Online writing contests are a great way to showcase your writing skills and gain recognition for your work. They also offer the opportunity to win cash prizes, publication opportunities, and other valuable rewards.
So, how do you win online writing contests for money? What pro tips can give you an edge over other participants? Well, it’s not just about luck but also strategy and hard work.
Here are 13 pro tips to help you increase your chances of winning online writing contests.
7 Mistakes to Avoid in Online Writing Contests
Before I dive into the pro tips, let’s first discuss some common mistakes that participants make in online writing contests.
#1. Not Following Guidelines:
One of the most common mistakes made by participants in online writing contests is not adhering strictly to the provided guidelines. The rules may dictate a specific genre, word limit, font size, and formatting. Ignoring these can result in disqualification, no matter how brilliant your piece is.
For instance, if the contest rules specify a word limit of 500 words, and you submit a beautifully written story of 1,000, your entry likely won’t even make it to the judging stage.
Similarly, if the guidelines call for a mystery story and you submit a romantic comedy, your submission will be irrelevant to the contest. Always read and follow the contest guidelines meticulously. This is your first step towards submitting a successful entry.
#2. Poor Editing:
Another mistake often made by participants is submitting unpolished and poorly edited work. Careful spelling and grammar mistakes can overshadow even the most captivating story. Take the time to thoroughly edit your piece before submitting it.
Consider using online tools or asking a friend to proofread for you. A well-edited entry will make a good impression on the judges, increasing your chances of winning.
#3. Rushing the Submission:
Just as poor editing can derail your chances of winning, rushing your submission can sabotage your efforts. When you rush to submit an entry before fully developing and revising your work, you’re not only compromising on your creativity but also risking errors or weak points that have not been addressed.
For instance, you might have a fantastic plot for a story, but you fail to flesh out characters or build tension effectively due to haste. Imagine a scenario where the contest deadline is in 30 days. Instead of hastily crafting a story in a week and submitting it, utilize the full 30 days.
Spend the initial days brainstorming, then write your story, revise it, edit thoroughly, and, if possible, have someone else review it before you submit it. The extra time spent revising and waiting before submitting can help you gain a fresh perspective, spot errors, and make necessary improvements, increasing your chances of success.
#4. Failing to Engage the Reader:
This is a more subjective but equally important point. Often, contest participants focus so much on adhering to the prompt or the guidelines that they forget to make their writing engaging.
No matter how perfectly your story fits the contest theme, it’s unlikely to win if it doesn’t engage the reader. A compelling narrative, relatable characters, and an emotional or thought-provoking undertone can make your writing stand out.
For instance, if the contest theme is “Transformation,” try a unique, engaging perspective instead of merely writing a predictable story about a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.
You could write about a grumpy old man who transforms his perspective after an unexpected friendship with a cheerful kid. While adhering to the theme, such a story offers readers an emotional connection, making your entry more memorable and engaging.
#5. Ignoring the Theme:
Another mistake often made by participants is ignoring the theme of the contest. If the contest organizers have specified a theme, it’s not optional; it’s mandatory.
For example, if the theme is ‘Hope in Dark Times,’ your story must revolve around, or at least touch upon, this theme. You cannot write a light-hearted comedy piece and expect to win. Aligning your work with the theme is crucial for your entry to be valid.
#6. Submitting Unoriginal Work:
Plagiarism is a serious offense in writing contests. Not only does it violate the integrity of the competition, but it can also lead to disqualification and a tarnished reputation. Always submit original work showcasing your unique voice and creativity.
For instance, if there’s a poetry competition, don’t submit a poem you found online. Instead, pen down your thoughts and feelings, offering a fresh and authentic perspective to the readers and judges.
#7. Grammatical Errors:
One of the quickest ways to lose credibility in a writing contest is through grammatical errors. Regardless of how innovative your plot might be or how beautifully your prose is written, if your work is riddled with grammatical errors, it can quickly distract the reader and diminish their overall reading experience.
This can be the death knell for your submission in a contest setting. Be sure to use grammar-checking tools and thoroughly proofread your work multiple times before submitting it to ensure it’s free from grammatical inaccuracies. Remember, attention to detail can set your writing apart from a sea of submissions.
Read also: Bookmark contest ideas
How Do You Win Online Writing Contests for Money?
Now that I’ve discussed the common mistakes to avoid, let’s delve into some expert tips and strategies for increasing your chances of winning online writing contests.
#1. Select Right Contest:
Choosing the right contest is crucial in increasing your chances of winning. Not all contests are created equal — some may appeal to your writing style, while others may not.
For instance, if you excel in writing science fiction stories, it’s wise to enter a contest that predominantly focuses on this genre. Participating in an appropriate contest will allow you to showcase your strengths, thus enhancing your chances of success.
In addition, make sure to read the guidelines and rules of the contest carefully before entering. Some contests may have strict eligibility criteria, such as age or geographic location restrictions. Be sure to meet all the requirements before submitting your entry.
#2. Read Past Winning Entries:
One of the most effective ways to understand what contest judges seek is to read past winning entries. This can provide valuable insights into the kind of narratives, writing styles, and themes that resonate with the judges.
For example, suppose you’re entering a short story contest and notice past winners primarily have been character-driven narratives rather than plot-heavy stories. In that case, you can tailor your entry accordingly.
If the past winning entries are full of vivid descriptions, engaging dialogues, and unexpected plot twists, try incorporating these elements into your work. Studying and learning from past winners is not about mimicking their style but understanding the quality and creativity that the contest values.
#3. Understand the Theme:
Understanding the theme of a writing contest is vital to crafting a compelling, relevant entry. Let’s say the theme of an essay contest is “The Impact of Technology on Society.” You should not merely write about the general advancements in technology. Instead, delve into the nuances of how technology has changed our daily lives, influenced our relationships, and shaped our society.
For instance, you could write about how smartphones have revolutionized communication, making it instant and borderless. Still, at the same time, they have given rise to issues like decreased face-to-face interaction and cyberbullying. You could discuss how advancements in medical technology have improved healthcare, saving countless lives, but also raised ethical concerns like gene editing and privacy issues.
In this way, truly understanding and exploring the contest theme will make your entry more relevant, engaging, and impactful.
#4. Originality is Key:
Originality in your writing is what sets you apart from other participants. Judges appreciate each writer’s distinctive perspective, as it adds diversity to the competition.
For instance, imagine you’re participating in a contest with the theme “Overcoming Fears.” Instead of opting for the common narrative of a protagonist overcoming their fear of heights or darkness, you might choose to write about a young pianist battling stage fright.
This unique take on the theme adheres to the contest rules and showcases your creativity and originality, enhancing your chances of standing out in the competition.
You can use plagiarism checker tools such as Grammarly, Scribbr, or Copyscape to check your work for originality.
#5. Engage Your Readers:
Whether a simple caption or an elaborate essay, writing is meant to be read and enjoyed by others. Therefore, it’s crucial to engage your readers through your work.
One way to do this is by creating relatable characters that evoke emotions in the reader or audience. You can also use descriptive language and vivid imagery to transport your readers into the world you’ve created.
Additionally, incorporating surprise or unexpected plot twists can keep your readers hooked until the end.
Here is a comparative example of turning dull writing into an engaged one:
The sun shone brightly on the beach, and the waves crashed against the shore. I sat down on my towel and opened a book.
As I stepped onto the warm sand, the sun’s rays gently kissed my skin. The rhythmic sound of waves crashing against the shore filled my ears as I approached my spot on the beach. Settling onto my towel, I couldn’t wait to dive into the pages of my book and escape into a world of adventure and romance.
#6. Emotional Connection:
Creating an emotional connection with your readers is essential as it pulls them into your narrative and makes them care about your characters and what happens to them. To create this connection, use descriptive language and delve into your characters’ thoughts, feelings, hopes, and fears.
For instance, consider the following example:
Without Emotional Connection:
John found a letter from his old friend, Sarah, tucked inside a book. He read it and felt sad.
With Emotional Connection:
As John dusted off an old, forgotten book from the corner of his attic, a faded envelope slipped between its pages. As he opened it, he recognized the elegant handwriting of Sarah – a friend he hadn’t seen in years. His heart pounded as he began to read, memories flooding back. The letter was filled with warmth, nostalgia, and longing – the echo of a friendship that used to be.
As he finished reading, a profound sadness enveloped him. He missed the days when they were inseparable, a time that seemed a world away now.
Through this emotionally charged writing, you share the character’s experience with the reader and make them feel what the character is feeling, creating an intimate bond between the reader and your narrative.
#7. Polish Your Work:
Once you have completed your entry, you must revise and edit it for grammar, spelling, and other errors. This shows the judges that you’ve put effort into perfecting your work and increases the overall quality of your writing.
You can also ask a friend or family member to review your work and provide feedback. Outside perspectives can often catch things that you may have missed.
Additionally, consider hiring a professional editor to refine your work if the contest allows it. This can give your writing a polished and professional touch, making it stand out among other entries.
Remember to also adhere to any specific guidelines or formatting requirements set by the contest organizers.
#8. Respect the Word Limit:
Most writing contests have a word limit, and it’s crucial to adhere to it. Going over the limit shows a lack of respect for the rules and indicates that you couldn’t concisely convey your message.
On the other hand, staying within the word limit showcases your ability to express yourself effectively and make every word count. It also shows that you can follow instructions and respect the guidelines, essential skills for any writer.
Be sure to carefully read the contest rules and plan your writing accordingly to stay within the word limit.
#9. Master the Art of Brevity:
In writing, brevity is a virtue. Being concise and to the point with your words respects the reader’s time and keeps your narrative crisp and impactful. This is especially true for writing contests where there is often a strict word limit.
While being descriptive and engaging, you should avoid unnecessary verbosity and repetitiveness. Every sentence and every word should serve a purpose in advancing your story or argument. If a sentence or paragraph doesn’t add value or impact to your narrative, it’s better to leave it out.
To master the art of brevity, practice summarizing complex ideas in simple words. Try condensing a two-page essay into one page or a four-line paragraph into two lines. This exercise will help you determine what’s essential and what’s not, improving your writing skills and chances of winning the contest.
Remember, less is more; in writing, the most powerful ideas are often the simplest.
#10. Creative Formatting:
Creative formatting can make your entry stand out in a writing contest, where many entries may look similar in terms of content and structure.
Consider using headings, bullet points, and numbered lists to break up the text and make it easier to read. You can also use different font styles or sizes for emphasis or create visually appealing graphics or illustrations to support your writing.
However, be careful not to overdo it with formatting. The content should remain the focus, and formatting should only enhance its presentation and readability.
#11. Feedback is Gold:
Don’t underestimate the value of feedback. Whether from a friend, family member, or professional editor, constructive criticism can help you improve your writing and increase your chances of winning.
Take any feedback with an open mind and use it to identify areas where you can improve. Remember that every writer has room for growth and refinement in their work. Use the feedback to your advantage and make your writing the best it can be.
#12. Stay True to Your Style:
When you’re developing your style, remember that your unique voice makes you different from other writers. How you express yourself, the words you use, and the rhythm and pace of your sentences all contribute to your distinct writing style.
Feel free to experiment with different techniques, tones, and perspectives until you find what feels most authentic. Write in a way that reflects your personality and resonates with your audience. Most importantly, stay true to yourself. Being authentic is what makes a piece of writing truly memorable.
Writing contests can be competitive, and there may be times when you face rejection or disappointment. However, it’s important to remember that these setbacks are all part of the writing journey.
Don’t let one rejection discourage you from continuing to write and enter contests. Use it as an opportunity to learn and improve your skills. Keep pushing forward, have confidence in your writing abilities, and never give up on your dreams of becoming a successful writer. With perseverance and dedication, you can achieve anything.
Check out the below video content for more practical idea.
Can You Win Money from Online Writing Contests?
Yes, you can win money from online writing contests. Many writing contests offer cash prizes to the winners, with some offering thousands of dollars for top entries. However, it’s important to research and carefully choose which contests to enter, as some may have entry fees or restrictions on eligibility.
Additionally, winning a writing contest can lead to other opportunities and recognition in the writing community, potentially leading to paid writing gigs or publishing deals.
Participating in writing contests is a chance to win money and a great way to hone your skills, gain exposure, and connect with other writers.
Read also: Do people actually win sweepstakes?
Are Writing Contests Worth It?
Yes, writing contests are totally worth it! They give emerging writers a chance to show off their talent, get recognized, and maybe even score some cash prizes. Of course, it all depends on the competition, your writing goals, and how you handle rejection.
Even if you don’t win, participating in writing contests can be beneficial by helping you improve your skills, receive feedback on your work, and make connections within the writing community.
Moreover, winning a writing contest can boost your confidence and motivate you to continue writing and pursuing your passion. So don’t hesitate to enter writing contests – it could be the first step towards a successful writing career.
Also, remember that winning isn’t everything – the journey of participating and improving as a writer is just as valuable.
Read also: Drawing contest ideas
Participating in writing contests is a great way to challenge yourself, improve your skills, and gain recognition for your work. By following these tips and continuously honing your craft, you can increase your chances of success and make the most out of every contest entry.
Remember to have fun, stay true to yourself, and never stop pursuing your passion for writing.