“Who am I to judge?” I really asked myself that question when I was invited to review the submissions for Writer’s Digest 21st annual Short Short Story competition.
|Original artwork by the young resident artist in my household|
It was my first time being a judge. My role involved doing the preliminary judging of the contest entries. The results are now in. Huge congrats to JJ Lubinski and all the other winners!
The staff at Writer’s Digest informed me that I’d need to read around 750 stories. That figure was quite accurate. I had to do a lot of reading in a very condensed amount of time.
From my judging experience, I’ve now created a simple list of tips for those who are interested in submitting to a short short story contest:
· Adhere to the word count
The contest rules indicated that stories needed to be 1500 words or fewer. Unfortunately, I had to automatically eliminate those submissions that didn’t follow the guidelines.
· Grab me from the get-go
In a full-length manuscript, the initial pages need to pull in a reader. With a shorter story, there’s even less time. I want the first few paragraphs to entice me.
· Find a unique spin
A lot of stories I read covered similar ground. Certain subjects were very popular, including big themes (e.g. love) or contemporary topics (e.g. the pandemic). To catch my attention, the tales with popular ideas required a distinctive take from the author.
· Develop an authentic voice
An interesting character is key to a story, and I latch on to great voices. If I’m invested in the voice, I’ll definitely keep reading further.
· Guarantee a story arc
Although the word count in a short short
story is lower, I still expect a complete tale. It’s important that a story arc
is also found in these shorter works.
One of the joys of judging is the honor of receiving people’s talented and creative output. I admired learning about all sorts of topics and reading different writing styles. I also appreciated being able to perhaps boost new voices through this contest. I’m indebted to Writer’s Digest for letting me put my judging hat on.
Have you ever been a judge or submitted anything to a contest?