Many writers enjoy entering short story competitions. It's a great means for us to practise our art. But there are drawbacks - not least the disappointment if your short story is not shortlisted or selected as a winner! This can be defeating for a writer if it happens repeatedly.
As a judge in the Tasmanian Short Story Competition of 2016, I can tell you that many short stories submitted to competitions are nowhere near ready to make the cut. Many are unresolved, incomplete, at early draft stage and certainly not ready to be submitted.
Many more have a good idea that just hasn't been fully realised. Perhaps the writing style is not polished enough, or certain parts of the story have not been fleshed out enough.
And then there are the winners - excellent and engaging stories presented with style and a writerly flair that makes them obvious winners.
If you're going to enter competitions, it can help to know where your work is on this spectrum.
Why get your Short Story Assessed?
Getting a short story assessed and having an independent person look over your work can be invaluable. At the very least, an assessment can point out inconsistencies and inadequacies that you haven't spotted yourself. It can give you an idea of the quality of your presentation - you'd be surprised how many people submit work to competitions and publishers which is in fairly shocking form: spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and poorly formatted. And at best, a manuscript assessment should give you an idea of where your strengths lie as a writer, how they are expressed in your short story, and where it can be improved.
Short story competitions rarely offer feedback to the writers entering them, so you never quite know what you're doing wrong. A Manuscript Assessment of your story by an experienced editor may help you take your work to the next level and increase its chances of getting noticed by judges. Often there is a large 'slush pile' at the end of a judging process. There's also a 'maybe' pile and a 'definitely' pile. If your writing consistently remains deselected and you want to elevate it, you need the insights of a Manuscript Assessment.
What judges look for
A great short story needs good content, assured execution and some attempt at the theme of the competition, if there is one. First and foremost, judges are looking for writing which excels - at the very least it should be competent and assured, at best it should sing from the page. Execution is key - and the one in which most writers fail. In the vast majority of entries, the writing is simply not good enough, but could be improved with some editorial pointers and help.
Good writing can take many forms. Different writers have different styles, voices, ideas and subject matter - but writing that has skill, assurance and conviction always stands out. That's what catches a judging panel's collective eye and gets you elevated to the 'maybe' pile - or the shortlist.
short story manuscript assessment service
My Short Story Manuscript Assessment service is a low-cost, confidential service giving you concrete knowledge about where and how your writing and your story can be improved.
I'm not a registered member of the Institute of Professional Editors, it's true. I have, however, been writing in the corporate world, as an author and as a freelancer for more than two decades. (There's a bit more about this below.)
I can smell a lemon at first whiff and can tell you within the first few lines if your work is ready for submission - or not. I will look at the content, execution, writing style, narrative devices you've used, structure of your story and clarity and flow, and tell you whether it's working - or not.
I use Microsoft Comments to conduct a line by line assessment, picking out strengths and weaknesses. Where your writing is good, I will tell you why. Where it is not working, I will also tell you why, and give indications and ideas as to what you might consider doing to strengthen it. Occasionally, I rewrite a line to show you how it could be lifted.
What I won't do is conduct a full edit, ghost write, make broad changes to your work for you or rewrite it on a broader scale. This is not an editorial service, it is an assessment service. If you continue to enter short story competitions, your work should be yours alone.
Check out the case history in the right hand column to see the type of comments you might receive. The story has been disguised for confidentiality purposes (it's a short story written by a member of my writer's group).
Q: What if I still don't win competitions after having a manuscript assessment done?
A: I cannot guarantee to win you that competition! You are up against the other entrants, the judges' preferences, and the rules of the competition, as well as the quality of your story.
Q: What if my story is perfect and you can't think of anything it needs?
A: If I consider your short story competition ready, I will simply enjoy reading it, and return it to you with some observations - and charge you nothing.
Send me your short story by email attachment, with a word count. Let me know relevant details - such as whether you have entered it for competitions, whether you have received any feedback on it to date, and whether there is anything in particular you would like me to pay attention to.
I will do a quick check of what you send me and reply by email confirming that I am able to offer an assessment. I usually return a short story with comments and a summary report, within ten working days - depending on length.
Visit my Contact page to get your short story assessment underway.
Up to 1,500 words: $70
Up to 2,000 words: $90
Up to 2,500 words: $110
Up to 3,000 words: $130