Reading the right stuff can make you a better writer

This is not “breaking news.”

Every writer understands the importance of reading and keeping, those reference books close by.

However, are you reading the right books or stories?

I know, I know there are only so many hours in the day. cold-156666_640

Yes, there are days when reading or writing is just not in the cards. Yesterday, allergies had my eyes swollen to mere slits so sitting in front of the computer or even reading a book was impossible.

We all have our favorite genres. Me I love YA books. I’m a big Harry Potter and Hunger Games fan. But I also love historical novels like The Outlander Series, or on a cold winter weekend I enjoy a good Steven King that will keep me up all night, but then I’m gonna need a light humorous read like those written by Janet Evanovich to shake out the hee bee jee bees. So you can see my tastes are as varied as an all you can eat buffet.

But what about contests?

Books that I enjoy reading for pleasure are not going to help me with a short story or flash fiction contest.

Stop don’t hit that enter key yet!enter key keyboard-956465_640

Read these tips first, maybe they’ll help:

  • Read, reread and then read again the contest and submission rules.

I know sounds logical but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve missed something in the rules section.

  • Read about the contest judge.

Read everything you can about the judges. If they have a website, if they have published articles, stories or books then read them. These things will give you an insight into the style they enjoy. Judges are objective but they are also human.

  • Read stories and articles published on the magazine website.

Study what type of stories the editors gravitate toward.

  • Read past winning stories.

Not just the last one but go back a couple of contests. This may require you buying the editions. The investment will be worth it.

Now after all of this homework, you may discover this isn’t the right place for your story.

Writing for contests and magazines can be rewarding and fun but it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a good place to hone your writing skills and grow a thick skin as the rejection slips fill up your email box. I opened up a file folder to save all mine in, as a reminder to stay focused.

I enjoy writing short stories and love Flash Fiction but I no longer devote so much of my writing time to submitting to every contest that pops in my email box. Like I said there is only so many hours in a day.

Do you read and research before submitting to a contest?

Do you have any winning tips to share? 

What is your experience with writing contests?

Do you have a favorite magazine or website you like to enter? 

Check the links at the bottom of the post, because if you’re ready I’ve added some links that host writing contest. I’m sure there are tons more, but this should get you started.

Let me know if you enter!

I’d love to hear from you! Click the “write me” tab or contact me on Twitter @jeancogdell,Facebook at jean.cogdell and, stop by and say hey! The lights are on and I’m waiting.

Please remember to share this post with your Twitter  peeps and Facebook fans.

WOW Women on Writing Deadlines 

FlashFiction Online 


Shortstops Competitions 

Let's Write a Short Story! by [Bunting, Joe]
Click to Read Sample
Crafting Novels & Short Stories: Everything You Need to Know to Write Great Fiction by [Editors of Writer's Digest]
Click to Read Sample



13 thoughts on “Reading the right stuff can make you a better writer

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