How to Win a Writing Contest (Tips from a Contest Judge)

Sharing buttons:

if you want to win a writers contest

this video is for you


hi my name is Jamie Margolin and I'm a

16 year old writer I've been published

in The Huffington Post writer's digest

teen ink my local newspapers the Seattle

Times etc and I have a literary agent

and I've had one since I was about 14 I

am NOT just bragging in front of a

camera because I like to brat even

though let's be honest bragging is kind

of fun I'm telling you this to let you

know that I know what I'm talking about

yeah I know I'm very young so you might

be wondering how was this random girl on

the internet gonna help me win this

writing contest well the thing is I have

judged two writing contests and they're

not just any old writing contest there

are the serendipity literary agencies

why a discovery contest last year and

I'm in the process of judging it this

year and so if you haven't heard of that

contest it's an amazing one to enter I

put the link in the description below

but it's too late unfortunately tender

this year I have to read through

hundreds and hundreds of entries and if

you are interested in winning a contest

here is what not to do when entering a

writers contest

don't write in a different genre or

different from the prompt that the

contest is asking you now this seems

pretty obvious right for example for the

young adult writing contest that I judge

you would think that people would think

it's obvious to just you know submit

young adult literature because that's

what the contest is all about but there

are at least five entries if not more of

people submitting random like self-help

novels and literally I'm not even joking

there was this one guy who wrote like

how to succeed in life and then his his

entry which was supposed to be the first

250 words of a young adult novel it was

literally just the first 250 words of

his self-help book which I'm sorry but

was extremely crappy and did not make

any sense

you're not gonna win a contest by

entering something that we're not asking

for it's I don't know I feel like it

would be common sense but just don't do


your entry we are going to notice that

it's not what we're asking for so just

don't even try be careful with your

female characters I've seen this trope a

lot not only in the entries that I judge

but also in books I see on the shelves

there's a big trope in writing female

characters especially for teen readers

that surrounds this whole trope of not

like most girls not like other girls and

I've seen there's so many time in

entries and so many times in books and

please stay away from the whole I'm not

like other girls tropes because it's

annoying if you're watching this I'm

beautiful also I'm not like other girls

ill you don't have to have your

character explicitly say I'm not like

other girls to make her seem unique in

writing there is a key tip show don't

tell so if you want your care to be

unique you know make her have traits and

say things and through her action show

that seems unique and special but don't

say I'm not like other girls or she

wasn't like other girls because that is

annoying overused cliché and known

and you're gonna if you're entering a

contest the people reading your entry

are going to be so annoyed they're not

even going to consider it


please proofread what you write and what

you submit to contest when I'm looking

through entries I know a lot of times

and I've been on the end where I've

submitted to contests before and because

you work so hard on your piece of

writing it seems like you know yours is

the only one that exists and it means so

much to you but us judges like we're

seeing like hundreds and hundreds of

pieces of writing and so we have to very

quickly go through them all obviously we

read through them all but little things

can turn us off too from your right and

unfortunately one of those things is

grammatical errors and spelling errors

one or two is understandable and fine

but if I open up your document and it's

just a bunch of red lines and it's just

a bunch of spelling errors and makes you

seem unprofessional and we're less

likely to nominate you as the winner

judging a young adult writing contest

another scene that I see so often is

overly angsty overly dramatic teen

characters I've said this in a past

video and also in an article I wrote for

writers digest which I put in the

description you know as an angsty teen

myself it's fine for characters to be

troubled and going through a hard times

I mean people have these experiences and

it's totally okay to write about them

but what I see a lot in the entries that

I judge is just overly dark and dramatic

characters that are just so annoying

that you just read a few sentences

you're like oh my god I can't get

through a whole book of this so just be

careful you can have an angsty character

you're teenagers going through a hard

time but make sure that it's not overly

dramatic and just troubled and terrible

because you want your readers to root

for your protagonist and if your

protagonist isn't likable then nobody's

going to want to read it and you're not

going to win the contest


now this isn't about the entry itself

but it's about the little description

box at least in the contest I judge or

people have to fill a little description

box about their story and what what

they're about to what they're about to

submit and I've seen this so many times

and it comes off so unprofessional and

just so annoying you just want to chuck

your computer um when you're judging it

but don't write something like this book

is the next Hunger Games or this book is

the next divergent or the next anything

don't say my friends read this and they

know it's gonna be a best-seller and

this is the best thing you've ever laid

your eyes on and just don't embellish

everything and don't try to feed me what

I'm supposed to think about your writing

just say something professional

summarize what you're writing about and

then let your writing speak for itself

and if it can't speak for himself then

that means you have a little more work

to do and that's all I've got for you if

you have more questions about judging

contest what that's like what judges

look for and how you can win a writing

competition please comment below and I

will answer your questions or if there's

enough of them make a second video but I

hope you enjoyed that and I hope that

was helpful and go forth and enter

contest don't worry about rejection just

keep entering just keep writing just

keep pursuing your passion and

eventually if you keep bettering

yourself and working on it you'll win

again I hope that video was helpful and

I'm going to continue judging all these

entries so good luck with your writing

competition and if you entered this

years serendipity literary agency

competition good luck to you I'm going

to judge them all fairly read through

them thank you for having the courage to

submit and yeah enter competitions and

go forth and I'm gonna go judge this

right now so let's do it