, with all of the other first place winners, then you must pay an outrageous price to obtain a copy. Winningwriters.com lists a few of these writing contests to avoid.To help find your next contest check out www.placesforwriters.com or www.fundsforwriters.com

First Chapters


First Chapters

Natalie Bright

 

First chapters are important for various reasons, with the main one being you want readers to keep reading. You get one chance to establish a connection through empathy for a character or a curiosity of what happens next. Hopefully you’ll hold the reader through that first chapter and then they can’t help but go on to the next.

For children’s writers, we’re talking a few lines. An elementary school librarian told me that her kids read the first 5 to 6 lines and then say, “I don’t like it.” That’s tough for authors.

NO Second Chances

If you’re new to writing and have chosen a more traditional route to publishing, you want your first chapter submission to electrify that agent or editor. You want them to choose your story over the slush pile of submissions they’ve been reading that week. If you’re a self-published author, you want readers to buy your future books as well. You want satisfied, happy readers because they rarely give you a second chance.

I spend lots of editing time on the first chapter. I read it a gazillion times, and take it to my critique group several times, and then send it out to other friends as well. That first chapter sets the tone and theme for your book. It’s a solemn promise and your guarantee of adventure!

Here’s Your checklist on First Chapters:

1)    Put a lot of thought into that first sentence.

2)    Establish the where and when. Don’t confuse your reader at the very beginning.

3)    First chapters may change once you’ve written THE END. Be prepared to keep rewriting, polishing again, and then some to clarify your theme.

4)    Don’t begin the story too early. Avoid too much background, start with the human voice, and action. RICHARD PECK

5)    Get ‘em by the shirt front and pull that reader into your book. Your job as the writer is to intrigue people. DUSTY RICHARDS

 

TAGS: first chapters, story craft, writers, children’s writers, first chapter list, editing

 

Writing Cons: What to Expect


Writing Cons: What to Expect

by Natalie Bright

 

Writing conferences are no doubt a huge commitment in money, not to mention the time away from family and home. I’ve often heard more than one writer say that their efforts can be better spent at their desk. No doubt about that. Who needs another distraction?

Yet every writers’ conference I’ve attended teaches me something new. And no matter how much I dread the packing and the traveling, or how many times I wonder what in the heck I was thinking, I always feel motivated and thankful after taking part in the event. For example, there’s the recent Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators spring conference, which I attended in Tulsa, Oklahoma several weeks ago. In case you’ve ever wondered what’s the take-away from a writing conference for children’s authors, I’ll review some of the topics covered.

Cheering on Your Cause

Regional Director, Anna Myers, welcomed the group by reminding us that we are all a group of believers: “believers in stories and believers in each other”. Sitting in a room of over one hundred creatives left little room for doubt that there was magic in the air. You can’t help but feel inspired.

Insight

The first presentation was by an Associate Art Director who gave an informative power point on the illustrating process. From selecting the artist, to initial sketches, decisions on word placement, and selection of the final cover based on multiple samples by an illustrator and narrowing down the final look with author input. The creative process is a mystery to most of us after it leaves the writers hands. The insight into this procedure was enthralling.

A typical editor’s day is always interesting, which was the topic of the next session. Writers tend to disappear into our world of every day life and our fictional stories, so its good to be reminded that there’s a whole world of business to this business. I realized that publishing takes a team of professionals who believe in the same vision. A writers’ manuscript is where it begins and a book, that everyone is proud of is, the end result.

Story Craft

The process of creating early chapter books was presented by a Scholastic editor.  This detailed review included the finer points of what makes early chapter books so appealing to beginning readers, and so difficult to craft for writers.

Picture books were the main focus of a talk by an editor with HarperCollins.  The differences between the specific genres in children’s literature always leaves me much to think about. It is a complex process as writers try to determine where to go with that spark. Picture book, or maybe an early chapter book, or can this manuscript be expanded into a middle reader?  The possibilities are endless, yet all are so very unique. There’s no one better to explain the differences than an acquiring editor.

Inspiration

A literary agent closed out the day by reminding us to keep going, chase our dreams, never give up. Despite the rejection and rewrites and the distractions of life, I was reminded that successful authors keep pushing themselves to write, to learn story craft.

In between sessions, I talked to other writers about finding agents, working with editors, and all things related to this crazy business. I heard about the struggles, the sparks, the successes, and I came away inspired to keep writing and to believe in a dream. I also came away with a ton of hope that these writers will keep going, because I can hardly wait to read their stories. So many great ideas in one place is contagious!

To find a group for children’s writers near you, check out the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators website at www.scbwi.org.

www.nataliebright.com

WRITING CONTESTS BENEFITS


Announcing

2013 Frontiers in Writing Contest

Now open for entries

 For one low entry fee you can now enter multiple categories

Cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in EVERY category.

Go to:

www.Panhandleprowriters.org

Entry rules, procedures and format regulations are listed on the FiW Writing Contest page

Download FiW entry Application and mail along with your entry.

Entry fees can be check or Money order, or pay online using “Payments” on the PPW website.

Sponsored by the Panhandle Professional Writers

Writing Contests Benefits

By Rory C. Keel

It cost money; why should I enter? What benefit will a contest be for my writing and me? I’m not good enough so I’ll never win.

Those who are looking at entering writing contests frequently express these statements and questions. I know, I’ve asked most of them myself.

Having entered my share of writing contests, let me offer some positive benefits from my personal experience.

  1. Training for working with deadlines – Writing contests give a writer the opportunity to work under a deadline. Most contests will have strict dates for submitting an entry. This is good conditioning for working with agents, editors, and publishers who will place deadlines on your writing.
  2. Provides automatic platform – A platform is your audience, those who will read your writing. While your mother and “BFF” will gladly volunteer readership, contest judges can provide you with an unbiased and anonymous audience for your writing. And who knows, the judge may be an agent, editor or publisher.
  3. Gain feedback – One of the most valuable benefits of a writing contest is the critique. To have the judge’s comments noting any mistakes, suggestions for improvement and yes, even praise can help improve your writing.
  4. Build your portfolio – Writing contests are a perfect why to build your portfolio. When seeking an agent or publisher, a few writing clips, accomplishments and certificates may be the edge you need to sell the deal.
  5. Increase your confidence – Entering a contest gives a writer the opportunity to gain confidence in their writing. Have you ever written something only to tear it up or hide it in a drawer? Have you ever said, “I could never write good enough to be published!” A writing contest provides an inexpensive way to test the waters of being an author.
  6. Avoid scam contests – As with most everything, there are people who take advantage of others. Before entering a contest, research the person or organization holding the contest and make sure they are legitimate. There are a few contests that are no more than book selling scams. When your entry wins, it is accepted for publication in an anthology, with all of the other first place winners, then you must pay an outrageous price to obtain a copy. Winningwriters.com lists a few of these writing contests to avoid. To help find your next contest check out www.placesforwriters.com or www.fundsforwriters.com

Pitch Perfect


Pitch Perfect

By Natalie Bright

Perfecting a Story’s Pitch

At a recent Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators meeting in Oklahoma City, those attending had the opportunity to turn in a 60-word pitch, which were then picked at random and read out loud.  The conference faculty offered their thoughts and suggestions.

Based on the comments and feedback, I’ve compiled a list of the main instruction for making your pitch’s perfect for editors and agents:

* Informative

* Tell us about your story succinctly

* Be direct and concise without being cryptic

* Not too detailed

* “kid” perspective if you are writing a children’s story; be careful of word choice

* Not mysterious or extranious words, just get to the point

* Not too eloquent or flowery

* In a nutshell, what kind of journey

* Do not use cliché’s

* Not too vague

* Be careful with technology references; it becomes very outdated in a short time

Writer’s “Voice” Defined


 

Writer’s “Voice” Defined

By Natalie Bright

Children’s writers gathered in Oklahoma City at the end of March for the SCBWI-Oklahoma chapter’s annual Spring conference. The delightful Regional Advisor, Anna Myers, and her volunteers put together an informative and inspiring day.

More than one presenter elaborated on “voice”; the thing that some writers seem to come by naturally, and the rest of us wonder where in the heck the line is to get one.  Several of the speakers helped shed some light on this elusive muse.

Authorial or Narrative

“Editors are always looking for strong, new voices,” said Krista Marino, Executive Editor at Delacorte. She explained that there is an authorial voice and a narrative voice. Authorial being the distinctive finger print that an author might put on one’s work, and the kind that passes from one piece to the next. A narrative voice is what a reader remembers when she reads the book and this is what editors are looking for.

Maggie Lehrman, Sr. Editor with Amulet/Abrams Books, noted that a strong voice for her represents memorable characters, plus style and diction all rolled together. “Care is taken in language and word choice, and there is a rhythm that is unique in some way.”

One of a Kind Voice

Noa Wheeler, editor at Henry Holt, read a passage from one of my all-time favorites, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. She said, “The language in this story makes us wonder at the magic.”

It wasn’t that long ago that I had read Tuck Everlasting for the second time. As an adult the words and the story made an impression.  Hearing Wheeler read out loud, the words absolutely blew me away. There is no mistaking  the “voice” which was made even more unique by the rhythm of the words and how each word fit together in a unique way.

Finding YOUR Voice

As a children’s writer, I particularly appreciated the closing advice from Marino. “Erase the worldliness of your life,” she said. “Find the smallness of their world. Remember the protag doesn’t have a wealth of experiences to draw from.”

Lehrman urged us to draw out what’s unique in our own particular story. “Passion and heart must come through to your words. Find the right tone, speak to a kid’s experiences and have fun.”

I think agent, Marietta Zacker, summed the day up perfectly during the afternoon session when she said, “Use the experiences that are real to you, because you’ve felt them. Write and illustrate what you know to be true, not just what you know.”

Here’s Your To Do’s:

Do re-read the classics in children’s literature.

Do read the new releases too.

Do plan to attend an SCBWI regional conference near you.  http://www.scbwiok.org

Do stay connected with the people you’ve exchanged business cards.

Do keep writing!

Natalie Bright