A week for writers and lit lovers

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sue Blott's Tip for Winning Writing Contests

Sue Blott has won many writing contests. And the NOWW contest is upcoming, deadline March 15. Here are her notes from her workshop.

Handout from Feb 2014 NOWW Workshop—Tips for Winning Writing:

1)    Obvious one: make sure you adhere to the guidelines.
      If it’s blind judging, make sure your name is nowhere in sight other than where it should be.
      Triple check word count (is the title is to be included or not in the word count), poetry lines, # of poems etc
      Check that your format fits the genre ie script for a play
      Meet the deadline.

2)    Obtain feedback: writing groups/ blue pencils/ trusted friend: they give you
      a reason to write
      a reason to finish your writing
      a deadline to aim towards (this helps in contests) & the regularity of finishing in time for deadlines
      essential feedback
      excellent support. Other writers understand better than anyone else what it’s like to write.

3)    Immerse yourself in the world of writing.
      NOWW readings & workshops
      do exercises eg Sarah Selecky, Handful of Stones, Artist’s Way (see # 4 & 5)
      Random Acts of Poetry—Definitely Superior Art Gallery—follow or perform
      read read read
      look for venues in The Walleye
      go to book launches (& purchase the books if you can)
      listen to Book Girl’s Big Read on LU Radio 102.7 FM Tuesdays at 10 am
      surround yourself with writers, ask them what they write, their habits etc.

4)    Study books on writing ie anything by Julia Cameron (especially The Artists Way), Natalie Goldberg, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird), Strunk & White (Elements of Style), Barbara Abercrombie (A Year of Writing Dangerously)

5)    Investigate sites & blogs on the internet (writing or anything creative):
      Sarah Selecky She offers a free writing prompt in your inbox every day. You write for 10 mins on whatever she gives you to write about
      A Handful of Small Stones*
      Literary Thunder Bay—a local blog by Joan Baril. Keep up to date with what’s going on in our community. Joan also includes excellent writing tips and lots of local work.
      And NOWW of course!

6)    Write!
      Record all your ideas. Use your phone or paper and pen. Keep a journal by your bedside.
      do Morning Pages regularly (I call them my AM pages)
      write a small stone everyday
      follow a writing prompt by Sarah Selecky (or something you think of on your own ie describe what’s directly in front of you—what if it belonged to a murderer? What if it belonged to a college student? What if the college student is a murderer but no-one knows…etc. ‘What if…’ is a wonderful prompt all by itself)
      use Storycubes to get a story stirring and write a story about the pictures
      randomly pick pictures and write about them. You could select 30 or 31 images or suggestions of any of the senses ahead of time, place them in a manila envelope and select one each day for the next month to write about. Give yourself a time limit in which to write (set a timer) so your writing is fast, furious, fresh & fluid.
      rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite
      read the work aloud to yourself or a trusted friend or your pets
      send it off to the Blue Pencil or your writing group

7)    Keep your mind and heart open when you get the critique back.
      study the suggestions, what works, what doesn’t.
      remember that it’s your story
      rewrite, rewrite, rewrite

8)    Enter the contest! Good luck!

9)    Repeat steps 1 to 9 for every entry in each contest.

One of the most helpful things I can suggest is finding out what works for you, what keeps the gate propped open for you, so you can have an easy access or shortcut to your writing and you don’t have to beat down the path to the gate and unlock it each time. Find those things and full your life with them. Equally important is discovering what doesn’t work, what chokes up the path to the gate ie unnecessary drama, people who sap your energy, intrusive noise, not enough time to yourself (or too much?), rigid timetables. Discover those things and try to control their affect on your life. Above all else, keep writing and believe in yourself. No one else can tell your story your way.

            * Small stone challenge: choose a small but beautiful notebook. For the next 30 days (at least), write a small stone each day in the notebook. A small stone is a description or a comment about something you noticed today. Not necessarily in the form of a poem but make it short. I like to write haiku for my small stones, but even if it’s not in haiku form, I try to write no more than 5 lines. So, note one little thing a day—it sharpens your senses, gives you material to fall back on. Sometimes in the middle of winter, it’s hard to recall the thrum of a moth’s wings against your screen on a sweltering summer’s night.


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