The AVBOB Poetry Competition | Writing Contest Mistakes | Advice On Entering Writing Contests

Mistakes Writers Make When Entering Writing Contests

Nobody enters writing contests with the idea to place last or bore the judges. The goal is usually to engage the audience, share one’s craft, gain experience and exposure, and hopefully, win. Unfortunately, many a talented writer has committed blunders that meant their entry piece did not make the cut, and these errors are often completely avoidable. Even if you are an amateur writer, there is no need to make amateur mistakes. Always eager to see writers do their best, we at The AVBOB Poetry Project can help you steer clear of some of the most common slip-ups to avoid when entering writing contests.

Treating the Competition Rules as Optional

The “how to enter” page should never be the only thing you read – pay close attention to each of the competition rules in place. Failure to comply with the rules could mean that a perfectly good entry piece is discounted by the judges. The rules set up the criteria that every entrant must meet for their piece to be judged and neglecting only one of these regulations is enough to disqualify your hard work.

Ignoring the Editorial Guidelines

Much like the rules, editorial guidelines in writing contests are not loose recommendations – they are what the judges are looking for in every entry. The guidelines usually dictate practical outlines for the piece, such as the format, length, theme, and style, and should never be ignored if the entrant wishes to do well in the competition.

Not Reading Previous Entries

Many online writing contests feature a page where previous winning entries or all entered works are published. Browsing through these pieces will give you a better idea of what the judges are seeking from entrants. They can even aid you in thinking out of the box when it comes to your own written work.

Failing to Plan Out Your Piece

No two people plan their art in the same way. Some mull over ideas for weeks, others dive right in and get to work and then refine it several times. No matter your process, it helps to dedicate time to planning to ensure that the final product is harmonious and cohesive in its flow.

Going too Broad with the Theme

Many contests provide entrants with a theme or writing prompt which is generally open to interpretation. It is advisable, however, to keep this theme in mind as the golden thread that ties the piece together. Going too broad with the theme and incorporating too many ideas at once may overwhelm the audience. A single fleshed-out idea or concept is often more than enough to keep your readers engaged.

Heavily Relying on Clichés

In his book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, Christopher Booker puts forward that there are only a handful of plotlines that storytellers use. Whether it’s a rags-to-riches tale or an untimely tragedy, most storylines are nothing new under the sun. One can, thankfully, avoid clichés and overdone tropes by actively seeking out a clever spin or a fresh perspective on the narratives with which we are all familiar.

Inconsistency in Your Piece

If your formatting is all over the place, or your plot seems disjointed and muddled, you’re going to have a hard time impressing anyone. It is essential that you ensure that your work remains consistent. Starting strong and ending the piece the same way is what will make your entry piece memorable.

Leaving too Little Time for Editing

A clean, error-free piece is the goal. Editing your own work takes time, as you may not notice the mistakes in your writing by only proofreading it once. After penning your piece, edit it more than once over the space of a few days to ensure you see it with fresh eyes.

Overthinking and Not Entering at All

Writers are prone to imposter syndrome and doubting their talent. If you have followed the rules and guidelines and worked hard to refine your poem, essay, or story, then it cannot harm to enter. Free writing contests won’t cost you anything, and even if you don’t win – you will still have gained experience and a chance to improve your skills.

If you would like to start entering poetry contests and find yourself seeking some inspiration, feel free to view our library of past entries.