and the winner is…

English: Athletics tracks finish lineThis Saturday I’ll be attending a Writers’ Day organised by the Association of Christian Writers. I’m currently Competitions’ Manager on the ACW committee and have had a lot of involvement behind the scenes of the current Crossing Songs competition.  I’ll hopefully say a little bit to people on Saturday, but thought I’d share two simple pointers on competition entering in general:

1. Follow the rules. 

Sounds so obvious, but seriously – not doing it will result in disqualification. If the rules state 500 words and you’ve written 512, well, however good your entry is, it won’t be considered. Otherwise it wouldn’t be fair to those who have followed the rules, would it?

2. Pay attention to what they’re asking for.

It’s so easy to see a competition, read a couple of lines and think, ‘ooh! I know what I can enter!’. But if you don’t pay attention and read the whole reasoning behind the competition, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage – even if you do, strictly speaking, follow the rules.

Take our Crossing Songs competition as an example. We’re looking for songs that can be used in a missional context – ie with words understandable to those who are not used to church or, dare I say it, ‘Christianese’.  I might look at this competition and say, “A song writing competition? I’ve written a fantastic song – I’ll enter it!”

My song may be fantastic, but if it isn’t responding to the direction of the competition, then I’ve missed the point. I’ve not written my entry for the competition. I’ve simply found a use for my existing material. Now, I may well have existing unpublished material that is perfect for a certain competition, and that’s great – but I need to ask myself if my proposed entry is really the best fit. It’s also worth considering the benefit to me – if I write something new, I am practising and honing my craft rather than relying something I’ve already written.

Check the theme of the competition. Look into the inspiration behind it. Write your entry based on that knowledge. In other words, do your research.

Rules and research. These are two main principles we can’t afford to ignore –
at least, not if we want to win!

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