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How To Win A Fiction Writing Contest

A lot of good stories get submitted to The Ghost Story Supernatural Fiction Award competition—and probably to almost every other well-known fiction contest on the planet. So, what’s the strategy for giving your story the best chance of taking one of the prizes? Hands down, it’s to acquaint yourself with what the contest judges are looking for. This means reading the work of past winners, deciphering what qualities may have made those stories stand out to the judges, and trying to emphasize as many of those qualities as you’re able to in your own story.

If you can do that, even if you don’t win you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve written a really good story.

For the fall 2015 Ghost Story contest, we especially recommend reading the Honorable Mention and Second Honorable Mention in our summer competition. Pay attention to how the authors develop character and build tension. Note how their ghostly characters remain somewhat mysterious throughout the stories. In fact, each of these stories is a tale of discovery concerning the nature and intentions of its supernatural entity. Finally, pay special attention to the quality and economy of each author’s prose.

As for our winning story, Guédé, it is quirky and unconventional enough, especially for a supernatural story, that most writers would find it difficult to emulate its structure. Instead, things to take note of in Rachel Wyman’s piece include her character development—how she makes her first-person protagonist, a young woman full of dreams and longing, and Sugar, her protagonist’s mysterious lover, seem so much like real people. Also note the deft and subtle way way the author weaves the possibility of voudou magic through everyday life in New York City.

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