This summer I entered a short story in The Writers’ Village Writing Award, a writing contest judged by Dr. John Yeoman, which he holds quarterly. The deadline for the next round is December 31. You can submit unpublished stories that are 3000 words or less, written in any genre. The cost to enter is £12 (about $19 US). He judges each story on 6 criteria and there are cash prizes for the top three winners: First Prize £500 ($800); Second Prize £250 ($400); Third Prize £100 ($160). Five further shortlisted entrants will gain a free entry in the next round.
The nifty part of this little contest is that he sends you your score sheet so that you can see where you excelled or failed. On top of that he gives you a brief critique (granted it’s only a few sentences but he’s doing that for every entry) that is specific to your entry. So for less than 20 bucks you get some totally unbiased feedback and eight chances to win cash or a voucher for entering the next round.
This is how he scores each story:
Overall power to engage the reader, incl. use of conflict (0-10 points)
Originality of story concept (0-10 points)
Appeal of first paragraph(s) (0-8 points)
Unity of story form, incl. closure (0-8 points)
Aptness of language to story-line (0-6 points))
Professionalism of presentation (0-3 points)
Dr. Yeoman also has a “How to Win” tab on his web site that has several tips to help nudge you towards the winner’s circle. In other words he gives you plenty of chances to do well. And if you don’t do well, he tells why you didn’t.
There are tons of other contests out there, but this was one that I have had first hand experience in. A fellow blogger, Brian Benoit, puts up a monthly list of reputable contests on his blog called pinionpost. His blog is one that I highly recommend not only for the contest links but for his wonderfully crafted original flash fiction and short stories as well as articles providing insight into the art and craft of writing.
Give the Writers’ Village a try. The entry fee is less than a week’s worth of lattes from Starbucks and may put some cash in your pocket and some worthwhile feedback as well.