5 Strategies You Need to Win Any Writing Contest

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Welcome back, my inklings.  I hope you’re all doing well.  It’s Good Friday already and the contest deadlines we discussed last week are fast approaching.  There’s quite a lot of strategies you can employ to get a better chance of winning a writing contest, many of which are only applicable to certain types of competitions.

I was considering this while I narrowed down for you the five best strategies that have helped me win in the past.  I wanted to provide you with tips that should work for absolutely any writing competition you come across, strategies that without which you’re almost guaranteed to lose.  I can’t promise you victory, but I can certainly put you on the path that leads to it. Continue reading

Contest Alerts: April

Welcome back, my inklings!  Today I want to talk about competition.  As much as we don’t like to look at it, competition is inherent to the craft of writing.  We compete with each other in the market place and on the bookshelf.  We vie for space in the imaginations of our readers.

When you put something out there, even something free, you’re engaged in the battle to take some of that limited supply of attention for yourself.  At the outset of every story we write, we are asking our readers for the most valuable thing that anyone can give to us.  Their time.

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Think your ideas are pure gold?  Get out there and prove it to the world!

To find out where you stand in the marketplace of ideas, to get your name and work out there in front of people and to build an eye catching resume for yourself as an author you’ve got to prove you can win.  To yourself and to everyone else.
Contests are a great measuring stick and one of the most exciting challenges you can take on as a writer.

Knowing what competitions to enter can be difficult, most have reading fees which can become pricey if you enter a lot of them.  Some restrict your copyright so badly that they reserve the right to use your submission any way they please, edit it themselves without notice and not even credit you when they publish it (I excluded exactly such a contest from this list for its outrageously anti-author terms of service).

So, as a favor to you, my dear inklings, I have decided to share three upcoming free contests with deadlines in the next several weeks.

Full contest rules and submission guidelines are available at the following links

Source: Baen Books
Contest: 2016 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award
Entry Fee: None
Word Limit: 8,000 words
Call For: Short Stories in any Fantasy genre variant
Deadline: Started Jan 1st, closes April 1st

Prizes:
Grand Prize– Exposure!  Published as featured story on Baen Books main website and paid “industry-standard rates for professional story submittals” as well as $500 worth of books.

2nd Place- $500 of free books!

3rd Place- $300 of free books!

Source: DemiCon 27
Contest: DemiCon 27 Prose and Poetry Contest
Entry Fee: None
Word Limit: 7,500 for Short Stories, 100 Lines for Poetry
Call For: Short Stories and Poems in Sci-Fi or Fantasy genres, must contain the phrase “like a zombie” and the sentence “They always ring twice.”
Deadline: March 29th, 2016

Prizes:
1st Place– Bragging rights, of course!

Also, all entries will be published on the official website after judging is completed and will be available to the attendees in print form at the convention.

Source: City of Ventura, CA
Contest: Art Tales 8th Annual Writing Contest
Entry Fee: None
Word Limit: 500 words or less
Call For: Flash Fiction or Poetry inspired by selected artworks (see website for details)
Deadline: April 4th, 2016

Prizes:
“All winners receive a bound edition of the judges’ selection”

1st Place– $30

2nd Place– $15

I encourage all of you to enter and compete!  I’d love to hear from you if you win, place or even just entered.  Even if you don’t come in first you still have a new completed story and that’s a victory in itself.

Join me next week when I’ll give you some tips on writing winning entries to help guide you to the top.  Until next time, stay creative!

Robert JV Christensen

8 Quick Writing Tips For Villainous Villains | Writamins: Vitamin V |

8 Great Tips for Villainous Villains
8 Great Tips for Villainous Villains

Welcome back, my inklings, to Writamins!  An article series designed to get you pumped, get you thinking about your craft and get you writing with my very own brand of condensed writing nutrition.

Now we all want to write stories that pop off the page and there’s a lot that goes into it but at the very center of it all is the characters.  If you want people to come along for the ride and love every minute you need characters that will provoke an emotional response.  If your readers love and hate the people on the page then they’re really into it.  Drawing out  emotional investment from your readers is necessary to giving them the best and most exciting experience possible.
So today we’re gonna talk about characters your readers will love to hate.  So start thinking villainous thoughts, everybody, cause we’re gonna take some Vitamin V!

Vitamin V: Villainous Villains:
Exercise: Take your favorite character (could be your own or from a book or show you like).  Come up with their antithesis, whether they have an enemy already or not.  Invent the person that represents everything your favorite character stands against and write a flash fiction piece just for that villain.  (Your favorite character doesn’t need to be in the story for this evil exercise.)

Now for the active ingredients of Vitamin V!

    8 Quick Tips For Villainous Villains

    1.  Know your villain’s overall goal, what are they obsessing over when they’re off page?  Their actions should push their agenda whether in secret or out in the open.  People, objects and places that no longer play into the villain’s plans can be discarded callously or kept close for later usefulness depending on the villain.

    2.  Find the lynchpin between the hero and the villain.  There must be an inescapable reason for your villain and your hero to collide.  Merely having opposed ideals does not necessitate conflict.  Teammates can have opposed ideals, it doesn’t make them destined foes.  

Conflicting goals concerning the same person, place or thing, however, do necessitate a decisive battle.  Whether it be a social conflict about how the new kid in school is being treated or a full out mounted dragon war with spears of flame to decide the fate of the Castle Whitehollow, that’s up to you!

    3.  Great villains strike heroes close to home.  For example, when a villain comes after a hero’s school, friends or family readers respond emotionally as if they are the ones threatened.

    4.  A truly fantastic villain is one that would have made a wonderful hero if circumstances were different.  Your villain cares about something.  Find out what it is.  A great villain would see himself as the hero.

    5.  Villains must be credible threats.  If a villain constantly has their plans foiled and never makes any progress toward their goal there will be no excitement in the final climax of the story.  Their loss will be a foregone conclusion.

    6.  Villains don’t need to kill for the threat to be real.  Once a character has died they can’t change, they can’t grow, they can’t move the plot.  Basically death for a fictional character is the last thing they can ever do for the story.  Use death sparingly or lose its potency.  Life and death should be the ultimate stakes, not just the tool to show whether or not a character is dangerous or evil.

    7.  Villains who capture, wound, and terrify can be more powerful at rocking the emotions than villains who merely kill.

    8.  Great villains are never evil just for the sake of it.  Their desire for their goal must be stronger than their fear of the consequences of violating laws and social norms.  If a villain feels they have nothing more to lose they can act freely.  Villains with real lives, jobs and families are also fascinating because they have to go about their villainy more carefully.

A villain represents humanity unchained.  Like it or not, evil and selfishness are a part of what we are.  Your villain was once an ordinary person that was swallowed up by the desire for their goal.

Until next time, stay creative!

Robert JV Christensen

8 Quick Tips For Great Dialogue| Writamins: Vitamin D |

Welcome back, my inklings, to Writamins!  Your regular dose of condensed writing nutrition designed to get you pumped, get you thinking about your craft and get your project in gear!

This weekend is Independence Day here in America and many of my readers will likely be spending time with friends and relatives trying not to explode while the kids survive the annual pyrotechnic ritual we affectionately call “The 4th of July”.  Now how, you might ask, is an inkling supposed to get work done on their magnum opus on a holiday weekend?  Take some Writamin D, of course!

Writamin D: Dialogue:
Dialogue is crucial to building believable and compelling characters Continue reading

I won another Short Story Contest! Wanna read it?

Good afternoon, my inklings!  I have the most delightful news for you.  I have another free short story to share and this time it’s another contest winner.  I have been honored as the winner of the first ever “Short Story Showcase” over at Kara Piazza’s blog, “The Writing Piazza”.

I’m just grateful to God that I was given another story that somebody really liked.  I hope you’ll like it too.  The story is called MadWorm.  It’s a web savvy futuristic adventure with laughs, intrigue and maybe even a little danger.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. 😉

You can read the full story right here on H2WLAO.

Please add MadWorm to your reading list and let me know what you thought about it!  You can comment to me here or over at Kara’s place.

   See, my inklings?  Good things can happen if you keep working hard, keep putting your stuff out there and give yourself a chance.  I believe in you guys.  Stay creative!

Robert JV Christensen

8 Quick Tips For Great Short Stories | Writamins: Vitamin S |

8 Short Story Quick Tips
8 Short Story Quick Tips to get you writing great new material!

Welcome, my inklings, to Writamins!  Writing Vitamins or “Writamins” is my new article series designed to get you pumped, get you thinking about your craft and get you writing with my very own brand of condensed writing nutrition.

If you’re like me you have a million ideas for books with new ones popping up almost daily, but how do you narrow them down?  It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to write an entire book, so how can you know that your concept and characters are going to excite people and really connect with your readers?  Take some Vitamin S, of course! Continue reading

Fighting with a Project? Don’t Give Up!

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I’ll be absolutely honest.  I’ve been having a difficult time with my time travel piece.  It’s in part because I haven’t made the time to sit down with it, and also because the rest of my life has been running me down like I’m a tunnel digging prison escapee.

At the moment I’m hiding in a metaphorical ditch while life shines its spotlights across the marsh from only a few feet away.  The slightest breath and I might have to go be an adult and do life things.  So let’s make the most of this time together before life finds me and throws me back in the clink.
Continue reading